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By: Tia J. Combs
Many schools across the county have closed or are operating virtually due to the COVID-19 outbreak. On March 12, 2020, the US Department of Education released two documents with new guidance for schools and educators faced these unprecedented problems.
The document specifically addresses the question of whether schools may disclose, without prior written consent, to other students and parents that a student is out sick due to COVID-19. The document states that such disclosure is generally going to be permissible if it is released in a form that cannot be traced back to a specific student.
Second, the Department released its Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak. This document outlines how local educational agencies (“LEA”) can provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities during a school closure caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The document explains that if LEAs are continuing to provide educational services to the general student population during a closure, LEAs must also continue to provide educational opportunities to special education students consistent with their IEP or 504 Plan to the greatest extent possible. Schools must also provide specialized instruction to children with disabilities who are infected with COVID-19 and miss school for an extended period of time, possibly via homebound services if the student qualifies. The document emphasizes that special education students who are not provided with services could be owed compensatory education.
The US Department of Education has also launched a website with general information for schools faced with complications from COVID-19 at https://www.ed.gov/coronavirus.
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