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Health Care
Students Aging Out of Special Education During COVID May Get an Additional Year of Services
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All students were impacted by COVID-19, but for students with special education needs, the impact was significantly greater. They may be entitled to COVID-19-related compensatory education. This article applies to students eligible for special education, including those placed in public or charter schools, or those placed in a private out-of-district school by their public or charter school. It applies to those who have turned or will turn age 21 in the 2020-2021, 2021-2022 or 2022-2023 school years.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those in the specified school years have the right to seek an additional year of special education services. They were particularly impacted by the pandemic because they were engaged in the highly community-based transition phase of special education services.

The information in this article is for students, or parents and guardians of students, in this situation.

How can I get an extended year of services?

You must write a letter to the student’s special education case manager, stating that the student needs an extended year of special education services. A meeting must be held within 20 calendar days of your request. At the meeting, the IEP team (which includes the student and the student’s parent/legal guardian), will discuss whether an extended year is needed.

If there is agreement that the student is eligible, the IEP team should discuss what the programming and services, including transition, will be. For example, if the student will attend a special transition program or receive specific transition services, those particulars need to be included in the student’s IEP. Either an updated IEP should be created or a new document  attached to the IEP as a modification or amendment. It is important to include details such as type, amount, schedule, and location of programs and services.

How can I prepare for the meeting?

Be prepared to discuss the specific reasons the extended year is required. Was the student able to make appropriate progress in his or her transition goals during the school shutdown? Were the student’s transition programs and/or services operating during the shutdown? Was required transportation service still provided? If programming or services were provided virtually, was the student able to benefit from them? Can the student complete his or her transition plan and achieve their goals without the extended year? Is the transition plan appropriate?

Bring someone with you, if you can. You may bring  therapists, services providers, other trusted professionals, friends, and family members. Consider asking treating doctors and other providers for letters supporting the student’s need for an additional year of special education. If possible, send the letters to the special education case manager before the meeting.

If the IEP team disagrees, insist that they explain their reasons since you have a right to know. Reasons like funding, staffing issues, not having a program or service within the school district are not permissible.

IEP meetings can be recorded but you must let them know you plan to do so in advance.

What if we don’t come to an agreement?

After the meeting, the school district or charter school must send you a letter explaining the decision.

If the request for the extended year is denied or you do not agree with the plan for the extended year, you can file a due process or mediation request. The forms needed to file can be found at www.nj.gov/education/specialed/policy/disputeresolution/. For more information on how to file a special education appeal, read What to Do When You Disagree With a Special Education Decision.

If you are a parent or legal guardian of a student who is 18 years old or older, unless you have a legal guardianship, you will need to get a letter from your child permitting you to act for them in special education matters in order to be able to file a due process request.

I sent a letter and no one responded. What should I do?

File a due process or mediation request. Before doing so, consider contacting the director or supervisor of special education, the superintendent, or even the county superintendent. Contact information can be found at www.nj.gov/education/about/counties.

Is there a deadline to request the extended year?

In general, a due process request must be filed within two years from the date you knew, or should have known there was an issue.

For more information, or if you have questions about you or your child’s rights, contact LSNJLAWSM, Legal Services of New Jersey’s statewide, toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529). You may also apply for services through our online intake, https://lsnjlawhotline.org. If you are not eligible for assistance from Legal Services, the hotline will refer you to other possible resources. ​​​

4/26/2022