The New Hampshire Department of Education (“DOE”) has issued an important technical advisory related to Governor Sununu’s Emergency Order #48 (“EO48”).
The first part of EO48, signed on May 26, 2020, stated,
[I]t is hereby ordered, effective immediately, that… each school district is required to hold Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”) team meetings… to consider Extended-School Year (“ESY”) services for every child with an IEP, regardless of whether they have been provided ESY in the past, no later than June 30th, 2020.
On it’s face, given that the order is “effective immediately,” this would appear to require school districts to hold Team meetings between the effective date of the order (May 26) and June 30. However, the NH DOE issued a technical advisory on June 10, in which the DOE indicated that Teams do not need to reconvene to consider ESY again if the Team previously met to consider ESY for 2020 – potentially even if the meeting took place prior to the COVID outbreak. Specifically, the DOE’s advisory is as follows:
Emergency Order #48 does not impose a requirement that IEP meetings to assess Extended School Year (“ESY”) services must take place between the issuance of the Order and June 30, 2020, nor does it require a duplication of effort if such an IEP meeting has already taken place. Any IEP team meeting that was held after the transition to remote instruction and support necessitated by Emergency Order #1 and which considered whether a student with a disability required ESY services to receive a FAPE satisfies the requirement of paragraph one of Emergency Order #48. That is, any team meeting held between March 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020, which addressed ESY is in conformity with the Order. A team meeting held prior to March 15, 2020 may be compliant, if the school offered the parent an opportunity for an IEP team meeting to reconsider the student’s eligibility for ESY…
The DOE’s guidance even allows the requirements of EO48 to be met if the Team met to discuss ESY prior to the advent of remote instruction, if the parents were subsequently offered another Team meeting to discuss ESY in light of remote instruction, but the parent declined that meeting offer. Specifically, the guidance states:
If an IEP team meeting was held prior to the start of remote instruction and support, which considered ESY services, this meeting may be deemed compliant with Emergency Order #48’s timeline for ESY team meetings pursuant to the following conditions: The school has documented communication with the parents regarding whether the child requires ESY services to receive a FAPE as a result of remote instruction and support and the school has informed the parent that if they disagree with the school’s determination that ESY services are not required that the parent has the right to request an IEP team meeting by June 30, 2020.
Based on this guidance, if a meeting was held prior to the COVID outbreak to discuss ESY, the school district needs to notify parents that the parents have the right to request another Team meeting to consider ESY that might be needed as a result of remote instruction. This puts the burden on the parents to request another Team meeting, prior to June 30, to consider ESY. It is important for parents to understand and utilize this right if ESY was considered prior to the COVID outbreak. The need for ESY in June might look very different for a student than it looked prior to March of 2020.
The second part of EO48 stated:
[It] is hereby ordered, effective immediately, that… each school district must ensure that they hold IEP team meetings for every student identified for special education services no later than 30 calendar days after the first day of the school district’s 2020-2021 school year. At the meeting, the IEP team will consider what Compensatory Education Services, if any, are required to be provided to make up for services not provided during period of remote instruction and support, student regression, or student’s failure to make expected progress as indicated in the student’ s IEP.
Again, the DOE has issued clarifying guidance. According to the DOE, school districts can meet at any time to discuss the need for compensatory services resulting from remote instruction – not just during the first 30 days. Specifically, the DOE’s guidance states:
[EO48] does not require schools to hold IEP meetings that are redundant to meetings that have already been held. Any IEP meeting held since the commencement of remote instruction and support (i.e., March 15, 2020) that addresses the possible need for Compensatory Services for the 2020-21 school year necessitated by remote instruction and support complies with the requirement of the Order. For schools who have not yet held such meetings, there is no requirement to wait for the start of school to do so. Such meetings can be held before the school year begins, any time up to 30 days after the commencement of the school’s school year.
This part of the guidance concerns me. The longer remote instruction goes on, the more there might be a need for compensatory services. However, under the terms of this guidance, if a district held a meeting in March to discuss compensatory services that might result from remote instruction, then the district has met its burden – even if the need for compensatory services is much different in June or September than in March. How would the Team know in March which services would not be provided over the next several months, or how a student might regress during that time period?
I am also concerned that the tense used in the governor’s order conflicts with the DOE’s interpretation of that order. I trust that the governor chose his words carefully and purposefully. The governor very clearly used the future tense. Note, in the governors’ order quoted above, he stated: “At the meeting, the IEP team will consider what Compensatory Education Services, if any, are required…” Unless we time travel, I do not see how something required in the future can be satisfied in the past.
In conclusion, the Emergency Order 48 appeared to provide significant rights and benefits to students and parents, and admittedly appeared to put a rather heavy burden on school districts and IEP Teams. The technical advisory issued by the DOE appears to significantly temper many of those rights, benefits and burdens.
If you live in New Hampshire and have a child on an IEP, it is vital that you know about Governor Sununu’s Emergency Order #48. This impacts ALL New Hampshire IEP Teams in a major way.
On May 26, 2020, Governor Sununu issued Emergency Order #48, “Special Education Requirements to Support Remote Instruction.” The impact of this order on special education cannot be overstated. It is jaw-dropping.
