Today, the parents of a child who has a disability have choices in education, including virtual public schools. Virtual public schools are public schools. They are not private schools. They are governed by public entities such as public school districts, independent, non-profit charter school boards, and state education agencies.
In August the US Department of Education, OSERS, issued guidance to virtual public schools. The guidance focuses on the requirements of IDEA for public virtual schools.
Virtual Public Schools Are Subject to IDEA
Virtual schools must implement the evaluation, eligibility, individualized education program (IEP), and least restrictive environment requirements under IDEA.
Virtual Public Schools: Child Find Responsibilities
Each state and school district, must have child find policies and procedures in effect to ensure that all children with disabilities residing in the state, including those who attend virtual schools, who are in need of special education and related services, regardless of the severity of their disability, are identified, located, and evaluated.
School districts, including virtual schools that operate as school districts, should review the state’s child find policies and procedures as well as their own implementing policies, procedures, and practices to ensure that children with disabilities who attend virtual schools are identified, located, and evaluated.
Virtual Public Schools Must Provide FAPE
Children with disabilities attending virtual schools have the same right to a free appropriate public education as children attending brick and mortar schools. States and school districts must ensure that children with disabilities are getting the special education and supports that they need to be successful in school.
Communication with the Virtual Public School
If your child has a disability, or you suspect he or she has a disability, which affects his or her ability to access their education then you should contact the administration of your virtual public school. In most cases you will be the best resource for alerting the school that your child may qualify under IDEA.
If you are transferring to a virtual public school, and your child has an IEP, you must send a copy of your child’s IEP to the virtual public school. They should have a special education department to help process the current IEP and set a meeting for the new members of the IEP to meet.
My Experience with a Charter School
I home schooled my son who has a disability under a public charter through independent study. He had an IEP in place before entering the public charter school. The school administrator was difficult to work with and challenged our decision to pull a child who had social struggles out of a brick and mortar public school. However, with some negotiation, we were able to agree to an IEP that provided my son with FAPE. We home schooled with the public charter school for 3 years and found it to be a positive experience.
If you have questions about your legal rights regarding this issue, feel free to contact me. I can be reached at 925-551-1041 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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