Effective January 1, 2020, Senate Bill (“SB”) 605 requires local educational agencies (“LEAs”) to increase the access of students with exceptional needs to assistive technology (“AT”) by (1) continuing to provide AT devices for a period of time after the student disenrolls from the LEA, and (2) providing AT devices for use outside of school when the student’s individualized education program (“IEP”) team determines that this is a necessary component of the student’s free, appropriate public education (“FAPE”).
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) defines an AT device as any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of students with exceptional needs. AT devices include technology such as Chromebooks, iPads, and communication devices.
Under existing state and federal law, generally, only the LEA in which a student resides is responsible for providing the student with a FAPE, which may include AT. In addition, although existing federal law expressly authorizes IEP teams to determine that a student requires AT devices outside of school (i.e., in home and other settings), state law contains no such authorization. This has led to some confusion among IEP teams as to the appropriateness of providing AT devices for out-of-school use.
SB 605, codified at Education Code section 56040.3, requires an LEA from which a student has disenrolled to ensure that the student has continued access to the AT devices set forth in the student’s IEP until alternative arrangements can be made, or for two months after disenrollment, whichever occurs first. It also brings state law in conformity with existing federal law, expressly requiring LEAs to provide AT devices for use in the student’s home or other settings when determined necessary by the IEP team.
Consequently, IEP teams may soon see an increase in requests for AT devices to be used outside of the school setting. In addition, LEAs should consider revising their policies and AT use agreements to account for a student’s continued access to AT devices after disenrollment. The following provisions may be appropriate:
• AT devices may be used at home and in other settings, if determined by the IEP team.
• Only the student whose IEP provides for the AT device, and not other family members, may use it.
• Upon disenrollment, a student may continue to access the AT device, or a comparable device when the student enrolls in another LEA.
• For a student who disenrolls and takes the AT device to another LEA, the device must be returned to the original LEA by a date certain.
• Parents are responsible for the cost of any damage to the AT device in the home, in other settings, and if the student enrolls in another LEA.
Note that, because SB 605 imposes new duties on LEAs, LEAs can seek reimbursement from the state for the costs incurred in implementing the law.
If you have any questions about whether and for how long a student must be provided with an AT device, the process for seeking reimbursement from the state, or any other related questions, please contact one of our six offices.