With all schools in Virginia closed through the end of the academic year, parents of children with disabilities suddenly find their children without the programming, structure, and supports they need to access the general education curriculum and make meaningful progress on their educational goals. The unfortunate reality is that online classes and other remote learning opportunities simply are not adequate substitutes for the in-person, hands on instruction provided to many students with disabilities.
Guidance from the state and federal authorities gives little reason to expect that services will improve until schools reopen. In the meantime, parents must be careful not to make a bad situation worse by agreeing to changes to an IEP.
We have received reports of school districts telling parents that the districts must amend students’ IEPs to reflect the level of services being provided during the school closures. We are not aware of any authority requiring such changes, and we strongly advise parents NOT to consent to such changes. Virginia’s special education regulations plainly state that “[i]nformed parental consent is required before any revision to the child’s IEP services.” School districts do not have the authority—under any circumstances—to change the level of services in a student’s IEP unilaterally. Changes in services can only be made with “informed parental consent.”
In the case of a disagreement—or the absence of “informed parental consent”—the last signed IEP will remain in effect. We urge parents to read any communications from school districts about special education services very carefully before signing or initialing any documents. Particularly in these uncertain times, we encourage anyone with a specific special education problem or a question about the special education process to contact Todd Ratner at 804-665-1042 or firstname.lastname@example.org.