Free Meals for Kids During School Closures

lunch box with wraps and tomatoes

Many families rely on free meals provided to their kids while at school. With the decision to implement school closures due to concerns about the coronavirus, districts were faced with how to meet these needs. Many districts as well as nonprofit organizations will be providing daily meals (possibly both breakfast and lunch, or one grab-and-go lunch) to school-age children during school closures.

We will try to keep this list up to date throughout the school closures in order to provide families with information about where to go for meals.

LAUSD providing free meals for students

LAUSD: providing free meals for kids “grab and go” lunches at 60 different locations throughout the district, beginning on Wednesday, March 18th. Go to this link for more information.

Nonprofits and Others providing free meals:

The Dream Center: this nonprofit is providing free meals for LAUSD students beginning on Monday, March 16th. The hours are between 7:30am and 6:30pm. The Dream Center is located at 2310 Bellevue Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90026.

Restaurants providing Free Meals:

*Note that due to the Mayor’s ordered restrictions, restaurants in Los Angeles are only open for take-out or delivery at this time due to the need for social distancing measures to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.

El Torito: This chain restaurant announced that at all locations, kids 12 and under can eat for free from the kids menu during school closures. El Torito posted a message stating that it hopes this will “help make this period a little less stressful” for families.

Hugo’s Restaurants: With locations in Studio City and West Hollywood, Hugo’s announced on Instagram that it was offering free meals for kids 12 and under from the kids menu during the LAUSD closure.

The Attic on Broadway: This local restaurant in Long Beach is offered free meals for kids and breakfast burritos for kids 18 and under during the Long Beach USD school closure.

Other Districts offering free meals:

*Note that some districts explicitly state that free meals for kids are being provided to anyone under 18 -not just to their own students.

Beverly Hills USD: providing free to-go lunches available for any student that receives a District provided lunch. These can be picked up at Horrace Mann Elementary beginning on Monday, March 23rd, between 10:30am and 12:00pm.

Conejo Valley USD: providing free sack lunches from the district’s kitchen vans, which will be located at specific sites beginning on March 16th. For location information go to this link.

Cypress School District: families can pick up free lunch and breakfast for the following day at any school site in the district between 11:30am and 12:30pm, and no paperwork is required (child must be present).

Downey USD: plans to provide free meals for kids, but has not yet released details at this time.

Glendale USD: will be serving free grab and go meals at specific sites beginning March 24th. Details not yet made available.

Fullerton School District: providing free breakfast and lunch during the week of March 16th through curbside pick up at specific schools. Go to the district’s webpage for more information.

Inglewood USD: will serve free meals to all students between the hours of 9:30am to 11:30am beginning on March 16, 2020 at specific locations including Woodworth-Monroe School, Hudnall Elementary, Highland Elementary, and Oak Street Elementary, as well as by a mobile unit between 9:45am to 10:45am at Bennett-Kew Elementary and between 11:00am to 12:30pm at Worthington Elementary.

Lancaster School District: providing free bagged meals for both breakfast and lunch between the hours of 9:00am and 1:00pm. All students are asked to go to their home school to pick up meals.

Las Virgines USD: providing packaged free breakfast between 8:00am and 9:00am and packaged lunches between 11:00am and 1:00pm at Calabasas High, Agoura High, Lindero Canyon Middle, AE Wright Middle, and AC Stelle Middle. Meals are provided to students who qualify for free/reduced lunch.

Long Beach USD: providing free meals for kids for breakfast and lunch during the first week of the closure. No paperwork is required, and meals can be picked up during specific time periods. Go to this link for more information.

Orange School District: providing free grab and go breakfast between 8:00am and 10:00am and grab and go lunch between 10:00am and 12:00pm at Handy, California, Esplanade, Taft, Yorba, Lampson, Portola, Orange High, El Modena High and Canyon High. There will also be a bus distribution location for meals.

Oxnard Union High School District: will serve free meals for kids on a grab and go basis every day from 10:00am to 1:00pm at Adolfo Camarillo, Channel Islands, Hueneme, Oxnard, Pacifica, Rio Mesa and Rio Vista.

Palmdale School District: will serve free meals for kids in a drive-through pick up style, with breakfast between 7:30am and 8:30am and lunch between 11:30am and 12:30pm at specific elementary schools including Tamarisk, Mesquite, Mazanita, Quail Valley, Yucca, and Summerwind. They will also have a food truck available at the same times at McAdam Park. Meals are available for anyone 18 years old and younger.

Riverside Unified School District: providing drive through free meals for kids available for students on weekdays. Breakfast is available between 7:30am and 8:30am, and lunch is available 11:00am through 12:30pm. The locations are any RUSD elementary, middle and high school, or the Bobby Bonds Community Center.

San Gabriel USD: offering free meals for kids grab and go lunch to all children ages 18 and younger in the community. Children do not have to be enrolled in the district to receive a meal. Child must be present. Hours are 11:30am to 12:30pm, and the location is at Smith Park.

