To allow New Jersey’s parents of students with disabilities to protect their children’s educational rights, Assembly Democrats Sterley Stanley and Linda Carter sponsor a bill to extend the period for filing special education due process petitions regarding the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or provisions of a free and appropriate public education of a child with a disability during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was released by the Assembly Education Committee on Monday.
Currently, a special education due process petition must be filed within two years of the date that the filing party knew, or should have known, about the reason for the due process petition. The bill (A-6226) would extend that period of time by specifying that a request for a due process hearing related to a COVID-19 school closure or period of remote, virtual, hybrid, or in-person instruction between March 18, 2020 and September 1, 2021 may be filed at any time prior to September 1, 2023.
The bill would also require a local educational agency to hold an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meeting no later than December 31, 2022 to discuss the need for compensatory education and services for every student with a disability who had an IEP at any time between March 18, 2020 and September 1, 2021.
Upon committee approval for the bill, Assembly members Stanley (D-Middlesex) and Carter (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union) issued the following joint statement:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the education of countless students throughout New Jersey who have had to adapt to drastic changes while being exposed to unprecedented stress and isolation. This is particularly true for the over 230,000 students eligible for special education in our state. It is critical to extend the period for filing a due process petition to ensure that these students will continue to receive an education that meets their unique needs during the pandemic.
“Extending the period for filing a request for a due process hearing gives school districts and Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams time to hold meetings to determine whether a student is owed compensatory education, while still allowing a student’s parents or guardians time to file a due process petition if an agreement is not met. This is a simple and responsible step to take to ensure that all of New Jersey’s students receive the high-quality education that they deserve.”
The bill now heads to the Speaker for further consideration.