As schools continue to be shut down due to Covid-19, many parents of students in special education are frustrated, overwhelmed and angry because their local school district has failed to provide the proper virtual schooling necessary for their kids. While House Secretary, Betsy DeVos continues to consider IDEA waivers, parents remain concerned about how congress will be held accountable to enforce special education requirements across the nation.
On the other hand, teachers are just as frustrated because many districts were not prepared for a pandemic and have been forced to “build the plane while they fly it.” In talking with teachers and district administrators, they feel overwhelmed with the obligation to become an online instructor and tech support overnight while trying to balance being a caretaker, chef, and home school teacher for their own children.
The districts who were already set up with a strong educational technology department and personalized learning systems were able to easily transition to distance learning, while other districts have been scrambling to play catch up and provide teacher training.
School districts who were not previously set up for technology are providing families with a mobile devise or the option to check out Chrome-books with a personal hotspot from the district or they can sign up for free or low-cost internet service while training teachers how to provide distance learning plans. Some teachers have started holding virtual lessons or check-ins with students on their own while others are not comfortable providing online academic instruction.
Backed up by the teacher’s union, transitioning classroom lessons to an online program has been left to each teacher’s discretion for what is temporally expedient. It seems as though most teachers are pushing out material to parents on Google Classroom, including videos, reading, writing and math assignments without providing specific guidance to which websites and lessons would be most relevant for each student leaving parents lost and frustrated.
Each state is allowing the local school district to decide whether to require graded work but either way, student’s grades can only increase and will not be punitive if a student does not take part in distance learning plans while schools are shut down. Backed up by the teacher’s union, transitioning classroom lessons to an online program has been left to each teacher’s discretion for what is temporally expedient. It seems as though most teachers are pushing out material to parents on Google Classroom, including videos, reading, writing and math assignments without providing specific guidance to which websites and lessons would be most relevant for each student leaving parents lost and frustrated.
This gives the impression that teachers have no expectations for learning, which places the burden on parents to teach their child. Because distance learning plans consist of optional-only enrichment activities, whether or not teachers will provide virtual academic instruction is also voluntary. Most parents are struggling to fill the role of educator without the skills, support or guidance to homeschool their child.
For students in special education, school is more than the content they learn. The classroom provides needed structure to their everyday lives. School closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic have left students with disabilities without routine services and therapies, a disruption that parents say will likely lead to academic, behavioral and social regression. Additionally, the suspending of related services like speech and occupational therapy has halted students’ progress.
The U.S. Department of Education has given wiggle room for school districts across the nation to navigate federal disability laws and ensure equity in how all students will be served by allowing them to take into consideration the health, safety, and well-being of all students and staff. Conversely, IDEA remains in effect with the exception of assessment requirements.
Parents continue to contact me on a daily basis to inquire when services and virtual instruction will begin and how their child’s IEP will be implemented. In my weekly Town Hall meetings, the consensus of parents from across the nation report that the current distance learning plans are not ensuring students with equitable access to a program that is appropriately tailored to their child’s individualized needs as determined though the IEP process.
Town Hall Meetings serve to deliver the current updates on the latest decisions being made regarding IDEA in this unprecedented time of uncertainty for kids in special education. Now is not the time for parents to stop advocating for kids on IEPs. Stay informed and stay connected in the Advocates 4 Angels community.
Our Town Hall Meetings are every Wednesday evening at 5:00pm PT / 8:00 pm ET.
To join us, please CLICK HERE to register to get the dial in information.
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