South Pasadena USD: providing free meals for kids breakfast and lunch to all children in the community. Meals are distributed across from the South Pasadena High basketball gym, with a drive through style set up. Elementary age children can come between 9:00am and 10:00am and secondary age children or family with multi-age children can come between 10:00am and 11:00am. Meals include both breakfast and lunch.

Torrance USD: all students can visit specific sites to obtain free measl for kids breakfast and lunch each day between 8:00am and 1:00pm. Two meals will be provided per day to anyone under 18, regardless of if they are a TUSD student. Children must be present to receive the meal. The locations are Torrance Elementary, Carr Elementary, Edison Elementary, J.H. Hull Middle., Magruder Middle and Shery High. Note that Shery is breakfast only.

Whittier City School District: offering free meals for kids grab and go lunches are available between 11:00am and 1:00pm at Dexter Middle, Edwards Middle and Andrews K-8.

More Information about COVID-19

Update on School Closures in LAUSD and Other Local Districts

We are hearing now that it is likely that school districts in the Los Angeles area (LAUSD and others) will most likely be closed until at least May, if not for the remainder of the school year.

LAUSD is expected to give an update on Monday, March 23rd.

School board members from LAUSD have stated on twitter and other places that they are working on solutions to address the pressing concerns of their high-needs population, including students with disabilities. In these statements, there has been a consistent acknowledgment of the fact that LAUSD is committed to meeting the needs of students with disabilities, which is positive. However, the negative is that LAUSD has been very cursory in any details about how this could be accomplished.

Other school districts are likely to remain closed for a long period of time as well, and face similar challenges. As we have indicated here on this page, we have already seen some districts determine that they won’t provide distance learning to any students, because if they do so, they are without a doubt obligated to provide instruction and services to students with disabilities. This is a harmful, backwards approach that potentially takes education back to the days where students with disabilities were seen as “other,” as “uneducable,” as a drain on the resources that should be available for non-disabled students. This message places blame on students with disabilities for the districts’ decision not to provide anything to anyone, potentially creating division and backlash at a time when it is critical that we all come together.

LAUSD and other local school districts are facing challenging, difficult times for sure, as are all of us in this crisis time. The challenge should be for LAUSD and others to find creative, innovative and alternative solutions to ensure that ALL students are appropriately educated in these trying times, rather than to try to find ways to avoid providing services to students with disabilities. IEP meetings need to be held, so that teams can come together (via phone/video) and come up with creative solutions. We live in a time with access to immense technology, and with brilliant minds capable of thinking of innovative ways to use that technology for real solutions to the current problems in education. We need to be tapping into that innovation to ensure that every student has equitable access to educational benefits, and that students with disabilities are not left out of the equation and sent home with zero access to the supports they need.

We are here to help families navigate these difficult times. We are committed to supporting parents in protecting students’ rights, to working with teams to find solutions, and to advocating for a FAPE. Contact us with any questions.

During School Closures, Do School Districts Need to Hold IEP Meetings?

March 20, 2020 Update on School Closures: Understanding the Obligations Related to IEP Meetings

We are living in unprecedented times. The concerns about the spread of the coronavirus and the resulting public health crisis have lead to a statewide stay at home order, and school closures have been implemented. Those school closures are likely to be longer term than we anticipated at first, possibly even until the end of the school year.

Parents of students with disabilities are faced with unique challenges in light of these school closures. While all parents are faced with unprecedented difficulties, forced to home-school their students for an unknown amount of time, sometimes with limited resources to do so, parents of kids with disabilities also have to worry about the services and supports that are missing. Students with disabilities rely on services to support their educational progress, and to address their unique needs. Without those services, parents fear regression and possibly irreparable harm.

Anytime there is a significant change to a disabled child’s educational program, the IEP process is the vehicle by which those changes should be decided. The IEP is the critical central component to educating students with disabilities. So it is no surprise that a pressing question in this time is whether IEP teams still need to meet when school closures are in effect.

An IEP meeting is appropriate anytime there is a change of placement.

Parents’ procedural safeguards place a great deal of importance on IEP meetings whenever there is a change of placement. The IEP process allows for parents to participate in teams that make placement decisions. IEP meetings about a change of placement allow for parents to meaningfully participate in decisions about services and goals that will be implemented in the new placement. Even in situations in which Districts have a right to change a student’s placement without parent consent (such as for an interim alternative placement due to behavior/expulsion issues for example), an IEP meeting is typically required first. And in some circumstances, after a change of placement has occurred, Districts are required to hold an IEP meeting in 30 days so that the team at the new placement can discuss suggested updates to goals and services with Parents.

School closures mean that students are educated at home. This is effectively a change of placement. Instruction in the home setting, although unusual, is actually already a possible placement on the continuum of educational placements for students with disabilities.

