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Federal office drops investigation of Indiana special education services

Student desks sit in an empty room at Senn High School, with bookshelves and windows in the background.

In a letter to Indiana Tuesday, the federal Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights said it found “no information” indicating inappropriate practices within Indiana’s special education services.

Max Herman for Chalkbeat

Six months after launching an investigation into whether Indiana provided appropriate special education services during the pandemic, federal investigators have dismissed the case. 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened the investigation in early January after receiving multiple complaints that Indiana’s virtual learning plans did not support students with disabilities. 

Many complaints indicated Indiana schools failed to provide virtual schooling that included the types of measures it normally offers in special education, such as adding breaks in the school day, reading quizzes aloud, or providing therapies or interventions.

In a letter to the state Tuesday, the federal office said its investigators did not find evidence of discrimination based on complaints filed in or before January. 

“OCR currently has no information indicating that IDOE is excluding or denying students with disabilities equal access to educational programs, discriminating against students with disabilities, or is otherwise acting in a manner inconsistent with its obligations under Section 504 or Title II,” the letter said. 

Kim Dodson, who leads the advocacy group The Arc of Indiana, said the dismissal of the investigation doesn’t absolve Indiana’s special education services from blame, and she’s still concerned about students with disabilities not receiving the individualized instruction they need.

“The dropping of the investigation does not take away the fact that some students were very much in limbo and not getting the services that they needed,” Dodson said. “I hope that the department of education still sees this as a learning opportunity that they need to be better prepared.”

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