Last month, we learned that recent clarification on California Assembly Bill 130 pushed schools to support a student’s right to pursue Independent Study during the 2021–2022 school year if their families determined it is not safe for them to attend school during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this right is only available to students with disabilities if their IEP team approves Independent Study — and many IEP teams won’t approve it for students with disabilities. Many students with disabilities are also disproportionately at risk from Covid-19. And, as many of us know, Independent Study — which, under AB 130, is the only option available to students who can’t safely attend school in person — cannot adequately accommodate and support every student with disabilities.

All this has left many families of kids with disabilities in more than a bind, and without the supports they need, some families have turned to homeschooling or Home Hospital options. But the current lack of options and support may be changing. On November 4, in a direct challenge to AB 130, federal judge Susan Illston (of California’s Northern District) issued a temporary restraining order requiring the state to provide distance learning (comparable to last year’s) to a group of fifteen students with disabilities. Judge Illston found that the “plaintiffs have demonstrated irreparable harm,” and “that AB 130 has forced parents to choose between the harm of their children losing educational opportunity or risking their health and safety.”

Attorney David German from the special education law firm Vanaman German LLP, which was part of the team that sued the state, tells us that identical motions will be filed within the next week for an additional group of several dozen students with disabilities. German says that the fact the temporary restraining order was issued suggests that the motion for a preliminary injunction — which will be heard on November 30 — has a good chance of being granted. And this could affect a far larger class of students across California.

“The ruling should free districts to do what they know is necessary and right, but which they have been prohibited from doing by this baldly discriminatory law,” German says. “Districts know how to provide the necessary distance learning programs — they just spent a year and a half developing and learning how to provide quality programs to students with disabilities through a distance-learning model. We know that many districts want to provide these types of distance learning programs but have not been able to do so because of the prohibition in AB 130.”

We’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, we’d love to know how your kids are being supported this year, and whether you hope to bring them home should distance learning return as a viable option. 


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