- The Washington Times - Friday, January 29, 2021

The U.S. Department of Education is investigating numerous school districts nationwide over reports alleging the mishandling of special education and failure to provide appropriate services to students with disabilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

The agency’s Office for Civil Rights this month began a review of the Indiana Department of Education, Seattle Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District and Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, the Disability Scoop reported Friday.

Officials are looking into whether “possible discrimination against students with disabilities by failing to provide them with a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the news agency.

A letter sent to the leader of the Seattle Public Schools said local news reports that the district instructed its special education teachers to not offer adapted lessons and modified instruction to meet each child’s needs spurred the investigation, The Seattle Times reported.

The Indianapolis Star also reported that a letter sent to the Indiana Department of Education referenced complaints from parents of students with disabilities about schools forcing kids to cater to a “one size fits all” remote learning approach rather than offering customized instruction.



“I have asked my team for a full briefing on all complaints filed prior to my arrival in this office on Monday, January 11, and pledge to provide every available support to help our districts and schools meet the needs of Indiana’s special education students,” Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said in a statement. “I want to assure you I take very seriously the department’s responsibility to support our schools, students and families, especially during these unprecedented times, and I am committed to working with my local, state and federal colleagues to both understand and address these concerns.”

Tim Robinson, spokesman for Seattle Public Schools, said the district is aware of the investigation and will fully cooperate. He said the district wants to emphasize that “in no way does an investigation indicate that a violation exists.”

The Education Department reportedly has urged schools to continually fulfill their obligations to students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act since the beginning of the pandemic and resisted calls from school officials who have asked for leniency.

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