Time running out for disabled kids in NJ to take advantage of law
New Jersey parents who have kids with disabilities should have been offered a meeting with their local school officials to review compensatory education services under a state law that took effect in March of 2022.
Those services may be needed to make up for learning loss during the pandemic.
The deadline for parents to schedule an Individualized Education Program meeting was Dec. 31.
According to Elizabeth Athos, a senior attorney for educational equity at the Education Law Center, school districts should have already contacted families that have children with disabilities to discuss this issue. But if they did not, parents can still request a meeting.
They missed out
Athos said all students were impacted by virtual learning, but the impacts were harder for those with disabilities.
Athos said that when all schooling went virtual, a lot of students with disabilities were completely cut off.
“They may not have been able to receive services virtually or the services they received may have been inappropriate," she said. “There were certain services — physical therapy or occupational therapy — that really needed to be done in person.”
"During the pandemic a lot of students with disabilities didn’t get what they were supposed to," Athos said. "Compensatory education is a remedy that’s been available under the individuals with disabilities education act.”
Money set aside
In the spring, Gov. Phil Murphy allocated more than $17 million in American Rescue Plan money to reimburse school districts for special education services they were providing for students whose Individualized Education Programs had been disrupted by COVID.
She said if an IEP meeting has not already been scheduled parents can request one in writing. They can also reach the state Department of Education through the county offices or through the special education ombudsman.
Parents also have until Sept. 1 to file for a due process hearing to address the compensatory education services issue.
Athos said it’s vitally important to make sure all students are learning in the way they need to in order to be able to maximize productivity and independence, and this includes those with disabilities.
She added if parents of a student with disabilities were going to sit down with local educators to work out an IEP for their child but the meeting was canceled when the pandemic started, they can also request to have a meeting to discuss compensatory education for the delay in starting IEP services. .
More information is available from the New Jersey Office of Special Education at OSEinfo@doe.nj.gov