News & Publications

Office for Civil Rights Guidance on COVID-19

Posted on March 17, 2020

Office for Civil Rights Fact Sheet

On March 16, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), U.S. Department of Education posted “Fact Sheet: Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Schools While Protecting the Civil Rights of Students.” In this fact sheet, OCR reminds school districts to address reports of bullying and harassment and not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin when serving students. OCR also provides guidance on serving students with disabilities. Similar to previous guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, OCR provides that if school is open and serving other students, the school must ensure that the student with disabilities continues to receive a free appropriate public education, consistent with protecting the health and safety of the student and staff. OCR suggests that IEP and 504 teams determine if some, or all, of the student’s identified services can be provided through alternate or additional methods. Accessible technology should also be considered.

OCR states that if a disabled student does not receive services after an extended period of time, the student’s IEP or 504 team will need to make individualized determinations about whether compensatory services will be needed and to what extent, including to make up for any skills that may have been lost.

OCR also provides guidance about IEP and 504 meetings, 504 evaluations and ETRs. OCR provides that IEP and 504 teams do not need to meet in person while schools are closed. If a student’s evaluation requires a face-to-face assessment or observation, the evaluation would need to be delayed until school reopens. Evaluations and re-evaluations that do not require face-to-face assessments or observations may take place while schools are closed, provided the student’s parent or legal guardian consents.

Office for Civil Rights Webinar

On March 16, 2020, OCR also posted a short webinar on online education and physical accessibility. This webinar reminds schools that accessible technology should be provided to disabled students.

The Fact Sheet and Webinar can be accessed at USDOE COVID-19 Information and Resources.

As a reminder, issues related to COVID-19 are fluid and subject to rapid change. Additional information about Coronavirus and the State’s response can be found here.

This communication is intended as general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If advice is required, please contact any of our attorneys on our cell phones, at (614) 222-8686, or via email.