While in this circumstance, school closures were necessary due to our current health crisis, this does to change the fact that they effectively result in a change of placement. There are important and logical reasons why an IEP meeting should be held to discuss this change, similar to why a 30 day IEP meeting would be held after a child moves to a new placement in normal circumstances. Doing so would allow parents and the team to discuss implementation of supports and services in this new placement so that the child could continue to make progress.

There is already a precedent for holding Districts to IEP requirements during school closures.

Guidance from the federal government has previously been issued on this matter. In 2012, school districts were faced with school closures due to Hurricane Sandy, and had difficulty trying to meet all of the requirements for IEPs. The federal Department of Education was contacted for guidance, and on November 20, 2012, OSERS issued a letter documenting its position.

It is important to note that OSERS first commended the school districts for the efforts made during difficult times to work to ensure the provision of special education. Throughout the letter, it was clear that OSERS fully understood that the school districts implementing school closures due to this natural disaster were facing difficult circumstances out of their control, and were doing their best under such circumstances.

IEPs are still required

With that being said, the letter clearly stated that the requirements of the IDEA were still in effect, including timelines for assessments and IEP meetings. OSERS noted that for assessments, the IDEA permits states to establish their own timelines for evaluations, and that New York, the state in question, could therefore establish a different timeframe legislatively if necessary to address the concerns for districts whose operations were significantly impacted.

As to IEP meetings, the letter made it clear that the timelines for IEP meetings still applied, but highlighted the fact that there was already flexibility in the law that could be utilized in these circumstances. First, parents and districts were allowed to agree to modify an IEP without a full meeting. Second, the law allowed for alternate means of participation for parents in IEP meetings, such as through conference telephone calls.

This letter is instructive to districts in the current situation of school closures. While it is not possible due to the concerns over spread of the COVID-19 virus and stay-at-home orders in place for IEP meetings to take place in person, alternate means such as conference calls or video conferencing are certainly still possible, and would enable compliance with IEP requirements.

During school closures, the collaborative IEP process is more critical than ever.

Congress considers IEPs to be the “cooperative vehicle” by which appropriate educational outcomes for students with disabilities can be achieved, and in this unprecedented time of school closures, such cooperation is even more critical. The IEP process is designed in the law to be collaborative, with Districts and Parents to be equal team members in decisions regarding a child’s program. Parents are recognized as having significant information relevant to the child’s needs to provide to the team, and to have the right to meaningfully participate in the process.

If ever there was a time for collaborative team meetings, it is now.

Students with disabilities all across the country suddenly had a change in placement. The situation leading to school closures is out of the district’s control. No one claims it will be easy to fully implement a FAPE, or that it is easy to deal with all of the other factors that districts are faced with in this time of crisis. But working together, the IEP teams – including service providers, parents, teachers, and district administrators, can do it. Teams can come up with alternate means for implementation of services and supports.

Now is the time for innovation and unprecedented solutions to unprecedented problems. The IEP meeting is the vehicle by which parents and districts can come together to develop such solutions. Already, we have seen stories from across the country of schools and families working together to ensure that IEP goals are still addressed. If some districts are finding ways to do it, others can too. If school closures are going to be long term, the IEP meetings should be mandated to plan for how FAPE can be provided during that time.

If you want more information about educational services during the coronavirus school closures, check out our main page dedicated to this topic.

Message from A2Z on Our Response to School Closures & Coronavirus Concerns

A2Z Educational Advocates works to protect the rights of students with disabilities. In this unprecedented time of uncertainty, and in the face of significant impact on students of extended school closures, we are sharing what we are doing to help support families through these difficult times.

For more information, go to our page dedicated to Education Resources for Southern California During School Closures

For information on how to reach us, go to our Contact Us page.

Distance Learning or Optional Activities: Understand the Impact on Special Education & IEP Services

empty desks in a classroom with a chalkboard in the background

The good, the bad, and the ugly of impact of District determinations for continuity of learning services during school closures.

Throughout the Los Angeles area, families are dealing with the impact of loss of services due to school closures in response to the concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

Navigating these uncertain times is difficult for all of us, and places unique challenges and impacts all of the parents that have unique burdens on their shoulders. The impact on parents of students who have disabilities and receive IEP services from their school districts is even more challenging due to closures. There is so much uncertainty about whether students will have access to any services, and whether home based learning opportunities will include provision for the continuation of skill-development in the specific areas that are addressed by related service providers.

What we know is that all students need continuity in their learning. This is the reason why so many districts have prioritized making learning opportunities available during the school closures at all. What we also know is that the kids with disabilities are even more vulnerable to the negative impact of disruption. Parents are left wondering how to best support continuity and access help in those service areas.

What about my child’s speech and language goals? Will he fall behind in development without speech services?

What about my child’s motor skills? How will she continue to progress without OT?

While it is true that this is a challenging and unprecedented time, and that for the most part what we have seen is districts that are doing the best they can to meet very challenging demands in the face of that uncertainty, the question surrounding provision of special education during school closures remains an important one.

