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Let’s Work Together to Embrace the IDEA and Educate Students

The COVID-19 outbreak has placed a tremendous and unprecedented strain on schools, districts, educators, families and students. Despite the unprecedented challenge facing us all, students with disabilities will be best served when diverse stakeholders come together and share resources, innovative ideas and promising practices.

IDEA requires individualization for students and partnership with parents. While we want every citizen to be safe and healthy, we do appreciate the efforts made by many school teams on behalf of students nationwide.

Now is the time to embrace the IDEA’s required partnership between schools and families to innovate, individualize, and, if needed, advocate for more resources to allow services to continue and to meet student needs. It is not the time to abandon children through waivers, which allow schools and districts to abdicate their responsibility.

Schools must continue, working under the constraints of the pandemic circumstances, to ensure that students with disabilities are provided with a free and appropriate public education that includes challenging and ambitious goals commensurate with a student’s abilities. Justice Roberts wrote: ”The IDEA demands more. It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”  To be clear, this applies to the child’s abilities and potential not to the closure of schools.

Many COPAA members from across the country have reported examples of schools and districts that are embracing their responsibility and meeting the needs of students while physical buildings are closed.

Of course they have also reported challenges; COPAA and colleagues are working to encourage schools and families to work together to find solutions that allow children to receive equitable access to an education and the services that support them without weakening or undoing all of their civil and educational rights. 

COPAA Statements



Alert: Tell your U.S. Senators:

Congress must prioritize students with disabilities by protecting all tenets of the IDEA,  Section 504, and the ADA while providing an infusion of funds to IDEA!



Congress is negotiating the next COVID-19 stimulus package. To help shape the policy provisions and influence the funding debate, COPAA is advocating that the stimulus must expressly support all tenets of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It also must include specific funding for IDEA. To accomplish this, the Senate must protect all requirements of the IDEA, Section 504 and the ADA; and, it must include provisions in two important bills introduced in the past two weeks:

  • Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (S. 4112) introduced by Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), and
  • Supporting Children with Disabilities During COVID–19 Act (S.4100) introduced by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Chris VanHollen (D-MD).

The Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (S. 4112) would build on the educational investments from the CARES Act [passed in March] and provide almost $430 billion in funding for child abuse and neglect prevention, child care, K-12 education, postsecondary education, and workforce development. The bill:

  • Requires the Secretary to ensure that for a state to receive any of the funding for early childhood and K-12 education, the State must assure that full rights are provided to children with disabilities and their families under IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
  • Includes in the $430 billion for education - $12 billion for the IDEA -- $11 billion to Part B (K-12), $500 million to Part C (infant and toddlers), and $400 million to Part B Sec. 619 (preschool).

The Supporting Children with Disabilities During COVID–19 Act (S.4100) focuses directly on the need for IDEA and mirrors the amounts specifically for IDEA Part B, Part C and Part B 619 as outlined above/in the previous bill. The dual emphases on IDEA funding between the two bills is intentional as key Senators know that IDEA funding is crucial to schools and students in the coming year.  

Please ACT NOW to urge your U.S. Senators to prioritize students with disabilities by protecting all tenets of the IDEA, Section 504 and the ADA while providing an infusion of funds to IDEA.

Tell Your Senators by Email

Dear Senator:

I am a (parent/advocate/advocate attorney from CITY/STATE) and am writing to urge you to prioritize the needs of students with disabilities in the next COVID-19 stimulus bill. (My child/children and families I work with) are counting on you to ensure that the next funding package protects rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and include critical funding for IDEA. To do so, please protect all provisions of key civil rights and disabilities laws as well as support the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (S. 4112) introduced by Sen. Murray, and Supporting Children with Disabilities During COVID–19 Act (S.4100) introduced by Sens. Murphy (D-CT), Hassan (D-NH) and VanHollen (D-MD).

Given the effects of the national crisis, it is imperative that all provisions included in both S. 4112 and S. 4100 be included in the next stimulus bill to ensure all aspects of the IDEA are upheld when schools reopen. Additionally, schools and districts need more funding and providing specific funding for IDEA will: ensure all students with disabilities can receive a free, appropriate public education as required by the law; support teachers and other personnel; and promote collaboration between schools and families so they can find effective ways to ensure students receive specially designed instruction, therapies, services and other supports as determined by the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or to implement an effective 504 plan as required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Students with disabilities are counting on you to ensure they can return to school with their rights intact under IDEA, Section 504 as well as the ADA, and have funds available to support their academic, social, emotional, and behavioral needs during the pandemic.

Please reach back out to me if you would like to learn more. For more information about special education during COVID-19 you can also visit the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates COVID-19 Page.



Contact Your Senator Now! Tell them to prioritize and protect students with disabilities during the next stimulus package deliberations.

Find your Senators


Additional Statements/Resources

For general information regarding COVID-19, please see: https://www.coronavirus.gov/

Resources that Support Distance Learning
Part of the COVID-19 Guidance for K-12 Schools published on March 17, 2020.

It is important that LEAs leverage their existing distance learning technology platforms as they transition to distance learning environments for the coming weeks and months. This will speed the transition time for both educators and students to be able to engage virtually. If these systems are already in use, administrators and teachers should communicate directly with families to articulate the ways the existing system(s) will support distance learning. If these or similar resources are not in use already, the list of available resources below will provide educators with options for creating a foundation for communication, sharing, and digital learning. Below is a table of contents to navigate these resources effectively.

  1. Online Engagement Systems and Platforms
  2. State, County Office of Education, and District Resources
  3. Teaching Tools: Presentation and Content Supports
  4. Supporting Students with Disabilities in Distance Learning
  5. Articles to Navigate Distance Learning
  6. Digital Resources by Content Area
    1. English Language Arts
    2. Mathematics
    3. Writing
    4. Science
    5. Physical Education
    6. History and Social Science
    7. Electives: The Arts, Music, and Language
  7. Pre-K Learning, Games and Activities
  8. Current Events and News Outlets for Students
  9. Free Educational Resources for Distance Learning
  10. Online Learning Resources and Tools
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