Education: Education Department Releases Guidance Documents Relating to COVID-19 Outbreak

On March 12, the Department of Education (ED) released three guidance documents regarding responses to COVID-19: one relating to flexibility in accountability standards under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, another relating to student privacy protection under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and a third relating to services for students with disabilities. The Department of Education announced in its guidance that it will consider targeted waivers of the assessment requirements, the 95% assessment participation rate requirement, and chronic absenteeism benchmarks. The FERPA guidance details how schools and colleges should handle disclosure of COVID-19 infections under the “health and safety emergency” exception. The final document details the responsibilities of school districts, state early intervention lead agencies, and early intervention providers during a COVID-19 outbreak. The Arc is pleased that the Department of Education has provided much-needed guidance to stakeholders. However, The Arc believes the guidance leaves many questions unanswered. Specifically, it does not address whether school districts must provide free and appropriate public education for students with significant disabilities when operating through online/distance learning, how students will receive support typically provided by special education teachers or paraprofessionals, or under what conditions compensatory education must be provided.

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