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One Denver family’s fight for special education services during remote learning

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Jennifer and Jamin Alabiso proposed what they thought was an innovative way for their 10-year-old son, who has autism, to receive special education services during remote learning — specifically, the 45 minutes per day of reading help he needs to reach grade level.

The family lives less than a block from his Denver school, and teachers had already been by the house several times to drop off supplies. Would it be possible for the special education teacher to sit with their son outside on the front porch, masks on, for his reading lessons? If not on the front porch, then maybe on the school playground? Or even inside an empty classroom?

The school said no to the idea. At the time, all Denver students were set to start the school year remotely because district officials deemed classroom learning unsafe due to COVID-19. The Alabisos were told their son’s school couldn’t make an exception for him.

“Reading is hard for him,” said his father, Jamin. During remote learning, when the teacher asks his son to read, “he can just escape. That’s why you need to be in person — because he can’t turn you off. He can’t walk away from you. He can’t close the top of his Chromebook.”

Frustrated, the family filed a complaint in August with the Colorado Department of Education, alleging the district was denying their son a “free and appropriate public education” as guaranteed by law. Denver Public Schools responded, arguing it had done nothing wrong.

Late last month, the state ruled mostly in favor of Denver Public Schools. The Alabisos’ son would continue to learn remotely. But two weeks later, the district changed its mind.




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