Assistive Technology: Responsibility for Damage

Submitted by Tim on Mon, 11/25/2013 - 09:33 AM

For children with special needs, adding a computer tablet can be extremely beneficial to the student’s educational progress. The technology can do new things that were previously impossible, present established concepts in new and exciting ways, and can hold the interest of a student who might otherwise have difficulty focusing. Unfortunately, fragile technology does not always combine well with active children. When the technology breaks, replacement can be expensive – so school districts might seek assistance from the family to reduce the expense.  

The overarching principle is that something that is necessary for a special needs student to receive an appropriate education must be provided for free. Thus, the regulations on assistive technology services say that the school district is responsible for maintaining, repairing, and replacing any assistive technology device.1 That means a school district generally should not be seeking reimbursement from a family for damage to a device. Whether the student will be given another device is a separate question, but if the original device was necessary to provide an appropriate education, it seems strange to say that the school district can provide an appropriate education without the device.  

Normally, a device is used by the student at school, and does not go home with the student when the school day ends. But sometimes, the device needs to be sent home so that the appropriate plan can continue in the home. When that happens, the rule generally is that parents cannot be charged for normal use, and wear and tear. But federal law does not override any state law or case that holds parents liable for theft, loss, or damage due to negligence or misuse of the assistive device.  

Before the assistive technology is sent home, school districts often request the parent sign an acknowledgement of liability. Read this carefully, and if the notice holds you liable for ordinary wear and tear, ask the district what policy requires this language – because it risks forcing you to pay for a part of your child’s appropriate education that the school district should be providing for free.  

1 34 C.F.R. § 300.6(c)  

Upcoming Events:  

I will be speaking about the basics of special education law at the Reach Enrichment Center on Saturday, December 7 at 10:00 am. Please RSVP by calling 404-963-6624.  

The next meeting of Decoding Dyslexia Georgia will be December 2, 2013.  

The 6th Annual Conference of the Georgia Association for Positive Behavior Support is December 4 & 5, 2013.  

The IDA-GA Dimensions of Dyslexia Conference is February 1, 2014.  

The Across the Spectrum conference will be March 13 & 14, 2014.

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