New Hampshire Legal Assistance

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Youth law and special education in light of COVID-19

Remote Instruction

  • On March 12, 2020 the New Hampshire Board of Education passed an emergency rule allowing school districts to conduct remote instruction by staff and students in place of physical attendance in school. Schools had broad discretion to determine how such instruction would take place.
  • In July 2020 the New Hampshire Department of Education (NHDOE) issued school re-opening guidance. This is not a “one-size-fits-all approach,” but rather takes into consideration the unique considerations of individual districts. Throughout July and August schools have begun crafting their individualized re-opening plans in line with the state issued guidance. Please check with your local school board to learn more about your child’s school re-opening plan.

Special Education

  • NHDOE guidancerecognizes that students with disabilities have an ongoing right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) despite the COVID-19 pandemic. It recommends that “[d]istricts should seek to develop an integrated plan for reopening that addresses the needs of students with special needs or disabilities. This plan should consider both health and safety, as well as academic considerations. The plan should clearly define how staff can honor physical distancing recommendations, yet meet student medical, personal or support needs and ensure safety for students who need assistance with activities of daily living, as well as their service providers. Further, it should determine how adequate space and facilities will be utilized to maintain the health and safety of students and staff.”
  • Governor Sununu’s Emergency Order #48 sets forth specific requirements for special education students based in recognition that the remote learning model does not work for every child with a disability. Pursuant to the order, schools must do the following for every child with an IEP, regardless of whether they have received extended school year (ESY), or summer services, in the past:
    • Hold an IEP meeting no later than June 30, 2020 to consider options for both traditional in-person ESY programs and for remote ESY protrams;
    • Hold an IEP meeting no later than 30 calendar days after the first day of the school district’s 2020-2021 school year to consider what compensatory education services, if any, are required to be provided to make up for services not provided during the period of remote instruction and support, student regression, or the student’s failure to make expected progress as indicated in the student’s IEP.

For more information visit the DOE Website

Federal guidance:

  • The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has released a variety of information and resources for parents, schools, and school personnel to address procedural safeguards in the COVID-19 environment and help schools address COVID-19 risks while protecting the civil rights of students with disabilities, including ensuring distance learning plans and remote learning tools are accessible to students with disabilities.

For more information, see the OCR Guidance