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Disability advocates call for commitment to access to special education during coronavirus

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/1/2020 3:42:50 PM

Disability advocates are working to protect the right to education of special education students, many of whom are not able to receive all the services remotely that they would in a physical classroom.

Lisa Beaudoin of Temple, who is the Executive Director of ABLE NH, an advocate group for people with disabilities, said Wednesday she and other advocates wrote a letter to Governor Chris Sununu in response to families concerns about their students not currently receiving all the services outlined in their individual education plans, or IEPs, now and in the future.

Student IEPs are not easy to follow in the current circumstances, acknowledged Beaudoin. Students who require a 1-to-1 paraprofessional or other assistance, for example, may not be during this time, and some physical therapies provided for by their plans can’t be done remotely. Beaudoin said she understands the need for the districts and teacher’s unions to protect their staff, and many parents also do not want to have someone come into their home to provide services, but in certain cases it may be appropriate, she said. For those families, there may be alternative solutions, such as hiring outside contractors who are willing to provide those services.

Beaudoin said she had been following federal talks around whether or not the government should waive certain standards set by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, during response to COVID-19, which prompted herself and other disability advocates to write to the governor.

The letter written to Governor Chris Sununu requested he take a public stance that the state remain committed to maintaining appropriate public education for all eligible children with disabilities, regardless of whether the federal government loosened those restrictions.

In a response to the letter, Sununu said he wouldn’t consider waiving the standards of IDEA without input of advocates, parents, and schools.

Additionally, Sununu replied schools have permission to provide special education services as appropriate remotely, and that those services can be provided in person, with limited cohort sizes, and provide compensatory services if there are services that cannot be provided now.

Those compensatory services, which may be things like extending services beyond the school year, are another thing parents are concerned about, Beaudoin said. Beaudoin said some districts, including ConVal Regional School District, have committed to providing those compensatory services once school is back in session, but others have waived them.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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