Trenton – In an effort to assist students who missed out on support services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senate advanced legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Vin Gopal to extend the period of time for filing a special education due process petition.
“It is critically important we postpone the deadline to file a legal claim so we can give parents more time to work with their child’s school district to come up with a learning plan to make up for lost services,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Remote learning took a toll on all of our students, but it was especially challenging for students with disabilities. Children who typically would be pulled out of class for physical, occupational or speech therapy or receive other specialized support missed out on months of services.”
The bill, S-905, would extend the period of time a parent, guardian, or local educational agency has to request a due process hearing regarding the education of a child with disabilities during a COVID-19 school closure or during periods of virtual, remote, hybrid, or in-person instruction.
“Virtual instruction made it nearly impossible for teachers to provide individualized support in the way they did prior to the pandemic. Because students with an IEP are legally entitled to those services, they are able to petition to have them made up,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “Unfortunately, that process can be lengthy. Through this legislation we hope to give districts the time to find an appropriate path forward, whether it be sessions after school or during the summer, so parents can avoid filing for due process.”
The extension is meant to provide parents and districts with more time to formulate a plan to make up for any missed services. The intent is for this to allow parents to avoid due process claims, which can often postpone the delivery of services due to the time it takes to resolve them.
Under the bill, individuals would have until September 1, 2023 to file a claim regarding insufficient services occurring between March 18, 2020 and September 1, 2021.
The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 34-0.