The End of SB 98 Distance Learning As We Know It!


On June 29, 2020, before the start of the 2020-21 school year, Governor Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 98 (“SB 98”). SB 98 provided, among numerous other provisions, requirements regarding the provision of distance learning and in-person instruction by local educational agencies (“LEAs”) — school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education. [1]  Some of the requirements added by SB 98 terminated as of June 30, 2021, including those provided in Education Code Sections 43500 to 43511. These statutes expressly allowed LEAs to provide distance learning to students in lieu of in-person instruction in either of the following circumstances:

  • “On a local educational agency or schoolwide level as a result of an order or guidance from a state public health officer or a local public health officer.”
  • For students who: (1) were “medically fragile”; (2) “would be put at risk”; or (3) were self-quarantining.

So what happens now that Education Code Sections 43500 to 43511 are inoperative?

Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind as schools return to pre-COVID “normal” operations:

  • “Distance learning,” as authorized by SB 98, became inoperative on June 30, 2021;
  • In-person instruction generally should be provided to students unless they qualify for an alternative learning program/placement, e.g., home hospital instruction, home instruction, independent study, etc.;
  • IEP teams continue to have flexibility in determining a student’s IEP placement, including whether the student may be placed in an independent study program;
  • An IEP-eligible student may be placed in an independent study program only by way of an IEP team decision, and not a unilateral decision by the LEA or parents/legal guardians/educational rights holders; and
  • Not every amendment to the California Education Code that was made by SB 98 has terminated. Education Code Section 56345(a)(9)(A) is here to stay — LEAs must continue to include in the student’s IEP the “means by which the individualized education program will be provided under emergency conditions…in which instruction or services, or both, cannot be provided to the pupil either at the school or in person for more than 10 school days.”

Notably, no state or federal guidance has been released pertaining to how the termination of these distance learning statutes may affect LEAs during the 2021 extended school year or the 2021-22 regular school year. We will continue to provide any relevant updates to this issue.

If you have any questions regarding this Alert, you can contact the authors or your regular attorney at Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo.

[1] For further details regarding the provisions of SB 98, please see our firm’s July 6, 2020, Alert.

This AALRR publication is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Firm is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process. 

© 2021 Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo



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