We don’t know all of the answers yet as to how districts are handling these questions, as many districts do not have a plan that includes addressing special education and related services. It may be that for some students, the solution will not be available until the closures are done, and possible compensatory education can be addressed.

In the meantime, it is important as parents are digesting the available information from their districts about the closures to understand the impact of the decisions those districts made about distance learning.

The federal government has taken a position on whether special education services should continue to be made available during the school closures, and that position implies that if districts do not provide formal distance learning (instruction, curriculum, etc) to all students, then they are not obligated to continue special education services. This position has already been disputed by civil rights advocates, who maintain that all students with disabilities continue to have a right to a FAPE.

At the current time, the guidance from the federal government has caused some districts to carefully word what they are providing in order to avoid obligation for a FAPE during the school closures. Therefore, it is important for parents to understand the different terminology and what it may mean for immediate access to services at this time. Keep in mind that we are not providing this information in order to imply that districts are not actually obligated to provide a FAPE in certain circumstances, but only to give families guidance on what to expect based on the statements from their districts.

Distance Learning (and related terms) versus Optional Opportunities (or Enrichment Activities)

If a school district uses a term like “distance learning,” “remote instruction,” “online curriculum” or something similar – a term that clearly indicates that instruction and assignments are formally being provided, then the district is without a doubt obligated to provide equal access to such education to students with a disability, including providing those students with a FAPE.

If a school district uses a term like “optional learning resources” or “enrichment activities,” then it is less clear – based on the guidance from the federal government at least – that they have to provide special education students with continuation of their instruction and services. Again, this is not the interpretation of organizations like COPAA.

The Good: Planning for Continuation of Special Education

Some school districts have plans in place that at least acknowledge the inclusion of special education and related services in what they are trying to provide during the closures.

For example, a district’s plan may state that related service providers will work to provide the service minutes in the IEP through alternate formats that are being utilized for home instruction. Other districts have stated that the case carrier assigned will work with parents to develop a plan to address service delivery models. Some districts are working on providing home activities and instructions for implementation of skill-building in related service areas so that students can continue to work on IEP goals while at home.

While it may be ideal for IEP meetings to have been held to make these determinations, the reality is that decisions were made quickly regarding the closures. These districts fall in the “good” category because as compared with other districts, they are at least making an attempt to consider special education services in their plans to deliver remote learning opportunities.

The Bad: Ignoring Special Education Services

The majority of districts whose plans we have reviewed fall into this category. While these districts state that they are providing distance learning, and while some even have robust plans for the delivery of instruction and assignments, there is no mention whatsoever of if and how special education will be delivered.

This means that the overall district plan simply has not taken special education kids into consideration. Parents are left wondering if service providers will communicate with them, if any support will be given for those areas, and what the impact will be on their child in the long run.

The Ugly: Planning with the Intention of Stopping Special Education Services

Several districts appear to be very intentional in the language used to talk about their plans during the school closure so that they do not become obligated – based on the federal guidance – to provide anything to special education students. These districts use phrases like “optional learning opportunities” or “enrichment activities” to describe what will be provided to students. By doing so, they are not providing instruction per se, and therefore are hoping not to be held to the necessity of providing equal access to students with disabilities.

What is most interesting is that a review of these district’s plans and resources indicates that for some, the “activities” they provide to parents are very similar to the curriculum activities provided to students in the districts that are providing ongoing remote instruction, with the exception that the assignments may not be graded and there is not ongoing teacher communication.

What this means as a practical matter for families

This does not mean that parents shouldn’t be proactive in asking about services and support from related service providers during home instruction due to closure, no matter what category the districts fall into. But it does mean from a practical standpoint that districts may not be prepared to provide services to students with disabilities during the closure, and that even with proactive engagement on the part of families, the districts that are providing no home instruction or only “optional” activities are likely to deny any services during this time. The reality is, many students with disabilities will miss crucial supports that are needed for continued progress towards their IEP goals.

We are here to help! Contact us if your child is impacted by school closures and you need assistance during this uncertain time.

School Closure Information, by District

Schools all over the Los Angeles area are closing due to concerns about public health and safety related to the coronavirus.

UPDATE March 23rd: On Monday, March 23, 2020, LAUSD issued a statement via a letter that was sent to all parents in the district. The statement updated the status of school closures in the district, indicating that schools will be closed until at least May 1st. Superintendent Beutner stated in the letter that more details would be provided later in the day as to how the district was working to assist all students to continue to learn. In statements over the weekend preceding this letter, Beutner indicated that the district was working to put plans in place to address specific concerns, including how to meet the needs of kids with disabilities.

UPDATE March 19th: On March 19, 2020, the city of Los Angeles issued a stay at home order that impacts businesses and other entities throughout the city. This order is in place through at least April 17th. Also on March 19, 2020, Governor Newsom announced a statewide stay at home order for all of California, making California the first state to issue such order. The California statewide stay at home order is in place as long as necessary with no exact end date stated. These orders will impact school closures – schools that had anticipated dates of return in late March or in early to mid April are expected to be closed longer due to these orders.

