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News


1. School Closures

On March 14th, Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order directing all public schools to close for two weeks beginning Monday, March 16th. The two-week period is intended to help the state better understand the impact of COVID-19 and develop a plan for continued learning for students should a longer closure be needed.

TIP: The Governor’s order set a minimum 2-week timeframe for closure. Parents, guardians, and advocates should consult individual school or district websites to find out if closures in your area are scheduled to last longer than two weeks.

2. Educational Access for Students while Schools are Closed

At this point, there is no statewide plan for whether or how students will be able to access instruction during closures. State Superintendent Mark Johnson released a statement on March 15th informing parents that local and state officials were working together to gather and share online learning resources. How and whether online learning will be provided will be decided by school districts, and potentially by individual schools.

TIP: Parents and guardians should look at the information provided by your school district or charter school about how school closure dates are being categorized and whether/in what form educational services will be provided. Many school districts are changing the dates of spring break and/or using teacher work days to cover the days of school closure. In those situations, districts may not provide instructional services. Some districts are proving packets of work and/or access to online learning, but aren’t penalizing students who are unable to access or complete those resources. Each school district or charter school is making independent decisions about this, so you should only rely on information from your school district or charter school.

3. Educational Access for Special Education Students while Schools are Closed

On March 12th, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (US Department of Education) released the guidance below through a Q&A document related to serving students with disabilities during the COVID-19 outbreak. Note: a Local Education Agency (LEA) means a school district or charter school.

 When and how special education services must be provided during a COVID-19 related school closure

o If an LEA closes schools and does not provide any educational services to any students during the closure, it is not required to serve students with disabilities during that time. Any missed services will be provided during regular make-up days scheduled for all students.

o If an LEA provides educational services to the general student population during a school closure, they must make sure students with disabilities have access to the same opportunities. This includes making sure a student has meaningful access to the services in their Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan as much as possible, and is afforded a free, appropriate public education (FAPE).

 Note: Schools can, but don’t have to, update a student’s IEP with a distance learning plan that would include how services are being provided during the school closure. Note that some LEAs are treating part or all of the current two-week school closure as spring break, so staff may not be working or available for IEP meetings.

Coronavirus Updates and Resources for North Carolina

Parents, Guardians, and Students

Legal Aid of North Carolina, March 2020

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 Remedies if a student with a disability doesn’t receive appropriate services

o If a student with a disability does not receive services or FAPE during a school closure when services

are provided to the general student population, the LEA must consider whether compensatory (makeup)

special education services are required to remedy harm caused by the lack of proper services.

o IEP Teams should look at learning opportunities missed and/or skills lost during the time away from

school when they consider how much and what kind of compensatory education will be needed.

 When and how Early Intervention Services providers must serve students with disabilities during closures

o Early Intervention Services providers (for infants and toddlers with disabilities) are not required to

provide services if their offices are closed.

o If their offices are open, but they are not able to provide services to individual children due to reasons

related to the COVID-19 virus (e.g. the provider is not available, or homebound services cannot be

provided) the lead agency must find other ways to provide the services.

Sherry Thomas, the Director of the Exceptional Children (EC) Division of the NCDPI, provided the following

guidance to EC directors in LEAs across the state:

 EC staff should keep a log of services and dates of services that could not be provided to students with

disabilities via distance learning during school closures and, once the state of emergency has passed,

develop a compensatory education plan to address the services lost.

 EC staff should consider other means of holding IEP meetings remotely via telephone or virtual

conferences and make use of the option to share draft documents electronically with parents so they can

meaningfully participate in remote IEP meetings.

TIPS: Parents and guardians of students with disabilities should:

o Review your student’s IEP and understand the specially designed instruction and related services

your student is supposed to receive in their IEP.

o If educational opportunities are provided to the general student population, contact your child’s

EC case manager about how your child’s IEP will be followed while the school is closed.

o Ask your child’s EC case manager to set up an IEP Team meeting by telephone if changes need to

be made to your child’s IEP to meaningfully access educational services.

o Before the IEP meeting, ask the EC case manager to send you drafts of all documents that will be

reviewed at the meeting at least 48 hours beforehand so you can review them and prepare.

o Keep a log of the special education services (specially designed instruction and related services)

your child is getting and is not getting while educational services are being provided to the general

student population. If the school is not providing special education services, send a written request

for compensatory education to your child’s EC case manager and the school principal.

4. Nutrition Services for Students while Schools are Closed

On March 12th, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) received a Federal waiver that allows

local school districts, charter schools, and specific community agencies to continue providing meals to students

during periods of school closure. School districts and charter schools are not required to provide meals.

However, they can seek and will be reimbursed for any meals provided during Coronavirus related closures. More

information about Coronavirus updates related to student nutrition services can be found on NCDPI’s website.

Governor Cooper created an Education and Nutrition Working Group to come up with a plan to address issues

related to nutrition, health, childcare, and learning support while children are out of school. As we obtain updates

from that working group, we will update this document.

