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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. 




As required by Congress under the Coronavirus AID, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has issued a report to Congress detailing needed waivers under key education laws including the Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehab Act) during the pandemic. The report includes a request for just two waivers under the IDEA and no waivers under Section 504 of the Rehab Act; neither of the IDEA waivers impact a child’s access to the rights and protections of the IDEA. Several waivers were sought under the Rehab Act related to vocational rehabilitation. The limited recommendations in the report are a direct result of your advocacy.


Congress is now considering whether to provide any waivers to IDEA. They must continue to hear that the provisions of IDEA should not be waived. The law already allows for IEP teams to develop amendments in writing without a meeting, extend timelines with mutual agreement and assures IEP team meetings can occur by video or telephone. Many districts are now holding virtual IEP Team meetings, conducting annual reviews, holding virtual mediations, and virtual due process hearings. Simply put, there is no need to waive any provisions of the IDEA because of the school closures. 

Tell Congress by Email

Tell Congress that we must not waive any of IDEA requirements but help schools and families work together to find solutions that allow children to receive equitable access to an education and the services that support them. We can do this without weakening or undoing any of a child’s civil and educational rights.

The national crisis must not be used as a reason to justify opening up civil rights laws to harmful amendments in future COVID-19 bills. Therefore, we urge Congress to: 

  • Oppose waivers under IDEA and Section 504.The focus should remain on ensuring continuity of education and services to children.
  • Support providing states with additional funding that can be used under the IDEA to:
    • ensure teachers, school leaders, students and their families have needed tools for teaching and learning online and through other virtual methods.
    • provide extended school year to students and other compensatory services.
    • ensure providers are paid for telehealth related services such as OT, PT, and Speech/Language.
  • Help ED use its existing authority to be flexible where absolutely necessary on timelines and/extend or disregard state reporting requirements for the 2019/2020 school year so that families and schools can focus resources on student needs.
  • Support states by providing a total of $12.5 billion in IDEA funding under Parts B, C, D to support school and related service personnel in the provision of special education supports and services to students with disabilities infants through age 21).

Contact Your Elected Officials Now! NO IDEA WAIVERS

Find your Senators

Find Your Representatives


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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