UPDATE March 17th: On March 17, 2020, during remarks on the state of the coronavirus crisis, Governor Newsom stated that it is likely that many schools throughout California will not reopen for this school year. It is unclear what this will mean in terms of completing the instruction for students this year yet.

Below is the list of school closures in the Los Angeles area in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The concerns about the coronavirus are causing quickly evolving changes, and we will keep this post updated as often as we can.

For each school district, we have identified the projected end date of the closure according to available information at this time. We have also briefly summarized the pertinent “need to know” information for each school closure.

We have also developed a guide to help parents better understand the impact of information such as whether distance learning is offered, available at this link.

We are working on also including links to each individual district’s website for further information about their response to the coronavirus.

Is your district in the Los Angeles area missing from this list or do you have access to more current information? Please email cdwatts@a2zedad.com. We are striving to provide the families in the Los Angeles area impacted by school closures with as much up to date information as possible.

School Closures Details for Los Angeles area schools:

Last update: March 23, 2020

Beverly Hills Unified School District: Closed through April 6th

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. “Home Learning” to begin March 24th, with teachers communicating about expectations for the week. Curriculum will be provided for all core classes and electives.
  • Special education provided? Maybe. BUSD’s statement is that staff will make best effort to deliver special education and related services at the minutes in the IEP through utilizing the “platforms available” (i.e. what they are using for distance learning). IEP teams will determine possible compensatory education when school resumes.

Burbank Unified School District: Originally Closed through March 27th UPDATE: As of March 23rd, Burbank schools are estimated to be closed through May 4, 2020

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. The Burbank district moved to a “flexible learning model” with online curriculum and learning centers. The available information was lacking in specificity.
  • Special education provided? Originally not clear. No information was made available at the time that the closure was announced as to whether special education and related services will be provided.
  • UPDATE: On March 23, 2020, Burbank Unified School District sent a letter to parents regarding the extension of the school closures to May 4th. In that letter, it was stated that the District was working to put plans in place to address the needs of students with disabilities. Specifically, the District stated that it would implement IEP services to “the greatest extent possible” using alternate format/means during distance learning. The District indicated that in the week following spring break, the case carrier for each student’s IEP would contact the family to discuss implementation.

Conejo Valley Unified School District: closed through March 20th

  • Distance learning provided? No. The Conejo Valley district states that it made the decision not to provide distance learning opportunities to students to continue their curriculum during the closure because it would not be able to meet its responsibility to ensure equal access.
  • Special education provided? No. The district’s statement regarding the decision not to offer distance learning appears to indicate that the determination was made in order to avoid having to provide special education, in light of the guidance language from the federal government.
  • What is provided? “Optoinal activities will be avaialble to students” online.

Cypress School District: closed through March 26th

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. The Cypress district’s statement indicates that to support student learning, lessons and educational materials will be made available to all students in electronic and printed form.
  • Special education provided? Unclear. There is no information available about the provision of special education and related services.

Downey Unified School District: closed through March 27th

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. The Downey district stated that it had a plan for continuity of learning during the cessation of on-site instruction. Materials were provided to elementary school students in packets. Middle and High School students in Downey were to be provided with instruction and materials online through Google Classroom.
  • Special education provided? Unclear. No information is available about the provision of special education and related services.

El Segundo Unified School District: closed through April 10th

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. The El Segundo district stated that “remote instruction” will be provided by teachers from March 16th through April 3rd (the remainder of the closure is spring break).
  • Special education provided? Unclear. No information is available about the provision of special education and related services.

Glendale Unified School District: closed through April 3rd

  • Distance learning provided? Not clear. The Glendale district is extending its spring break for an additional week, after which “remote enrichment activities” will be provided. Elsewhere, the term “remote learning model” is also used. It is unclear.
  • Special education provided? Probably not. The use of the term “enrichment activities” may be intended to avoid providing special education, in light of the federal guidance.

Fullerton School District: closed through March 27th

  • Distance learning provided? Sort of. Each student was reportedly provided with a 5 day “at home learning plan.” However, in its press release, the Fullerton district stated that this was an “optional” plan, and that it was also providing “optional learning resources.”
  • Special education provided? Probably not. Labeling the at home learning as “optional” may be purposeful in order to avoid providing special education in light of the language of the federal guidance.

Hermosa Beach City School District: closed through April 13th

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. Instruction is to be provided remotely via email, google classroom, or other electronic formats. Materials were also provided by teachers to support ongoing instruction.
  • Special education provided? Unclear. No information is available about the provision of special education and related services.

Inglewood Unified School District: closed through March 27th

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. Self-guided learning activities are available on the district’s website. A “learning workbook” was issued to students through 8th grade. High school students in Inglewood were provided with instructional materials.
  • Special education provided? Unclear. No information is available about the provision of special education and related services.

