While we continue to struggle to figure out how to educate students 12 months into the global pandemic, we cannot afford to lose sight of the pressing need to address concerns about disproportionate discipline.
This winter, we informally surveyed local special educators from New Orleans charter schools to hear their on-the-ground perspectives on meeting the needs of students with disabilities during this extremely challenging COVID year. The results include important insight into the challenges special educators are currently facing.
The Center applauds the new Biden administration for prioritizing students’ needs during COVID-19 by issuing an executive order supporting the reopening and continuing operation of schools. Students, especially those already on the margins, have borne disproportionate impacts from the pandemic, and swift action is necessary to ensure equity and avoid additional learning loss.
The members of the Equity Coalition believe that it is now more important than ever for schools to commit to permanently rejecting harsh exclusionary discipline practices for all students and especially for those with disabilities.
Eight months after COVID-19 first shut down schools across the country, the state of education in the United States remains in flux. Students with disabilities, in particular, continue to be disproportionately impacted by school closures and lack of access to services. As cases tick upward once again, school leaders and administrators are likely to face tough decisions in the coming months. Despite the immense difficulty of the situation, we have identified several key strategies that will set school leaders up for success.
Children with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic—both in and out of school—and the enormous challenge of adapting to the new normal has placed schools and districts under financial strain. In light of these facts, the Center is proud to support the Supporting Children with Disabilities During COVID-19 Act (H.R. 8523).
As New Orleans educators and advocates for children, we are reflecting on the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the ongoing manifestations of that trauma for our community and our children. With humility and transparency, we examine the mistakes we made in our efforts to reopen schools and educate children, especially children with disabilities, in the wake of that unimaginable disaster and loss. We hope that our lessons learned will prove valuable to educators nationwide as they reopen schools in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disproportionate discipline of students with disabilities is a long-running crisis—and with the new rules and considerations around COVID-19, the stakes are even higher. Instead of simply reacting as incidents come up, however, schools have the opportunity to develop proactive discipline policies that serve students during the pandemic and also provide positive structures for the future.
We are deeply appreciative of the important clarification provided by Secretary DeVos to states ensuring states must plan to administer statewide summative assessments during the 2020-2021 school year. This is consistent with the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which the Center worked collaboratively to support with charter school leaders as well as civil rights and special education advocates.
This document outlines the Center’s Equity Coalition and its seven core principles.