Providing FAPE during the crisis
This crisis has really exposed flaws in our society. I could dedicate an entire website to the inequities in education, special education and so on. Since parents are seeing these differences, all day, every day it has shed a light on them. I hope that at the end of this, that we make some meaningful changes.
But for now, you’re just worried about IEP skills regression and a level of maintenance teaching, right? As each week passes, I think that my job as an advocate and problem-solver for parents is done. But, as one problem gets solved, it seems another is exposed.
This week’s problem seems to be about online teaching. And that is, many districts across the country coming up with all kinds of reasons not to provide it.
I think what we are seeing play out online is what we see play out in the school buildings during normal times. The IEP teams that are caring, innovative and really want to serve their students are finding a way to do so. Those that suck under normal circumstances suck now, and they are finding excuses.
Most of us have been doing this for 2-3 weeks. So, most teams should have moved past the initial confusion and toward solutions. If you’re still getting excuses, here are some action steps.
If you prefer to watch a video, here you go.
For the record, I am addressing the issue of schools either refusing to provide your child with any type of FAPE, or online schooling. As parents, we need to accept that 1:1 teaching for our kids, in person, is just not a solution at this time. We either have to do it ourselves or if incapable, document regression and ask for comp ed.
Talking Points for Providing FAPE
“We can’t provide FAPE for everyone, so we’re doing nothing.” The US Department of Education has made it very clear that this is not a solution or valid excuse. You can read the guidance sheet here. Then, I would point it out to your district. If they still continue to provide nothing, I would put it in writing that you are documenting your child’s regression and what services they are missing, and will be asking for remediation and/or comp ed with this is over.Supple-Fact-Sheet-3.21.20-FINAL
“Zoom is not HIPAA compliant.” They’re right, the free version of Zoom is not HIPAA compliant. However, schools are not bound to HIPAA, they are bound to FERPA. Or, they can purchase the HIPAA compliant version. Or, they can use one of the dozens of other online conference services that are available, such as Loom, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, or Webex. Zoom is not the only game in town. Yes, some bad actors have been hijacking Zoom classrooms and disrupting teaching. But, it can be worked around until Zoom improves, which I’m sure they are doing since they are receiving so much negative publicity.
“We can’t make Zoom accessible.” Yes, you can. It takes a little bit of research and maybe a bit more time, but online conferencing or teaching can be made accessible to all. Some have closed-captioning, keyboard shortcuts, higher quality sound and video, a sign language interpreter present or someone designated to describe visuals to the visually impaired participants. You find a way, or you find excuses.
“Not all students have either wifi or devices.” This problem will take a bit longer to address, but again, it can be done. “Oh, but it will take us weeks to get everyone a device!” Ok, so what is the alternative? You really want everyone’s last day of the school year to be March 12? The School District of Philadelphia looked for benefactors to buy Chromebooks since they have such a large population living in poverty. Comcast offers free or low-cost internet service to disability and low-income homes. If you have dedicated education professionals, it can happen. My school district opened up for students to borrow Chromebooks.
“Online learning isn’t appropriate for this child.” Sure, there is a small percentage of students for whom this will not be successful. How about instead, you spend the time conferencing with the parent, so that they can at least provide some instruction? You can review what interventions are working, behavior strategies, teaching strategies….direct delivery doesn’t have to be to the student to benefit the student.
“We can’t.” Going to put the last one as sort of a catch-all. Just a blanket “no.” Ok, so they don’t have to provide online learning. However, as the Dept of Ed letter says, they should be providing something. They can send you PDFs to print or links to videos to watch. They can do an online conference with you, the parent, to see what toys, books and other learning materials you have at home to use.
Despite all the best tips and the most persistent parents, some schools will continue to do nothing. In that instance, I would document daily what is going on and what services your child is missing per their IEP. I also would indicate to your school that you are documenting the lack of services and any regression, and that you will expect remediation or comp ed when school is back in session. Or, consider paying for an online service yourself (ABA, OT, Speech) and work out an arrangement that your school will pay for it. Asking for this may nudge them into action.
Wrapping up, again, the mantra “You find a way, or you find excuses” applies here. I get it, I hate being on the learning curve all the time. We’re all out of our comfort zone here, and it sucks with a capital S. I would love to go back to our normal routine. But, focus on what we can control. And that is, there are many, many ways to provide FAPE while our kids aren’t at school.