Los Angeles Unified has failed to provide appropriate education to students with disabilities during the pandemic as required by federal law and must provide additional services to help some of the most vulnerable students recover from significant gaps in their learning, announced the US Department of Education on Thursday.
the investigation, conducted by the department’s Office of Civil Rights, confirms what many parents have alleged since the schools closed – that they were essentially left to fend for themselves during distance learning because their children were left with little or no help. education and specialized assistance. The district entered into a voluntary agreement with the federal department to remedy its failings.
“Today’s resolution will ensure that Los Angeles Unified’s more than 66,000 students with disabilities will receive equal access to education to which federal Civil Rights Law entitles them, including compensatory education. for all the services the district has failed to provide during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Civil Rights Undersecretary Catherine E. Lhamon said in a statement.
Federal law requires districts to provide appropriate and free public education to students with disabilities, which means they must receive regular or special education, supports, and services designed to meet their individual needs.
However, since schools closed in March 2020, many families of students with disabilities have described facing roadblocks and delays while trying to get help. Many said their children had regressed after years of progress in school.
In November, a federal judge ordered the state to force districts to accommodate the needs of 15 students with disabilities — including seven from LA Unified — after their families filed a lawsuit, arguing their children had seen each other denied their right to education.
In a statement, LA Unified spokesperson Shannon Haber said the district “has been and will continue to be committed to ensuring individualized decisions are made for students with disabilities through the Individualized Education Program. (IEP) and Section 504 plan team meetings,” referring to the statutory provision. which makes the services mandatory.
“Los Angeles Unified remains committed to helping all students, including students with disabilities, recover from the pandemic and achieve their educational goals,” Haber said.
The district failed to provide services identified in students’ legally required education plans, did not accurately or sufficiently track services, and advised staff that the district was not responsible for self-provision. -so-called “compensatory services” aimed at helping students make up for what they lost because the district was not responsible for the campus closings, the investigation found.
The agreement calls for the district to provide remedial services “to address any academic or other deficit resulting from a student with a disability not receiving assessments or services to which he or she was entitled.”
In addition, the district must appoint an administrator to implement a compensatory education plan, convene teams to assess whether students have not received an appropriate education, and determine services needed to remedy deficits.
The district should also communicate the plan to families, students and others.
Attorney Valerie Vanaman, who has criticized the district’s treatment of students with disabilities throughout the pandemic, said she was happy with the deal but continues to have concerns about the district’s ability to follow through.
“It’s a beautiful result to see. It gets us halfway there,” she said. “Where the rubber hits the road is ‘how are they actually going to implement it? “”
Writer Melissa Gomez contributed to this report.