The U.S. Department of Education will hold a virtual summit on June 22 — the first in a series of events focused on addressing the inequitable impact of the pandemic on students of color and other high-need groups.

Setting the stage for the conversation, the department’s Office for Civil Rights released a report Wednesday, summarizing what it calls a “developing story” of how the shift to remote learning and the public health crisis widened disparities in students’ access to a quality education.

Drawing on existing surveys, research and assessment data, the report recapped how vulnerable groups, including English learners, students with disabilities and LGBTQ students, faced significant barriers to learning before the pandemic, only to be further cut off from the support they needed during school closures. The report comes the same week as a public hearing on Title IX and follows last week’s announcement that the Office for Civil Rights will accept public comments on discrimination in school discipline, offering further evidence that an arm of the department that was downsized during the previous administration is leading much of the agenda so far under Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

The department also released guidance for how states and districts can implement the “maintenance of equity” provision of the American Rescue Plan, which is intended to prevent budget and staffing cuts at high-poverty schools.

The upcoming summit, guidance and report comply with an executive order President Joe Biden issued when he took office, directing federal agencies to examine the challenges facing underserved communities.

Offering 11 observations of the pandemic’s impact on students, the report noted “worrisome signs” that academic performance has fallen below per-pandemic levels, that nearly all students have experienced mental health challenges and that gay, lesbian and transgender students have been at increased risk of isolation, harassment or abuse.

Read the full article about spotlighting equity issues in education during the pandemic by Linda Jacobson at The 74.