As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wane, many families are looking forward to the reopening of schools. However, recent reports suggest that many parents of children with disabilities feel concerned with this transition, particularly regarding the amount and quality of accommodations that will be available for students upon their return.
Are schools prepared when it comes to special education?
The sudden shift to remote learning in 2020 created a challenging transition for both students and parents. Unfortunately, a recent report indicates that as students in California return to school, our schools will be even less prepared to support students than they were previously.
Before the pandemic, schools across the country already were struggling to provide services for students protected under the following two federal laws:
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
The aforementioned study found that a sample of over three thousand districts (comprised of nearly 1.8 million children) were not providing 504 plans to their students. This data raises the following question: if schools do not have the resources to identify and support children requiring 504 plans, will they be prepared to provide the support needed for students with individualized education plans (IEPs)?
Families have their doubts
Many California families are concerned about how their children’s education will fare following the return from remote learning to in-person education. While many parents look forward to their children once again receiving the in-person services they need (such as speech, language, or physical therapies), many continue to worry that schools struggling prior to the pandemic will require an even larger effort to bring students back up to speed – especially students with disabilities.
How can parents help children get the services they need?
As families continue to face uncertainty during the reopening of California schools, parents find themselves wondering: how can I protect my child’s best interests?
Whether students have an IEP or a 504 plan, it is advantageous for parents to:
- Understand the rights their child has under state and federal laws
- Remember that they are an active member of their child’s education team
- Open the lines of communication with teachers and other staff
- Instill confidence in their children to help prepare them for the road ahead.
It’s natural for parents to worry, and as current reports indicate, there is evidence validating these concerns. However, parents must remember their power to advocate for their children’s education.