TIP: To find out more about whether and how meals will be provided in your local district or charter school,

you should check your district or charter school’s website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. No Hungry Kid

NC is also maintaining a statewide list of school meal distribution information.

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5. Student Privacy Rights Related to the COVID-19 Outbreak

On March 12th, the US Department of Education released a Q&A document regarding student privacy rights and

COVID-19. The information below provides a summary of that guidance.

 FERPA requirements and exceptions

o The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) limits the sharing of student-related data with

other parties. In general, all public schools (including charter schools) must follow FERPA rules.

o Under FERPA, a school/district usually cannot share personally identifiable information from a

student’s education records without the written consent of a student’s parent/guardian. This includes

a student’s name and other information that could be used to identify a particular student.

o However, there are exceptions to FERPA’s rules – including a “health or safety emergency”

exception. In a health or safety emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, schools/districts can

share personally identifiable information without written consent to appropriate parties “if

knowledge of that information is necessary to protect the health or safety of a student or other

individuals.” Appropriate parties may include public health or law enforcement officials, for example.

 How and when a student’s information can be released related to COVID-19

o If a school/district learns a student is out due to COVID-19, it may publicly release information about

the student’s illness if personally identifiable information is not included in the release. A

school/district may not disclose personally identifiable information to the media.

o In general, a school/district can inform families at a school if a student has COVID-19, without using

personally identifiable information. However, in rare circumstances in a health or safety emergency, a

school can disclose to school families the name of a student with COVID-19 “if parents need to know

this information to take appropriate action to protect the health or safety of their children.”

Disclosure of a student’s name should be made only when “absolutely necessary.” These decisions

should be made by school officials on a case-by-case basis.

o Schools/districts must keep records of all disclosures of a student’s information made to appropriate

parties (such as a public health department) under the health or safety emergency exception.

Schools/districts must also document the health or safety threat that was the basis of the exception.

TIP: If your student is diagnosed with COVID-19 during this crisis period, your student’s school/district

may lawfully share certain personally identifiable information about your student with necessary parties,

such as the public health department. However, identifying information about your child (e.g. name)

should not be shared publicly or with others in the school community except in very rare cases.

6. General Federal and State Education Resources

Federal

 Website where the US Department of Education is posting information, updates, and guidance about the

response to COVID-19: COVID-19 ("Coronavirus") Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel

 Press Release (3/12/20): Secretary DeVos Releases New Resources for Educators, Local Leaders on K-12

Flexibilities, Student Privacy, and Educating Students with Disabilities During Coronavirus Outbreak

North Carolina

 North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) Homepage- While this is not a COVID-19 specific site,

it is where the most current state-level educational updates will be posted.

TIP: In addition to checking federal and state resources, parents, guardians, and students should always

consult individual school/district websites for district specific updates related to Coronavirus plans.

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7. Miscellaneous Resources for Students and Families

Note: This is not an exhaustive list and Legal Aid of NC does not specifically endorse any of the companies or

organizations below. These resources are provided to the extent that they are helpful for students and families

across the state. This list will be updated as we learn about additional resources.

I. Online Educational Resources

a. Amazing Educational Resources: A spreadsheet with a constantly updated listing of free online

educational resources for students

b. Virtual Field Trips to locations including the San Diego Zoo, Yellowstone National Park, Mars, and

more

II. Internet Resources

a. Comcast is offering 2 months of free access to low-income clients who do not currently have

internet access through the company. Visit Comcast's website for additional information about

the eligibility criteria for the program and an instant application.

b. Spectrum is offering 60 days of free WiFi to households with K-12 and/or college students who

don’t already have internet through the company. To enroll in the program, individuals should call

1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.

III. Mental Health Resources

a. Coping with Stress during Infectious Disease Outbreaks

IV. Food Resources

a. No Kid Hungry North Carolina provides resources to students and families to assist them in

accessing food. The organization is maintaining and updating a resource list specifically related to

how, when, and where individual school districts are providing meals to students during closures.

b. Food Bank Resources: Food Finder

V. Intimate Partner/Domestic Violence Resources, during this time when social distancing and isolation in

the home is being encouraged.

a. National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

b. Orange County: Compass Center for Women and Families is operating their hotline 24/7 - 919-

929-7122 (English and Español)

c. Chatham County: Second Bloom of Chatham, Inc. and Chatham Family Violence Prevention share

the same helpline 24/7 - 919-545-7867 (English and Español)

d. Durham County: Durham Crisis Response Center is operating their helpline - 919-403-6562

(English) and 919-519-3735 (Español)

e. Wake County: Interact is operating their helpline 24/7 - 919-828-7740 (English) and 844-203-8896

(Español)

a. Guilford County: Family Service of the Piedmont is operating their helplines 24/7: Greensboro:

336-273-7273(English, Español), High Point: 336-889-7273 (English, Español)

Advocates for Children’s Services of Legal Aid of North Carolina

For more education advocacy resources: www.legalaidnc.org/acs To apply for legal services: 1-866-219-5262

*The information included here is not legal advice and does not cover all rights and

remedies, or apply in every situation*