After completely redesigning the COVID-19 Support: Special Education webpage last week, the Texas Education Agency had a relatively quiet week of updates. The only update in the General Guidance section appears to consist of a minor correction to the COVID-19 Special Education Q&A regarding the requirement that SHARS informed consent include the name, rather than signature, of the district staff member who received information. Outside of this updated information, the only significant additions and/or revisions appear to be within the Instructional Continuity section, which included:
- The inclusion of SPED-specific guidance and resources within the Instructional Continuity Framework;
- A Texas Home Learning Phase 2.0 Overview PowerPoint;
- Texas Home Learning Printing and Shipping Steps, Order Form, Estimated Budget Calculator; and
- Links to Spanish versions of the PBS At-home Learning Initiative and PBS Educator Resource Guide.
On a related note, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos filed an 18-page report to Congress on Monday explaining that she “is not requesting waiver authority for any of the core tenets of the IDEA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, most notably a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).” Rather, the agency has announced that “[t]he secretary determined there is no reason that a student’s access to FAPE cannot continue online, through distance education or other alternative strategies.”
This puts the onus directly on TEA and local school districts to determine how to mitigate potential noncompliance with respect to mandates related to the evaluation, development, and implementation of individualized programs and accommodation plans. More importantly, it confirms our suspicion that “returning to normal” will involve individualized determinations as to how (as opposed to “if”) the shutdown impacted the delivery and receipt of FAPE.
Please contact one of the attorneys at Leasor Crass in the event you need additional guidance on any of these issues pertaining to special education and/or special populations.