Lancaster School District: Closed through April 3rd

  • Distance learning provided? No. The only mention of this is a statement that the staff is working to make “recommendations” for parents to use at home.
  • Special education provided? Probably not. If the district is not providing any formal distance learning plan, it most likely does not have a plan in place for the provision of special education and related services.

Las Virgines Unified School District: closed through March 27th

  • Distance learning provided? Yes, although somewhat unclear. The Las Virgines district referenes “distance learning” and “online engagement” with the class, but elsewhere refers to this as “distance activities.”
  • Special education provided? Unclear. The reference to “distance activities” may be an attempt to avoid having to provide equal access and special education services.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD): closed for at least two weeks, beginning March 16th UPDATE: As of March 23rd, LAUSD schools will be closed until at least May 1st.

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. At the time of the superintendent’s announcement, he made it clear that there would be a plan for curriculum and instruction for each classroom, and online instruction provided where possible. PBS is also working with LAUSD to make curriculum-based content avaialble to students who may not have access to devices in order to participate in online instruction.
  • Special education provided? Unclear. The superintendent has stated that LAUSD realizes its obligation to meet the needs of its students with disabilities, but has been unclear on how services might be provided. The written statement references only that special education centers are closed, but that families have access to regional centers.

Long Beach Unified School District: closed through April 17th

  • Distance learning provided? Unclear. It does appear as through LBUSD intends to provide distance learning, as it has referenced plans for continuing instruction during the closure. No information yet available.
  • Special education provided? No information yet available.

Manhattan Beach Unified School District: closed through April 13th

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. MBUSD is providing its students with “remote instruction.”
  • Special education provided? Yes. MBUSD’s plan includes having the case carrier for each child with an IEP contact parents to provide a plan for implementation of the IEP through a “different delivery model” during the closure.

Norwalk La-Mirada Unified School District: closed through March 27th

  • Distance learning provided? Unclear. The available information at this time is only that NLMUSD plans to develop “appropriate at-home enrichment activities and distance learning to ensure continuiety of the educational program.”
  • Special education provided? Unclear. There is no information available about the provision of special education and related services.

Ojai Unified School District: closed through March 20th

  • Distance learning provided? Unclear. The Ojai district referred to the fact that additional guidance from the state was to be made available on Tuesday, March 17th, and that it would rely on that guidane to develop possible distance learning.
  • Special education provided? Unclear. Information has not yet been made available about a plan.

Orange Unified School District: closed through March 27th

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. Teachers will provide remote learning activities online. The district indicated that every child needs a device connected to the internet, and provided resources for access.
  • Special education provided? Unclear. No information is available on the provision of special education and related services.

Oxnard Union High School District: closed through March 27th

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. However, the latest information simply stated “Distance Learning Plan to Come.”
  • Special education provided? Unclear. A plan has not yet been made available.

Palmdale School District: closed through April 3rd

  • Distance learning provided? No. Palmdale School District has stated that it determined providing distance learning to be “not feasible at this point,” referring to concerns about equitable access due to students who did not have devices or access to the internet.
  • Special education provided? Unlikely, given that there is no plan for distance learning.

Redondo Beach Unified School District: closed through April 10th

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. Teachers will provide instruction remotely to all students.
  • Special education provided? Yes. The district has stated that all students will hear from their teachers on a consistent basis, including “special education teachers and service providers.”

Riverside Unified School District: closed through April 3rd

  • Distance learning provided? No. There is no plan for continuation of instruction.
  • Special education provided? No. The district stated that services for students with special education will be discontinued during the closure.
  • What is available? Despite stating that instruction would not be provided, the Riverside district does have a web page with “remote learning activities” that includes packets and materials to “maintain skills” during the closure.

Saddleback Valley Unified School District: closed through March 27th

  • Distance learning provided? Most likely not. The available information only states that the district is working to provide information to help families support student learning.
  • Special education provided? Most likely not. There is no information about special education during the closure.

San Gabriel Unified School District: closed through April 3rd (includes already scheduled spring break)

  • Distance learning provided? No. San Gabriel is only providing “optional” resources.
  • Special education provided? Most likely not. The use of the word “optional” in reference to what it is providing is possibly intended to avoid providing special education during the closure, in light of the language from the federal guidance.
  • What is available? The district is providing “Optional High Quality Online Learning Resources” on its website

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District: closed until April 20th (includes two weeks of spring break)

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. Materials provided for continuity of learning, with no planned curriculum for the two weeks of spring break.
  • Special education provided? Not clear. No information regarding the provision of special education and related services during the closure.

South Pasadena Unified School District: closed until April 3rd

  • Distance learning provided? Not yet. The district provided information about “optional” learning activities, and stated that it was waiting for futher guidance from CDE on remote learning and independent study options.
  • Special education provided? Not yet. The district also stated it was waiting for CDE guidance on provision of special education services.

Torrance Unified School District: closed through March 27th

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. The district identified a variety of modalities by which schools will continue to provide instruction to students.
  • Special education provided? No information yet available.

