Presenter: Esperanza Reyes, Assoc Director Utah Parent Center - IEPs and 504 Plans, and COVID-19
See Esperanza's slides. Basic information about IDEA, Individual Education Programs (IEPs), Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), process that includes Referral > Evaluation > Eligibility under IDEA > Specially Designed Instruction needed? > IEP > Placement (setting and services) -> Annual Review (at a minimum). Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is meant to level the playing field. If a child has an IEP, they likely don't need a 504 plan.
Utah State Board of Education's response to COVID ... soft closure in the Spring was very difficult on families with CYSHCN. Some families just gave up. Experiences varied by school district, school, classroom, and family. Families have been worried about the risks involved in the new school year beginning - does my child have the ability to social distance? To wear a mask? To use hand sanitizer? What about their health if they contract Covid? UPC did a survey in August: most parents did not feel their children did not receive appropriate services when their school transitioned to online in March.
Utah State Board of Education - Options for Students and Impact
- Dual Enrollment (public/charter as well as private/home school)
- Home instruction
- Home School (not covered under IDEA)
- Remote instruction
- SOEP (statewide online education program)
Requiring Masks …It is legal to require a medical directive verifying a need for an exemption. Medical directives are necessary to be exempt from wearing a mask for an IEP or 504 EXCEPT when there is already a disability indicated in an existing IEP or 504. If a student can wear a mask but won’t, the school can require them not to be there in person but must provide services in another way.
Recommendations for Parents
- Trust your gut
- Express your concerns
- Think creatively for your child with help from health experts
- Communicate communicate communicate
- Try various models until it works
- Schedules help
Heather – getting requests from parents for letters to excuse kids from wearing masks. Esperanza? What is the reason for the request: are the parents being requested to get the letter by the school? Or is it pre-emptive? Heather: many reasons, including ADHD, asthma, complex children.
Nikki – Busy Bee providers won’t write letters either. Don’t want to be liable. Is there another avenue? Esperanza – where do families turn if not to their PCP? A Behavioral provider? Is there a protocol or way to assess the need from the Primary Care Provider? Families are able to have conversations with their IEP teams if behavior is documented that relates the wearing of masks.
Karine – Canyons School District family, home instruction in a Spanish-only speaking mother – can they have a nurse? Esperanza – almost anything is possible under an IEP but the details will be important (did the family choose to not take the services made available?)
Nikki – Child on IEP, parent unhappy with it meeting child’s needs. Not following the IEP. What to do? Esperanza – set up a meeting to discuss the concerns and get clear, brainstorm about change. Contact the UPC to get guidance and feel prepared to have that meeting.
IEP meetings are harder to get schedules; some delays because of how stretched thin the teachers and other support personnel are. Schools are having to prioritize.