How California's Emergency COVID-19 Law Affects Special Education
Updated: Apr 20
On March 17, 2020, the State of California passed law to address issues confronting schools caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Issues the New Law Addresses
The law addresses several issues related to school closures: issues concerning attendance, instructional time, funding, distance learning and independent study programs through charter schools, after school programs, childcare and development programs, assessment of pupils' English proficiency, and Uniform Complaint Procedures.
Special Education Timeline Waivers
The law also waives certain special education timelines, including the timelines for assessment and for the provision of school records, if a school district is closed due to COVID-19. These timelines remain waived up until the time the school district reopens for regular sessions.
Assessment Plan Development Timeline
Prior to the passage of the law, under California Education Code Section, 56043(a), "a proposed assessment plan shall be developed within 15 calendar days of referral for assessment, not counting calendar days between the pupil’s regular school sessions or terms or calendar days of school vacation in excess of five schooldays, from the date of receipt of the referral, unless the parent or guardian agrees in writing to an extension..."
The new law extends the timeline for the development of an assessment plan following the referral for an assessment for the development or revision of a student's individualized education program (IEP), but only if a school is closed due to the coronavirus.
Under the new law, days a school is closed due to COVID-19 are to be considered as days between a student's regular school session for purposes of the timelines affecting special education programs. This means that these days the school is closed will not be counted.
School Records Timeline
Regarding the provision of records, prior to the passage of the new law, under California Education Code section 56504, parents "shall have the right and opportunity to examine all school records of his or her child and to receive copies pursuant to this section and to Section 49065 within five business days after the request is made by the parent, either orally or in writing. The public agency shall comply with a request for school records without unnecessary delay before any meeting regarding an individualized education program or any hearing..."
Under the new law, the timelines established under California law pertaining to the provision of school records shall be waived if a school is closed due to COVID-19.
Distance Learning and Independent Study by Charter Schools
As mentioned above, although not strictly pertaining to special education students, but of interest to many of their parents, the new law addresses the provision of independent study programs and distance learning programs provided by charter schools. Under the bill, a charter school that does not have either of these types of programs "in its currently-approved charter petition is not required to submit a request to materially revise its charter petition to its chartering authority in order to offer an independent study program or distance learning program during the period of time the school is closed due to the coronavirus (COVID–19) and complying with Executive Order N–26–20."
While schools respond to the COVID-19 emergency, please stay safe.
Education Attorney Molly Watson
Serving special education students and their families in California
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