virtual schools

6 ways to ensure public virtual schools serve all students


Recent federal guidance aims to make sure students with disabilities receive special education supports in virtual schools

States are getting federal guidance to make sure students with disabilities attending public virtual schools receive the special education and supports they deserve.

In a letter to states, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) focuses on specific requirements in the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for public virtual schools.

“Over the last decade, there has been a proliferation of The guidance addresses the supervision responsibilities of states and the applicability of IDEA’s child find provisions to children attending public virtual schools,” according to the letter. The letter also clarifies states’ responsibility to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to children with disabilities attending public virtual schools.

“Children with disabilities attending virtual schools have the same right to a free appropriate public education as children attending brick and mortar schools,” said OSERS Acting Assistant Secretary Sue Swenson. “States and school districts must ensure that children with disabilities are getting the special education and supports that they need to be successful in school.”

Next page: The letter’s key points 

Among the letter’s key points:

The educational rights and protections afforded to children with disabilities and their parents under IDEA must not be diminished or compromised when children with disabilities attend virtual schools.

States are responsible for ensuring that all school districts, including virtual schools that operate as school districts, implement the requirements of IDEA.

To ensure FAPE to children with disabilities in virtual schools, each school district must implement the evaluation, eligibility, individualized education program (IEP) and least restrictive environment requirements under IDEA.

Each state also must have policies and procedures that ensure that children with disabilities who attend virtual schools are included in all general state and district-wide assessment programs, including assessments with appropriate accommodations and alternate assessments, where necessary and as indicated in their respective IEPs.

In addition, each state and school district, must have child find policies and procedures in effect to ensure that all children with disabilities residing in the state, including those who attend virtual schools, who are in need of special education and related services, regardless of the severity of their disability, are identified, located, and evaluated.

School districts, including virtual schools that operate as school districts, should review the state’s child find policies and procedures as well as their own implementing policies, procedures, and practices to ensure that children with disabilities who attend virtual schools are identified, located, and evaluated.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione

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