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COVID-19 – Special Education Updates and Resources

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) understands that guidance can change quickly as information evolves.

DPI frequently updates its COVID-19 webpage to reflect the current situation with this novel coronavirus being monitored by the CDC.

The Special Education Team regularly updates its COVID-19 Special Education Question and Answer Document regarding the impact on students with IEPs (Revised 5/20/2021).

The department has recorded a presentation to help develop a greater understanding, particularly for families, of guidance issued to date in response to challenges facing school communities as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. In particular, the presentation focuses on the guidance contained in the COVID-19 Special Education Question and Answer Document.

On May 13, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released an important new resource: Questions and Answers on Civil Rights and School Reopening in the COVID-19 Environment.

The OCR Q&A is designed to help students, families, schools and the public understand the civil rights protections that support equal opportunity for students in remote, hybrid and in-person educational environments, in both K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions. You will find many important topics covered in the Q&A, including:

  • Protection against discrimination for students with disabilities, including the rights of students with disabilities to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) during remote learning and school reopening; the rights of students with disabilities related to mask exemptions, physical distancing, accessibility and placement issues, and waivers; and the responsibilities of postsecondary institutions.
  • Protections for students against discrimination based on race, color and national origin, including information about harassment, discipline disparities, and resource equity; the rights of students with undocumented status; the rights of students with unstable housing and students who are experiencing homelessness; and the rights of English learners.
  • Protections for students against sex discrimination, including sexual and gender-based harassment, including schools’ responsibilities to address complaints of sexual harassment, including sexual violence, during remote, hybrid and in-person learning.
  • Please note that while this Q&A addresses many important issues on school reopening and civil rights, it is not comprehensive. You may submit questions at

Additional information:

DPI continues to share updated information with district administrators frequently. There is a listing of these updates and any attachments at the district administrators' email chrono page. Additional special education and pupil services newsletter items archive.

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has provided a Frequently Asked Questions Document. Additional information was released on March 21, 2020, emphasizing that special education requirements must be provided consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those providing education, specialized instruction, and related services to those students.

On September 28, 2020, OSEP released a question and answer document on the implementation of IEP services in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The document is meant to assist LEAs and parents in identifying steps they can take to ensure that as the 2020-21 school year continues, students with disabilities are well positioned with an educational program that meets each student’s unique needs. The document includes guidance on IEP team meeting requirements, the IEP amendment process, timelines, ESY, and evaluations. The guidance is consistent with Wisconsin’s COVID-19 Special Education Question and Answer Document.

For questions about this information, contact DPI Sped Team (608) 266-1781