Whittier City School District: closed through April 3rd

  • Distance learning provided? Yes. The Whittier district has a plan in place for providing continuity of instruction. Resources were provided along with a continuity plan by teachers for elementary school students, and older students will complete lessons via google classroom or email.
  • Special education provided? Unclear. There is no mention of the provision of special education and related services.

Wiseburn Unified School District: closed through April 3rd

  • Distance learning provided? No information available
  • Special education provided? No information available

Regional Centers – The Lanterman Act

Many of my clients have been members of a regional center when they were young but once they started school Parents have allowed their eligibility to lapse.  Also, Regional Centers represent to Parents that services are provided from the local school district once the child turns 3 years of age. It’s true that the regional centers don’t provide much support for a school age person, maybe just behavior support, social skills and respite.  But future thinking Parents have to understand that once a student graduates high school the regional center system can be very helpful in providing transition and adult services.

The reason not to remove your child from the Regional Centers’ system is that it is sometimes very hard to get back in.  If your child has received intensive services for their entire school lives they may present as fairly capable young adults.  This is great news but they are still in need of  wonderful regional center resources.  Under the Lanterman Act even if your child was eligible at a young age to re-qualify they must have a “substantial disability” which results in major impairment of cognitive and/or social functioning. This impairment includes significant functional limitations in three or more areas of major life activity.  This includes receptive and expressive language, learning, self-care, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.  This is often a difficult hurdle for our higher functioning children and regional centers are working to prevent these young adults from re-qualifying.

It doesn’t cost Regional Centers anything to determine that your child isn’t eligible.  But it costs Parents a lot money and time to fight this determination.  The system is not geared to favor Parents or young adults.  Hearings are decided by Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) who are employees of the Office of Administrative Hearings, a state agency.  The presumption that the ALJ begins the hearing with is that the Regional Centers employees are the experts so their determination of eligibility carries greater weight and the burden is on the Parent to show otherwise.

Regional Centers Map
The may represents the locations for the 21 Regional Center locations in California.

The takeaway from this is to make sure you get your child assessed and made eligible one of the state Regional Centers at the earliest age possible and definitely under the age of 18 years.  You may not take advantage of the limited services offered or available during their school years but check out what is available at every stage of their life.  You may never know what your child/adult may need.

Other questions you have may be answered here on our FAQ. All other resources can be found here. If you have any further questions you may contact us.

Autism Acceptance Month

Happy Autism Acceptance Month to all!

 

http://autismacceptancedigest.blogspot.com/

On March 27, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision, referred to as “a game changer” by an esteemed colleague

M.C. by M.N. v. Antelope Valley Union High School District.

The 9th Circuit decision in M.C. came just 5 days after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court unanimous decision to reject the low bar for students with disabilities in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. The issue in Endrew F. was what kind of “educational benefit’ does the IDEA require public schools to provide to students with disabilities? Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote: “When all is said, and done, a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all.” “The IDEA demands more. It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

And it seems that 9th Circuit was waiting for the decision in Endrew F. as anxiously as we were, when they issued their decision in M.C. v. Antelope Valley Union High School District, which cited to Endrew F. and touched on several other significant special education issues.

Summary

Most IDEA disputes over parent participation focus on discussions during the IEP. The M.C. case makes it clear that a parent’s right to meaningful participation does not end when the document is signed. The 9th Circuit said the IDEA is just as concerned with a parents’ right to monitor and enforce the provision of special education services the student is supposed to receive. This case centers on a procedural violation that deprived parent of the right monitor the implementation of her son’s services, and therefore, the 9th Circuit held that the procedural error amounted to a denial of FAPE. The 9th Circuit was unclear as to whether the procedural violation had resulted in educational harm to the student, however, because the Parent had been forced to file a DP complaint and incur legal fees to learn which services the student was receiving, the court stated that the legal fees amounted to substantive harm and qualified as denial of FAPE. In regards to the Parents claim that the SD had failed to develop measurable annual goals in all areas of need, the District Court cited Rowley, “that a District has no obligation to maximize a student’s potential.” However, the 9th Circuit pointed out that the Supreme Court had since held in Endrew F. “that an IEP must be reasonably calculated to allow a student to make progress appropriate in light of his circumstances.” It reversed and remanded the case for determination of whether the IEP satisfied the Endrew F. standard.

Reviewing the Decision

M.C.’s parents signed his IEP, although they did not agree the IEP provided their son with a FAPE. His parents challenged the IEP by filing for a Due Process (DP) Hearing. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decided that the School District (SD) prevailed on all issues. The case was taken to U.S. District Court, where the District Court Judge went along with the ALJ’s decision because the ALJ “questioned witnesses during a three day hearing’, and “wrote a 21-page opinion that reviewed witness qualifications and culled relevant details form the record” The 9th Circuit stated that in this case, the ALJ was neither thorough nor careful, as they didn’t address all of the issues and disregarded some of the evidence. Therefore, they found that the District Court erred in deferring to the ALJ’s findings.

