Legislation has been passed that entitles special education students in New York State that are aging out of public education and missed a year or more of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic to be able to return to school until they complete the educational services outlined in their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or until they turn 23 years of age, whichever is sooner. Students in New York are typically entitled to attend public school until they turn 21, but due to the fact that many students with disabilities were unable to learn and receive services remotely while school was closed, a bill (S07192/A08021) was unanimously passed enabling an extension for these students to complete their IEPs without being penalized.
Some students in special education programs were unable to participate in remote learning while schools were closed, and missed all of the services they were legally entitled to receive as outlined on their IEPs. These students, including those who are deaf, hard of hearing,visually impaired, have multiple disabilities and/or are unable to independently use a computer, were ultimately unable to receive an education or any related services for well over a year.
The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), which replaced the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, guarantees a free appropriate public education to students through age 21. More than 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities are eligible for early intervention and special education services under IDEA.
An IEP is a requirement for every public school student who receives special education services. Fulfilling IEPs proved to be a struggle for schools during shutdowns and remote learning.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, co-sponsor of the bill, stated:
Every student deserves access to a quality education that helps them thrive and for many special education students, that means having supportive school districts that meet the specific needs of their intellectual or developmental disabilities. As the father of a child with autism, I know the challenges that the pandemic has posed for individuals with disabilities. Many essential programs and services were halted and many students with disabilities faced difficulties adapting to online learning. This legislation will ensure these students can academically recover and can complete their individualized education plan without penalty.
Many students with disabilities require or benefit from an extended period of time to acquire the skills they need to be successful, and without this bill, students who are aging out of school this year would be unable to return to school to complete their final year of schooling due to circumstances out of their control. The passage of this bill will ensure school districts are able to provide the educational and therapeutic services these older students are entitled to and deserve.