Giving Compass' Take:

• Kate Arundel reports on the U.S. Department of Education's reminder to schools that they must prioritize special education services in returning to in-person learning.

• Why are special education services much more effective in-person?  How can you help make sure special education is provided equitably across different demographics?

• Find resources to help support students during the pandemic.

In separate documents released Monday, the U.S. Department of Education reminded schools of their obligations to special education services and civil rights laws regardless of whether students are learning in-person or remotely.

Guidance from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) said that although schools should make every effort for in-person learning opportunities, they cannot prioritize reopening plans for groups of students based on their race, national origin or color. The department, however, said schools may be required to provide in-person instruction for students with disabilities based on their individual needs.

In explaining why schools cannot phase-in in-person learning options based on a student’s "race, color or national origin," OCR said such preferences would violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, schools may be required under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to provide in-person services to certain students with disabilities so those students can receive a “free appropriate public education.”

Selene Almazan, legal director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates Inc., said she is pleased OCR issued the Q&A, particularly the section that warns states and districts that they cannot limit services to students with disabilities without consideration of their individual needs.

“We’re six months into this [pandemic] and we do know that students with disabilities are disproportionately affected by distance learning,” Almazan said.

Read the full article about special education services during COVID-19 by Kara Arundel at Education Dive.