The order consists of three parts:
1. Each school district is required to hold Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”) team meetings, as set forth in RSA 186-C:7 and Ed 1107, to consider Extended-School Year (“ESY”) services for every child with an IEP, regardless of whether they have been provided ESY in the past, no later than June 30th, 2020. If, at the time of the IEP team meeting, the remote instruction emergency orders have been neither removed nor extended through the summer, the IEP program team shall consider options for both traditional in-person ESY programs and for remote ESY programs.NH Emer. Or. 48 (May 26, 2020)
Analysis of Part 1
First, some background: Governor Sununu’s prior emergency orders #1, 19 and 32 required public school districts to transition to remote instruction and support , due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the New Hampshire Department of Education (“NHDOE”) has issued guidance authorizing in-person special education services in some circumstances.
As we approach the end of the school year, parents, children and educators are all wondering what summer services for special education children (a.k.a. Extended School Year, or ESY) should look like. By now, many Teams have already conducted their annual IEP meetings, so without this order, there might not be another chance to discuss what summer services should look like in this uncertain environment. This order requires each IEP Team to reconvene by June 30 for the specific purpose of considering ESY services. Even if your child has never received ESY services, the Team is still required to meet and discuss ESY.
By the time your Team does meet, there might or might not be updated emergency orders impacting remote education, special education and/or summer services. If there are no changes to the status quo by the time your Team meets, the Team is required to consider ESY options that are both in-person and remote.
2. Each school district must ensure that they hold IEP team meetings for every student identified for special education services no later than 30 calendar days after the first day of the school district’s 2020-2021 school year. At the meeting, the IEP team will consider what Compensatory Education Services, if any, are required to be provided to make up for services not provided during period of remote instruction and support, student regression, or student’s failure to make expected progress as indicated in the student’s IEP.NH Emer. Or. 48 (May 26, 2020)
Analysis of Part 2
Again, some background: Typically, if a school district fails to provide services required under an IEP, the child is entitled to receive extra services in the future to make up for the district’s past or present failure. This is referred to as compensatory services. But what if the failure to provide the services was not the fault of the district? That becomes more complicated, and is very fact and case specific. What if all required services were appropriately provided, just as the parents and district agreed to, but the child failed to make progress, or even regressed? Usually, that would result in changed services, but not compensatory services.
Governor Sununu’s emergency order requires every IEP Team to consider compensatory services related to the remote instruction. This would be stunning in and of itself, but the order goes much further. It clarifies that compensatory services might be needed for any of the following three reasons:
- To make up for services not provided during this period of remote instruction and support;
- To make up for student regression; or
- To make up for student’s failure to make expected progress as indicated in the IEP.
The word “or” in the above is vital. This clarifies that even if all services were provided during remote instruction, if the student regressed, or even just failed to make effective progress during this period, compensatory services might be needed.
Not to be overlooked is the timeframe. The compensatory service meeting must occur no later than 30 calendar days after the start of the 2020 – 2021 school year.
3. The requirements of Ed 1100, et seq., (“Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities”) including but not limited to the provisions relating to the timing of evaluations and IEP team meetings, except as modified in this Order, are not waived, but remain in full force andNH Emer. Or. 48 (May 26, 2020)
effect, except as follows: For any evaluation criteria described in Ed 1100, et seq., that cannot be satisfied because of the shift to remote instruction and support (e.g., classroom evaluations) the school district shall: a) include in its evaluation the reason the criterion was not considered and b) use best efforts to obtain the information the IEP team needs to determine eligibility and services/supports the child needs to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) via other available criteria.
Analysis of Part 3
Again, some background: There are two common types of school evaluations related to special education. First, students are evaluated as a key part of the eligibility process, to determine if they need an IEP. Thereafter, if found eligible, students are evaluated at least every three years. Evaluations usually involve a lot of in-person testing. Given the current environment, some evaluators have found ways to do much of their testing remotely.
This portion of Order 48 is saying that evaluations and related Team meetings must take place when they were supposed to take place, and remote instruction cannot be used as an excuse for not following the required timelines. If part of an evaluation cannot take place properly due to remote instruction, such as an evaluator not being able to observe the student in the classroom, the school district must document and explain this in the evaluation. Furthermore, they are still not off the hook. They need to go further, and use “best efforts” to obtain the information through an alternative means.
This emergency order is huge for special education children in New Hampshire. It might, but does not necessarily, require ESY and compensatory services. What it absolutely does require are two sets of Team meetings for every child on an IEP in New Hampshire. Teams will have to convene meetings by June 30 of this year to discuss ESY, and again within 30 days after school starts in August or September to consider compensatory services. Given that there are tens of thousands of students on IEPs in New Hampshire, this means there are going to be a LOT of Team meetings coming up.
If you believe your child requires ESY or compensatory services, don’t let yourself or your child fall through the cracks. If the school district does not set up the meetings, you should communicate with the district to make sure the required meetings occur.
It is also vital that parents prepare for these meetings. You need to know your rights. Given the specific circumstances of your case, you need to know not only what you are entitled to, but also what is reasonable under the law and what is not reasonable. If you are unsure about any of this, you might want to consult with a special education attorney or advocate.