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Protecting and Advocating for the Rights of Texans with Disabilities

school supplies including face mask and sanitizer
Back to School 2020 Special Edition Newsletter
In this issue:
  • Students with Disabilities Hit Hard by School Closures
  • Advocating for Your Child in Pandemic Times
  • Resolving Disagreements about Services
  • Resources to Help You Advocate for Your Child

Students with Disabilities Hit Hard by School Closures

Who would have ever guessed face masks and a gallon of hand sanitizer would be on this year's back to school shopping list?
The COVID-19 outbreak brought educational changes we could not have imagined with school closures and remote learning last spring. With no end to the pandemic in sight quite yet, we expect more of the same on campuses again this fall. Students with disabilities are among the most severely affected by suffering both lost services and setbacks in educational progress.
Unfortunately, no one knows when schooling will return to "normal." In the meantime, families and students cope and attempt to make the best of learning opportunities. Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) remains committed to advocating for an appropriate education for students with disabilities during the pandemic.
This year, our back to school newsletter highlights important information and tips to inform and empower you to make the best of this challenging time.

Advocating for Your Child in Pandemic Times

Most of us have two big questions about this school year. When will it start, and how? Your local school board sets the calendar including the first day of classes. School boards must follow state rules but traditionally the first day of school is in late August.
This year, some school boards are keeping with the usual start date and may have already started, while others have decided to wait until after the Labor Day holiday. To further complicate things, a city or county may possibly order schools closed for a certain period in specific situations. Check with your school district for an updated school calendar.
When the school year does start, most schools will take one of three basic approaches to teaching students: in-person classes, remote instruction, or a mix of both. Local school boards will decide on the method within state rules and how long to use a particular approach - a few weeks or potentially for the remainder of the year.
Even when a district chooses one of these basic approaches, students with disabilities should not be limited if their individualized needs require an adjustment. Parents may ask the Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) Committee to consider in-person, remote, or a mix that is most appropriate to the individualized needs of their student with a disability.
Making Up for Missed Services and Setbacks

During school closures in the spring, certain special education and related services in the Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) of students with disabilities were difficult, or even impossible, to provide. Further, certain students with disabilities could not engage during remote instruction as they could during face-to-face instruction.
When the pandemic closed schools in the spring, the general assumption was that schools would offer compensatory services to students with disabilities in the fall. These types of services attempt to correct for missed services and setbacks that occurred. Now that schooling remains far from back to normal, the delivery of compensatory services has been pushed back.
Parents should ask the ARD Committee to consider and develop a preliminary estimate of compensatory services for the spring semester. It's important for parents to know that if they wait too long to address what was missed in the spring of 2020 and its effect on their student, they might run into legal limitations on the amount of time they have to request compensatory services.
drawings of children with face masks

Resources to Help You Advocate for Your Child

Disability Rights Texas has several resources on our website that can help you navigate these unprecedented times. Some of these tools we've had for a while, and others we've recently created about issues unique to the pandemic. Here are some of our most popular resources:
And here are links to helpful information on other websites:
If you need help from a DRTx advocate or attorney, you can apply for our services in any of the following ways:
  • Call our statewide intake line at 1-800-252-9108.
  • Call our sign language video line at 1-866-362-2851.
  • Submit an application online 24/7 at intake.DRTx.org.
Need Help?
If you are a Texan with a disability who believes your rights have been violated, please call our Intake Line at 1.800.252.9108 or our Sign Language Video Intake Line at 1.888.362.2851. Intake hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Online Intake Available 24/7
Can't call during our regular intake hours or can't get through due to high call volume? You can click here to complete our online intake form
available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

DRTX Quick Links:
Our Website: 
Disability Rights Texas (previously named Advocacy Inc.) is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas. Its mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society. Visit www.DRTx.org for more information.