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BY DECEMBER 31, NJ SCHOOL DISTRICTS MUST MEET WITH FAMILIES OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES IMPACTED BY THE PANDEMIC

November 8, 2022

A state law enacted last March gives New Jersey school districts until December 31 to determine whether additional assistance – called “compensatory education” – must be provided to students with disabilities to address disruptions in their learning and educational progress resulting from extensive periods of remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the looming deadline, Education Law Center recommends families of students with disabilities make a written request to their local school districts to schedule Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings by December 31. The deadline for filing pandemic-related due process hearing requests has been extended to September 1, 2023, so families can still seek legal relief if their school district fails to act.

To assist parents in navigating pandemic-related compensatory education issues for their children with disabilities, ELC has released a newly updated, third edition of the FAQ on Compensatory Education in Response to COVID-19. Authored by ELC Trustee, Rebecca K. Spar, Esq., this guide supplies essential information that will enable parents and guardians to advocate effectively for the critical educational services their children did not receive and are still due.

ELC is stepping up efforts to notify families of their right to compensatory education because the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has taken no public actions to ensure districts are complying with the law, other than issuing guidance last April informing school districts of their obligations under the new law.

A letter to the NJDOE in late September from ELC and New Jersey Special Education Practitioners, a group of attorneys and advocates representing parents in special education matters, expressed serious concerns that districts have been slow to comply with the law. The letter also asks the NJDOE for detailed information on enforcement of the law, including whether the Department has collected data on compliance, conducted outreach to graduated students, and provided training on the new law to Administrative Law Judges.

“The December 31 deadline was established to provide time for families and school districts to work cooperatively to resolve compensatory education claims,” said Elizabeth Athos, ELC Senior Attorney, Educational Equity. “The Department’s apparent unwillingness to enforce this requirement is short-sighted in terms of getting relief for children and avoiding litigation, and it is not consistent with its legal duty to ensure that students with disabilities receive their entitlement to a free appropriate public education.”

Compensatory education is available under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to ensure that students receive make-up services when their IEPs are either not implemented or are carried out in a manner that deprives them of their right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Under the IDEA, the NJDOE is obligated to supervise local districts’ special education programs to ensure compliance with state and federal law.


Read this story in Spanish here


Related Stories:

NEW LAW PROTECTS PANDEMIC-RELATED COMPENSATORY EDUCATION FOR NJ STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

ADVOCATES TAKE ACTION TO RESPOND TO NJ’S COMPENSATORY EDUCATION FAILURES

NJ STILL NOT PROTECTING RIGHT OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES TO COVID-19 RELATED COMPENSATORY EDUCATION

COVID-19 AND STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: YOUR UPDATED GUIDE ON WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW


Education Law Center, founded in 1973, pursues education justice and equity to ensure that all students receive a high quality public education effectively preparing them to participate as citizens in a democratic society and as valued contributors to a robust economy. If this e-blast was forwarded to you, please sign up to receive regular ELC updates here.


Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
skrengel@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 240