Giving Compass' Take:
- School districts that don't offer virtual learning opportunities this year or offer minimal services online hinder progress for students with disabilities.
- How can school districts keep innovating solutions for remote learners as the school year continues? How can donors help build capacity for student services?
- Learn why COVID-19 is a crisis for children with disabilities.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
As the new school year approached, Susan Graham wanted to know: Would her California school district have a remote learning option for her fifth grader?
State lawmakers put strict limits on virtual learning this year, so her son’s district wasn’t offering daily classes over Zoom anymore. Instead, the district had an “independent study” program. Graham hoped it could work as a stopgap until her 10-year-old, who has Down syndrome and a respiratory condition, could be vaccinated against COVID.
At a virtual town hall about the remote program, though, she was told it was a “general education” program only. If her son enrolled, he would lose access to modified lessons, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.
“I was pretty stunned,” Graham said. “This is not inclusive.”
School districts don’t have to offer virtual learning this year, and most have scaled back their virtual offerings to encourage students to return to in-person school. But where virtual school is available, some students with disabilities are finding it’s closed to them — or they are being asked to give up certain kinds of support to enroll.
That’s left families, advocates, lawyers, and school districts disagreeing on a key question: With schools open nationwide, what exactly must districts provide online?
Federal officials have stressed the importance of in-person learning for students with disabilities, many of whom have struggled to learn online while trading hands-on services for virtual stand-ins. “The best thing we could do for students with disabilities is the same thing we can do for all students — get them back in the classroom,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said at a Senate hearing last month.
Read the full article about remote learning for students with disabilities by Kalyn Belsha at Chalkbeat.