Coronavirus and Schools: Parent Rejection of “Continuity of Education” NOREPs
Any advice for school districts if a family is not in agreement with the interim NOREP offered during planned instruction (using the template provided to us from your firm) despite discussions with the family about the best faith effort to implement the IEP during planned instruction despite not being able to replicate all aspects of the IEP due to the programming being offered virtually? Should the IEP team convene virtually if the parents do not approve the NOREP? Could parents pursue due process if they are not satisfied and want more?
Critical to remember is that you do not need a parent to sign or otherwise consent to a NOREP if you are not proposing the child’s initial placement in special education. The NOREP—although it includes a parent signature line—is a “consent” document only when used to propose an initial placement. Thereafter, it is a “notice” document, allowing implementation of whatever the issuing LEA is proposing if the parents have not filed a mediation request or a due process complaint notice with the Office for Dispute Resolution within ten days.
In a world in which schools are open and social distancing is not required, a timely request for mediation or a due process hearing would invoke the “stay put” provision of the IDEA, requiring the LEA to maintain the then-existing program and placement of the child pending the outcome of whatever proceeding the parent has requested. In the pandemic world, even if the parent files a mediation or due process challenge to your proposed “continuity of education” programming, and does so within ten days, no existing program is operating in which the child can “stay put.” A hearing officer, moreover, could not order an LEA to maintain a pre-closure brick-and-mortar program in violation of the governor’s school closure and social distancing orders. The hearing officer could, presumably, order a different array of virtual services than those the LEA has proposed, although he or she would not likely issue any such order much before the current school year closes.
From your message above, I gather that you have tried to discuss with the parent his or concerns with your “continuity of education” NOREP. If you believe that discussion with a full IEP team (convened virtually, of course) might help, or if the parent requests such a meeting, by all means convene. The outcome might be an array of virtual programming with which the parent is more satisfied but it cannot be programming conducted in violation of closure and social distancing requirements.
If you feel that further talking will not help and if the parents aren’t requesting it, you have done all you can do. Your offer, as described in your NOREP, stands as evidence that you offered what the circumstances allow you to offer. The virtual services are there for the parents to take or leave, understanding that if they refuse to allow their child to participate, their actions could affect the amount of compensatory services, if any, their child might receive later.