Many students lost access to special education services as a result of disruptions caused by the pandemic. Students remain entitled to disability-related accommodations and services, even when they cannot attend in person. Students who missed services due to the pandemic may be entitled to compensatory services to make up for regression or skills lost.
The Education Disability Rights Project (EDRP) represents a bedridden student who is medically fragile. According to the student’s individualized education plan (IEP) and a pre-COVID agreement, the school district must provide home tutoring, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language therapy five times a week. These services were scheduled to end in November of 2020 based on the pre-COVID agreement.
During the 2019-2020 school year, even before the pandemic, service providers were not available to come to the student's home, and the student was hospitalized many times. So, the student missed many of the required service sessions. Then, once the district closed its schools in March 2020, the school district stopped providing services altogether. The student received no services for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, the school district decided not to provide any in-person learning because of COVID. The student could not access distance learning because of her disability, again leaving her with no services whatsoever.
The parent kept a log of each missing service. Tracey Discepolo, a staff attorney with the EDRP, used this log to calculate and negotiate compensatory education to make up for for the service sessions the student missed both pre-COVID and during COVID.
As a result, the school district agreed to provide 300 sessions of educational tutoring, 575 sessions of physical therapy, 375 sessions of occupational therapy, and 500 speech-language therapy sessions. The services will resume in person once it is safe to do so, despite the original November 2020 termination date.