Editor’s note: This blog post was our attempt to be responsive to members who have asked us to provide guidance about what to do in cases of teachers’ strikes or walkouts. The information is accurate, and we hope it proves useful to those who asked for it. However, in meeting our responsibility to provide that information, we didn’t go far enough to emphasize ASHA’s unwavering support for our school-based members seeking to ensure appropriate funding for services and professionals.
In fact, ensuring meaningful access, robust coverage, and appropriate pay for early intervention and treatment services is a foundational issue directive in ASHA’s Public Policy Agenda. ASHA addresses this issue in a number of ways, including engaging lawmakers and developing resources for members.
“Given that more walkouts may occur, we want you to know that we support your efforts to advocate for equitable salaries, benefits, and resources,” says ASHA 2018 President Elise Davis-McFarland, PhD, CCC-SLP.
If educators in your district go on strike, what’s your obligation to students?
With the recent teachers walkout/strike in West Virginia, similar efforts under way in Oklahoma and Kentucky, and a pending action in Arizona, school-based speech-language pathologists want to know what they need to do.
In responding to request for guidance, ASHA notes that school-based SLPs should be aware of two issues:
- Their ethical responsibility to students, as noted in the “client abandonment” rule in ASHA’s Code of Ethics. Principle I, Rule T states “Individuals shall provide reasonable notice and information about alternatives for obtaining care in the event that they can no longer provide professional services.” Individual state laws or licensure board regulations may also include relevant provisions.
- Their legal responsibility to students with disabilities under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including carrying out the provisions of students’ IEPs
If the schools close as a result of the strike, then school districts are responsible for notifying families. If schools close and students miss school, SLPs should:
- Document their attempts to provide continuity of service, including sending homework packets or providing correspondence to parents as needed for questions regarding services.
- Provide advance notice to families on your caseload potentially affected. This advance communication may assist with defending claims against client abandonment. (More explanation is available in ASHA’s Issues in Ethics Statement on Client Abandonment.)
- Check with your school district’s office of special education or with the State Department of Education for specific guidance on IDEA-related issues, such as free and appropriate public education, evaluation and IEP timelines, and alternative assessments. (Read ASHA’s document on missed speech-language sessions in schoolsfor more information.)
Any SLP concerned about the legal obligations in their employment contract should consider speaking with an employment attorney to clarify their responsibilities.
Parents of students may, in the case of a prolonged strike, take legal action to receive compensatory services. If schools agree to make up the services, SLPs may be asked to work additional hours during the school day or during traditional vacation times to provide missed sessions.
For more information, contact your state speech-language-hearing association or Janet Deppe, ASHA director of state affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jaumeiko Coleman, ASHA director of school services, at email@example.com.