Education Law COVID-19 FAQ


  • No school activities can operate without meeting the following minimum state guidance, as well as applicable federal requirements, including but not limited to such minimum standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and OSHA. The state standards apply to all school activities in operation during the COVID-19 public health emergency until rescinded or amended by the State.

  • Each New York state school district, BOCES, charter school, and private school must develop and submit to the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED), or the State University of New York (SUNY) for charter schools authorized by SUNY, a plan that, at minimum, covers:

    • Reopening of school facilities for in-person instruction,

    • Monitoring of health conditions,

    • Containment of potential transmission of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and

    • Closure of school facilities and in-person instruction, if necessitated by widespread virus transmission.

  • Face coverings

    • Responsible parties must maintain protocols and procedures for students, faculty, staff, and other individuals to ensure appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is used to protect against the transmission of the COVID-19 virus when on school grounds and in school facilities.

    • Acceptable face coverings include but are not limited to cloth-based face coverings and surgical masks that cover both the mouth and nose. Face shields worn without other face coverings are not considered adequate protection or source control against COVID-19 and should not be used.

    • Responsible parties and faculty may use alternate PPE (i.e., face coverings that are transparent at or around the mouth) for instruction or interventions that require visualization of the movement of the lips and/or mouths (e.g., speech therapy). These alternate coverings may also be used for certain students (e.g., hearing impaired) who benefit from being able to see more of the face of the faculty or staff member.

    • Students who are unable to medically tolerate a face covering, including students where such covering would impair their physical health or mental health are not subject to the required use of a face covering.

  • Hygiene

    • Responsible parties must provide and maintain hand hygiene stations around the school, as follows:

      • For handwashing: soap, running warm water, and disposable paper towels.

      • For hand sanitizing: an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol for areas where handwashing facilities may not be available or practical. Make hand sanitizer available throughout common areas. It should be placed in convenient locations, such as at building, classroom, and cafeteria entrances and exits. Touch-free hand sanitizer dispensers should be installed where possible.

  • Social Distancing

    • Responsible Parties must maintain protocols and procedures for students, faculty, and staff to ensure appropriate social distancing to protect against the transmission of the COVID-19 virus when on school grounds and in school facilities. Specifically, appropriate social distancing means six feet of space in all directions between individuals or use of appropriate physical barriers between individuals that do not adversely affect air flow, heating, cooling, or ventilation, or otherwise present a health or safety risk.

  • Screening

    • All individuals must have their temperature checked each day. If an individual presents a temperature of greater than 100.0°F, the individual must be denied entry into the facility or sent directly to a dedicated area prior to being picked up or otherwise sent home.

  • Food Services

    • Responsible parties must continue to provide school breakfast and/or lunch to students who were previously receiving school meals, both on site and remote. For students on site, Responsible parties must provide meals while maintaining appropriate social distancing between students. Students do not need to wear face coverings when seated and eating so long as they are appropriately socially distanced.

  • Return to School

    • Responsible parties must establish protocols and procedures, in consultation with the local health departments, about the requirements for determining when individuals, particularly students, who screened positive for COVID-19 symptoms can return to the in-person learning environment at school. This return to school protocol shall include, at minimum, documentation from a health care provider following evaluation, negative COVID-19 diagnostic test result, and symptom resolution, or if COVID-19 positive, release from isolation.

Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) is a federal law that makes available a free and appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities within the country and ensures special education and related services to those children. The IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.

  • The IDEA requires “that, to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public and private institutions and other care facilities, should be educated with children who are not disabled; and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature and severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”

  • For a student to be covered under the IDEA a student must:

    • Be between the ages of 3 and 21;

    • Have a disability that gives rise to a need for special education. Examples may include:

      • Autism

      • Speech/language impairment, including apraxia

      • Intellectual disability

      • Deafness

      • Orthopedic impairment; and

    • Not have already graduated from high school.

  • Schools must provide services that are necessary to enable a child to get a free appropriate public education. These may include:

    • Disability-related evaluations and screening, including communication assessments for students with communication-related disabilities;

    • Special education services, which may include specialized literacy and language instruction; or

    • Related services, such as:

      • Speech-language therapy

      • Physical therapy,

      • Occupational therapy

      • Assistive communication supports, such as AAC, and training for the student and family on how to use it

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

  • The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…”

  • Section 504 gives students some rights in addition to the IDEA. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act gives students the right to effective communication supports in schools and other public programs.

  • For a student to be covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, a student must attend a school that receives Federal financial assistance and:

    • Have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;

    • have a record of such an impairment; or

    • be regarded as having such an impairment.


General Overview: Special Education in New York State

Initial Referral for Special Education Services

  • Students suspected of having a disability are referred to a multidisciplinary team called the Committee on Special Education or the Committee on Preschool Special Education.

Individual Evaluation Process

  • The Committee arranges for an evaluation of the student’s abilities and needs.

Determining Eligibility for Special Education Services

  • Based on evaluation results, the Committee decides if the student is eligible to receive special education services and programs.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

  • If the child is eligible to receive special education services, the Committee develops and implements an appropriate IEP, based on evaluation results, to meet the needs of the student. Based on the IEP, the Committee must determine the student’s placement, ensuring that services are provided in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Placement must be as close as possible to the student’s home, and unless the student’s IEP requires some other arrangement, the student must be educated in the school he or she would have attended if not disabled. For more information see least restrictive environment.

Annual Review/Re-evaluation

  • The IEP is reviewed and, if needed, modified or revised by the Committee at least once a year (annual review). The student has a reevaluation at least once every three years, to review the student’s need for special education programs and services and to revise the IEP, as appropriate. A reevaluation may also occur when conditions warrant or when requested by a parent or teacher. The process occurs sequentially with each step building on the previous one. In this way, comprehensive information about the student is obtained and considered. Timelines are in place so that delays are avoided. Parents are an integral part of this process, and your involvement is encouraged.

Parents’ Rights

You have legal due process rights under federal and state laws to be involved and make sure that your child receives an appropriate education:

  • You must receive written notice several times during the process of identifying, evaluating, placing your child and providing your child with special education services and/or programs. If your district refuses to do any of these things, you must be notified.

  • Certain actions may not be carried out without your written consent.

  • If you disagree with decisions made by the Committee, you may ask for meetings, mediation and/or impartial hearings to resolve (settle) disagreements between you and your school district about your child’s evaluations, identification (classification), placement or educational program (the provision of a free appropriate public education.