U.S. DOE Emphasizes Obligations to Protect High-Risk Students as Pandemic Improves
On March 24, 2020, Dr. Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education, wrote a letter to educators and parents emphasizing the Biden Administration’s continued commitment to providing services and supports to allow students with disabilities to learn safely alongside their peers during the pandemic. This letter provides strategies for educators, Districts, and families to enable students with disabilities to participate in in-person instruction and to receive a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) in the least restrictive environment.
Secretary Cardona first encourages IEP teams to leverage IEP and Section 504 processes to provide protections for in-person learning. IEP teams (ARD Committees in Texas) and Section 504 committees must address school-related health needs of students with disabilities at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in IEPs and Section 504 plans and place students in the least restrictive environment that meets those needs. IEP teams and Section 504 committees should also consider whether students at a heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19 require a health plan to address preventative and risk-reducing strategies, such as proper sanitizing or physical distancing. When health plans are included in the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan, these documents must be provided to each individual responsible for implementing the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan.