Coronavirus and Schools: Compensatory Services, Part 2 - Some Documents
On May 5, we sent guidance on the process for determining whether students with disabilities are entitled to “compensatory services” to address any losses in their special education programming caused by the pandemic-related school closings.
It strikes many as unfair and maybe unreasonable that both the United States and Pennsylvania Departments of Education have required LEAs to consider providing such services when (a) LEAs are not responsible for the losses caused by the pandemic; and (b) all students are likely to have suffered from the absence of in-person instruction—not just students with disabilities. We have suggested that you should view the need to provide “compensatory services” to some students as very similar to the need to provide ESY services for some students. Often, students with disabilities bear a heavier burden than their non-disabled peers from disruptions in their education, whether caused by a summer break or by a pandemic-induced school closing. The advantage of the summer break is we can anticipate it and plan for services—ESY—that will proactively mitigate the negative effects of the break. The pandemic closures, on the other hand, deprived us of the ability to act proactively. We now must apply an ESY-like decision-making process to determine the effect of the closings on students with disabilities and to determine what if any services—perhaps unfortunately styled “compensatory services” by USDE—are needed to address the negative effects of those closings. Of course, the programming we were able to deliver in accordance with our “continuity of education” plans might very well have mitigated, or entirely prevented, those negative effects. Time will tell.
With our May 5 opinion, we included a flow chart describing the compensatory services decision-making process. We are re-attaching that chart here. We also forwarded with our previous opinion a compensatory services worksheet for use by IEP teams. We have re-attached that worksheet in a slightly revised format.
Today, we are attaching something new for your consideration: a parent letter explaining “compensatory services” and the process by which eligibility for them will be determined. We believe a letter of this sort will be critical. Parents are already pressing in some districts for compensatory services, and the parent advocacy community has been agitating on the issue since March 13. The more parents know about the process by which you will be considering the need for these services, the more likely they will afford you the time to pursue that process in an orderly fashion. Left in the dark, parents tend to panic and seek support in other quarters.