AB 130 Affords Parents or Guardians of Special Education Students the Right to Choose Independent Study (IS)

Know Your Rights Under AB 130

Independent study (IS) is an alternative to classroom instruction available to students in grades from Kindergarten through High School in California. It may be offered in a variety of formats, for example, through alternative schools or programs, through charter schools, as specialized or advanced courses, or as an accommodation for student travel.

Preschoolers are not eligible for IS, but there is nothing restricting 18 to 22-year-olds from receiving it. Assembly Bill (AB) 130, signed into law by Governor Newsom on July 9, 2021, mandates changes to IS as related to the placement of students with disabilities (SWDs).

What Are the Changes to Independent Study Under AB 130?

For the 2021-22 school year only, county offices of education (COEs) and school districts are required to offer independent study as an option. School districts and COEs must notify parents and guardians of this option. Notice is to include written information on the website of the local educational agency (LEA).

This information must include pupil’s rights regarding procedures for enrolling, disenrolling, or re-enrolling in IS, instructional time to which the pupil will have access as part of IS, and the right to request a pupil-parent-educator conference prior to enrollment. Written agreements are required to be updated to include:

  • Time, place, manner, and frequency of communicating with parents or guardians regarding academic progress
  • Access to connectivity and devices for participation and completion of work in specific resources
  • Level of satisfactory progress that would trigger an evaluation of whether the pupil should be allowed to continue in IS
  • Detailed statement of supports to address the needs of pupils not performing at grade level, English learners, and pupils with exceptional needs, in foster care, or experiencing homelessness
  • Provision for electronic signatures for written agreements

When Can Local Educational Agencies Waive the Right to Independent Study for Students with Disabilities?

School districts may establish interdistrict transfer agreements with other school districts or contract with a COE to meet the requirements of offering IS for the 2021-22 school year. The requirement to offer IS can be waived entirely for a school district by the COE, or for the COE or school district in a single district county by the California Department of Education (CDE), if:

  • The district demonstrates the requirement to offer IS under AB 130 creates an unreasonable fiscal burden; and
  • Entering an interdistrict contract or transfer agreement is not a viable option.

What Are the School Site Requirements Under AB 130?

School districts may operate a separate, virtual school as an Alternative School of Choice (ASOC) using either of the following options:

  • Traditional IS instruction based on a time value of assignments as determined by the instructor
  • Course-based IS instruction based on enrollment in LEA courses with attendance counted if course requirements are met with satisfactory progress

Will Choosing IS Require a Change of Placement for Special Education Students?

Enrollment in IS is a change of placement for a special education student. This change requires an agreement between the LEA and the parent or guardian, either in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, or by amendment without a meeting. A school or LEA must make an offer of free appropriate public education (FAPE) that considers how FAPE is provided in an IS setting.

What Are the Options for Resolution When an LEA and Parent or Guardian Disagree About Placement?

A parent or guardian and an LEA that are not able to come to an agreement about a student’s placement may utilize the dispute resolution process. The LEA or special education local plan area can provide information about alternative dispute resolution (ADR). For experienced legal assistance, contact Woodsmall Law Group at (626) 440-0028. Our California special education attorneys provide practical and sophisticated representation related to educational and community access rights of individuals with special needs.