Procedural

The 9th Circuit explained the history behind one of the Parent’s claims; the IEP document included a SD offer of 240 minutes per month of TVI services. The Parent’s DP complaint stated that, among other things, the TVI services were inadequate to meet M.C.’s needs. On the first day of the hearing, the Parent learned that the SD had unilaterally changed the IEP document from 240 minutes per month, to 240 minutes per week, because, according to the SD, they realized their mistake a week after the IEP, so they amended it. However, the SD did not notify Parents of the change. Parent’s claimed that the SD’s failure to accurately document the offer of services denied M.C. FAPE by precluding Parents from meaningfully participating in the IEP process.

The District Court found that Parents waived this issue during a procedural step that takes place before the DP Hearing, (in which the ALJ ‘restates’ the party’s issues to stream line the case they will address at hearing) so, the ALJ’s restatement of the issues omitted the adequacy of the services issue. The Parents did not know about the unilateral change to the IEP document until after the ALJ had restated the issues so they could not have raised that as a procedural violation. The District Court understood the Parent’s difficult position, but… still found they could not raise the issue.

But, the 9th Circuit issued a warning against ALJ’s reframing of the issues with this statement: “We question the wisdom of such a procedure…(meaning the restatement by the ALJ) A party bringing a due process complaint is entitled to frame the issues it wishes to present and should not be put in the difficult position of contradicting the presiding official who will soon be the trier of fact. In such circumstances, failure to object will not be deemed a waiver of any claim fairly encompassed in the complaint.” The 9th Circuit further stated, “While we haven’t previously recognized this practice in IDEA cases, it has often been applied in a variety of other agency adjudications, (then named, an IRS case, a Patent case, and a Department of Labor case) we see no reason IDEA cases should be treated differently.

The District judge agreed with the ALJ finding that the SD’s amendment to the IEP document merely corrected an unintentional error. The 9th Circuit said they failed to see how that can be so. An IEP is a contract. If the SD did not have Parent consent to amend the IEP, they have to re-open the IEP process and propose a different IEP. The unilateral amendment is a per se violation of the IDEA because it vitiates the parents right to participate at every step of the IEP drafting process. The 9th Circuit goes into great detail on this issue, finding two procedural violations, and gives the following direction: On remand, the district court shall determine whether this course of conduct was a deliberate attempt to mislead Parent or mere bungling on the part of the SD and its lawyers. (This is the greatest thing! The SD will have to go in front of the court and argue whether they were liars or idiots!)

When a student requires “a particular device or service” California law requires that the IEP “include a statement to that effect.” The 9th Circuit decision held lengthy discussion regarding the lack of specificity the SD gave regarding the AT devices being offered in the IEP and how, that gave Parent no way of confirming whether they were actually being provided. The district judge found this procedural violation didn’t seriously infringe on Parent opportunity to participate in the IEP formulation process. However, the 9th Circuit stated that the parents must be able to participate in both the formulation and enforcement of the IEP. Parents must be able to use the IEP to monitor and enforce the services that their child is to receive, when the Parent can’t FAPE has been denied, whether or not Parent had ample opportunity to participate in the formulation of the IEP. The fact that Parent had to incur unnecessary legal fees is a form of prejudice that denies parent and student an educational benefit.

Substantive

In this case it was the procedural violation of failing to specify the services – in kind or duration – that made it impossible for Parents to be able assess whether the services offered or provided to student were substantively reasonable. The burden is shifted to the SD to show the services they claim the student received, were reasonable. That issue was remanded for such a showing.

The case concluded with the discussion of the District court’s application of the Rowley standard that, by, “an ‘appropriate’ education, it is clear that [Congress] did not mean a potential-maximizing education,” and, the 9th Circuit states, “Recently, the Supreme Court clarified Rowley and provided a more precise standard for evaluating whether a school district has complied substantively with the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of a child’s circumstances.” Endrew F. “In other words, the school must implement an IEP that is reasonably calculated to remediate and, if appropriate, accommodate the child’s disabilities so that the child can “make progress in the general education curriculum,” (id.) commensurate with his non-disabled peers, taking into account the child’s potential.” (I give them a standing ovation in my mind every time I read that!)

The case was then remanded so the District Court could apply the new guidance from the Supreme Court, Endrew F.

These issues are of utmost importance to students with disabilities and their families and while the Supreme Court decision was eagerly awaited at A2Z educational advocates for many reasons, of course most importantly was, the effect of this decision in our work to protect the legal and civil rights of students with disabilities and their families. We commended the Supreme Court’s unanimous rejection of the lower court’s ruling that schools only need to provide a non-trivial benefit, we are thrilled that our 9th Circuit clearly agreed, reiterated Endrew F.’s holding and further elaborated in their decision that our children and families deserve better.

April is the Autism Awareness Month

https://www.autismspeaks.org