The U.S. Department of Education recently announced an agreement with the Virtual Community School of Ohio, an internet based based, public charter school, ensuring compliance with Section 504 and Title II of the ADA. In the press release announcing the agreement, the Department of Education states:
"This first-of-its-kind resolution promises equal access to educational opportunities for students with disabilities at the school." And, the press release goes on to say:
“Students with disabilities who attend online public charter schools are entitled to all the protections of the federal civil rights laws that their peers receive at traditional public schools, including the right to receive a free appropriate education. Online schools also must take steps to ensure that the websites and online classrooms they use to promote their services and to educate students are accessible to individuals with disabilities.”
The agreement requires the virtual school to:
- Develop Section 504 policies and procedures so that students with disabilities are appropriately identified, evaluated, , and provided services to ensure they receive a FAPE;
- Notify parents, guardians, and students of the revised Section 504 policies and procedures;
- Evaluate or reevaluate students with disabilities enrolled in the last two years to determine whether they need compensatory special education and/or related aids or services and, based on this evaluation, promptly provide compensatory services;
- Publish contact information for the school’s Section 504/Title II coordinator and ensure that the coordinator is appropriately trained;
- Develop and publish grievance procedures that provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of disability discrimination complaints;
- Provide training to staff involved in the evaluation and placement of students with disabilities;
- Develop policies and procedures to ensure that the school’s online technologies are accessible, including the adoption of technical standards to ensure accessibility;
- Revise its website and on-line learning environment so that they are accessible to individuals with disabilities, including students with visual, hearing, or print disabilities and those who otherwise require use of assistive technology to access the school’s program;
- Monitor the accessibility of the school online technologies; and
- Provide annual training for staff responsible for online technologies about the school’s
accessibility policies and procedures and their roles and responsibilities in ensuring online content is accessible.
The Office for Civil Rights will monitor the schools implementation of the agreement.