Use concise language, case law to navigate compensatory education requests

Coming out of the pandemic, more parents will likely request compensatory services,
By: | March 22, 2021

Parents who believe their concerns are heard and their children’s needs are understood are less likely to pursue compensatory education, says Brandon Wright, an attorney with Miller, Tracy, Braun, Funk & Miller Ltd. in Monticello, Ill.

“The issue of compensatory education is always relevant,” said Wright, who is set to present on the topic during LRP’s National Institute, April 19-21.

“Coming out of the pandemic … you’re going to have more parents than normally would be looking for compensatory services,” he continued. “Districts have to anticipate that this is going to be a conversation. These are conversations that are going to involve making sure that parents are on the same page.”

Wright said his presentation, “Navigating Requests for Compensatory Education,” is designed partly to “make sure that we are on the same page with the basics and we understand the language and are able to apply it to pandemic situations.”

More from DA: What to consider when drafting individualized contingency plans

Wright reiterated the importance of concise language in IEPs and IEP planning. He explained, for example, that extended school year services are not to be confused as compensatory services.

“In most cases, I think that compensatory services would not be technically or legally owed,” he continued. “[But] I think that there is an anticipation that we kind of need to sharpen our pencils a little bit and do our homework.”

Wright also plans to provide recent case law and practical tips on how districts may respond to requests for compensatory services.

“A year ago, last March, we [were] all learning words like ‘COVID’ and ‘remote learning’ — things we’ve never done before,” said Wright.

In response to the pandemic, he said, special education programs are doing things they have never done before and providing free appropriate public education in ways with which parents may be unfamiliar.

“Now a year later, we are starting to get case law (mostly through hearing officer decisions),” he said. “I think that helps inform when an IEP team is confronted with a request for compensatory services.”

Johnny Jackson covers special education issues for LRP Publications.