What Is Compensatory Education and Is My Child Entitled to It?

What Is Compensatory Education and Is My Child Entitled to It?When classrooms moved to virtual and online learning in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, students of all ages and learning abilities faced adjustments and challenges. However, over a year later, many parents of special education students realized their children suffered bigger losses than previously thought. Students with learning disabilities and other special needs not only experienced difficulties with remote learning, they also fell further behind as they returned to in-person learning this fall.

The system built to protect children with disabilities within the education system virtually collapsed during the pandemic, exposing every problem, notes a piece on the subject by NPR:

Many of those services slowed or stopped when schools physically shut down in spring 2020. Modified instruction, behavioral counseling, and speech and physical therapy disappeared or were feebly reproduced online, for three, six, nine months. In some places, they have yet to fully resume. For many children with disabilities, families say this disruption wasn’t just difficult. It was devastating.

Parent after parent related stories to NPR about their child falling behind or regressing during the pandemic without their individualized education program (IEP) in place. Now, these parents are demanding answers and action – how will their children catch up and how will their schools help them make up for lost time and the education they deserve?

Compensatory education after the pandemic

Many parents believe the key to relieving this deficit lies in compensatory education. In its simplest terms, compensatory education is makeup services to help special education students catch up on any missed specialized learning they were entitled to receive. However, post-COVID, parents nationwide are discovering securing compensatory education services is more difficult than it appears.

In addition to staffing strains in schools across the country, many administrators and educators disagree on whether or not some compensatory education services are even warranted. This argument, explained by the New York Times, spawned several legal battles, including in New York, Washington, and Maryland. Says the NYT, “In New York City, some individuals who filed suit against the city received compensatory education, while others had their lawsuits dismissed.”

The executive director for the Council of Administrators of Special Education, Phyllis Wolfram, tells the publication that schools typically do not favor the idea of compensatory education to resolve learning deficit issues from the pandemic. She places the blame on the virus and not the schools, saying, “It’s hard to compensate in a public school setting for everything that Covid has done. I’m not sure how its humanly possible.”

What about IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that children with special needs have the right to an education, typically through the use of an IEP, a legal document outlining a student’s needs and academic goals. However, when schools switched to non-traditional learning, many educators were unable to follow IEPs and students’ performance suffered.

Although compensatory education services are not specifically mentioned in IDEA, per NPR, “families now argue schools are legally required to do whatever it takes to get their special education students to where they would have been had there been no pandemic at all.”

One particular point of contention is guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education in March 2020, which instructed districts, “If a child does not receive services after an extended period of time, a school must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed, consistent with applicable requirements, including to make up for any skills that may have been lost.”

How can I get compensatory services for my child in Tennessee?

If your child did not receive (or is not receiving) the special education services to which they are entitled according to their IEP, you have the right to request compensatory services to address those losses. To build your case, document everything you can regarding how your child’s services changed, including:

  • Description of your child’s services before the pandemic
  • Description of services he or she received during the pandemic
  • How those services changed or differed
  • How classes or sessions were delivered, including amount of one-on-one attention and method of delivery (video, phone, computer, in-person)
  • Any changes in lesson plans and homework
  • Changes or drops in grades and learning development

Keeping track of these details and information can help the extent of your child’s education plan, including potential compensatory services to work in conjunction with his or her IEP. If you believe your school district is not cooperating or is refusing your child the educational opportunities he or she deserve, remember that schools have an obligation – by federal law – to provide every child an appropriate education.

An experienced education law attorney can advocate for your student and work to ensure your child receives the resources and correct IEPs he or she needs to thrive in a new learning environment. Our legal team can help you file a complaint with the school district, request a hearing, or, when necessary, go to court to fight for your child’s right to a fair education.

Attorney Perry A. Craft can help. At his Nashville law firm, he protects the rights of students with special needs, working to ensure they have access to a fair and free public education. The legal team at the Law Office of Perry A. Craft PLLC can help negotiate with the school district but will take your case to court if that is what it takes to get justice for your child. To make an appointment, call 615-953-3808 or fill out our contact form.