News Update

L.A. Unified, Office of Civil Rights reach deal on special ed services

Los Angeles Unified must provide extra special education services for about 66,000 students with disabilities who might not have received services they were entitled to during Covid-related school closures, according to a resolution announced Thursday by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

The agreement, which applies to students with Individualized Education Programs as well as 504 plans, requires the district to hold meetings with parents, teachers and other staff to decide what services each students needs, and how schools will deliver those services.

Throughout the state, many students with disabilities fell behind during school closures because specialized services, such as speech or occupational therapy, are nearly impossible to deliver virtually. Under federal disability rights laws, students in special education are entitled to “compensatory” services if there’s an interruption or delay in delivering whatever services are outlined in their IEPs or 504 plans.

The Office of Civil Rights found that Los Angeles Unified didn’t adequately provide compensatory services or track the services that schools were providing.

Disability rights advocates cheered the resolution.

“OCR’s clear and decisive actions make clear that it is LAUSD’s obligation to remedy the damage their poor decisions have wreaked on children and their families,” Denise Marshall, chief executive of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, which was not a party to the case. “We hope today’s decision propels LAUSD and all districts into real-time action to individualize plans for students with disabilities so that each student can access the services they need to make necessary gains.”

A spokesperson for Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second largest school district, noted that the agreement only relates to compensatory services, not ongoing services for students with disabilities. As part of the agreement, the district will reach out to parents and keep them informed of the district’s plans, and speed up training for staff members.

“Los Angeles Unified remains dedicated to helping all students, including students with disabilities, recover from the pandemic and achieve their educational goals,” a district spokesperson said.

–Carolyn Jones