Coronavirus and Schools: More on Graduation of Students with Disabilities
Many of you are seeking guidance concerning graduation of students with disabilities. Of particular concern is the relationship between graduation and the possibility that many of these students might be entitled to some form of pandemic-related “compensatory service” once schools re-open and such services are possible.
Our first and foremost point is that you should treat the two issues entirely separately and independent of each other. We have recommended that LEAs base graduation determinations for all current seniors solely on their performance prior to March 13. We have also recommended that LEAs not use current performance in “continuity of education” to influence that determination, unless the student’s failing performance prior to March 13 would require some “credit recovery” that might be offered through virtual learning or other “continuity of education” activities. The same is true for students with disabilities. If students were on an IEP team-determined track to graduate as of March 13, they should graduate based thereon.
Students with disabilities should graduate based on pre-March 13 performance even if school closings prevented the completion of programs, activities, or projects that the team specifically identified as necessary for graduation or for attainment of transition goals. The LEA should issue the graduation NOREP and diploma exactly in the form it would have had the child been able to complete the year. The issuance of that NOREP and that diploma, however, should not prevent an IEP team from convening and determining whether the student needs “compensatory services” as a result of pandemic-related school closures. These IEP teams can convene any time after graduation, even if schools are not yet reopened. For these students, after all, the pandemic-related disruption of their educations is over (at least at the secondary level). Teams will be in a position to assess what effect, if any, the closures had on these students and to determine what, if any, compensatory services might be necessary to address those effects.
That means some graduated seniors might be entitled to a second NOREP, and possibly even an IEP (more on documentation of compensatory services will be coming soon), describing the services to which the student is entitled as a result of the school closings. Those services might include unfinished transition-related activities. They might even include programming the team had planned to require for graduation. The need for such “compensation” might be particularly compelling if the loss of the activities or programming in question adversely affected the student’s readiness for post-secondary life. We cannot emphasize enough that eligibility for compensation continues beyond the period during which the student is eligible for a FAPE. Thus, even once the student has graduated—ending his or her right to a FAPE—he or she can lawfully participate in compensatory programming.
Whether a graduated senior—possibly headed to post-secondary education or to a career—will want to take advantage of an offer of compensatory services is another matter. We suspect that many will not. That reality, however, should not stop the LEA from making the offer.