On March 21, 2020, the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued additional guidance to public schools across the country (the “March 21 Guidance”). The March 21 Guidance addresses the Department of Education’s concern that school districts may be reluctant to provide distance learning opportunities to students due to a perception that compliance with federal disability laws “presents insurmountable barriers to remote education.” The March 21 Guidance further explains that:
- Schools “should not opt to close or decline to provide distance instruction, at the expense of students, to address matters pertaining to services for students with disabilities.”
- Current exceptional circumstances may affect the method of service delivery to children with disabilities.
- Schools should consider using online, virtual and telephonic methods of service delivery.
- If technology presents a barrier to access or if the instructional materials are not available in an accessible format, “educators may still meet their legal obligations by providing children with disabilities equally effective alternate access to the curriculum or services provided to other students.”