Indiana Department of Education under investigation over quality of schooling for children with disabilities during pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights says it is initiating an investigation of the Indiana Department of Education due to “disturbing” reports regarding the quality of education provided to children with disabilities during the pandemic.

Word of the investigation comes just as the leadership of Indiana’s Department of Education is changing hands.

In particular, the Office for Civil Rights says its concern stems from reports that parents of students in Indiana schools have filed multiple complaints that students with disabilities have been “forced by local school districts into virtual learning programs that were not individualized to meet those students’ unique needs” and that instead “the schools have used ‘one size fits all’ remote learning

Federal law requires that students with special needs are entitled to free and public educations, and the Office of Civil Rights states that Indiana education officials may have denied those children equal access to schooling.

The Office for Civil Rights says it will investigate the Indiana Department of Education to determine if the department has “excluded qualified persons with disabilities from participation in, deny them the benefits of, or otherwise subject them to discrimination under any program or activity.”

Indiana Secretary of Education Dr. Katie Jenner released the following statement in response to the investigation:

I have asked my team for a full briefing on all complaints filed prior to my arrival in this office on Monday, January 11, and pledge to provide every available support to help our districts and schools meet the needs of Indiana’s special education students. As we enter into day four of our administration, I want to assure you I take very seriously the department’s responsibility to support our schools, students and families, especially during these unprecedented times, and I am committed to working with my local, state and federal colleagues to both understand and address these concerns.

Dr. Jenner

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