The moment DC’s schools moved to remote learning, our lawyers started compiling all the questions we knew we needed to ask the children and families we serve:
- Do you have enough computers or tablets for all those who need one in your home?
- Do you have internet access with a strong enough data plan to handle all the extra time your children will be spending online?
- Has the school shared a distance learning plan for each of your children?
- What special education instruction will they continue receiving?
We immediately reached out by phone, email, text and FaceTime calls to every client. Here’s what we heard and how we responded.
A 17-year-old foster youth was home on spring break when her college shifted to remote learning for the remainder of the year. She did not have enough money to retrieve her computer—and couldn’t participate in online classes without it. Her Children’s Law Center lawyer successfully advocated for DC’s Child and Family Services Agency to cover the costs for her to return to school to pick up her clothes, books and computer.
One mom was unable to pick up critical education packets for her 7-year-old son. He was too young to leave at home, but she knew his asthma put him at heightened risk if he was exposed to COVID-19.
“Not a problem,” said her Children’s Law Center lawyer. “We’ll get the materials from his school and mail them to you.”
Another mom let us know that her second-grade daughter received school lessons that were not tailored to meet her special education needs. We knew right away the girl would get frustrated and fall further behind. Our lawyer reached out to the school’s special education coordinator to line up remote speech and language therapy and track down a learning packet that was more in line with her abilities.
The list goes on.
For every challenge, our tenacious and creative team of lawyers, investigators, family outreach and social workers have tracked down answers, gathered materials and solved problems with each family.
A month from now, DC Public Schools will wrap up the school year—a full three weeks earlier than scheduled. Many of DC’s charter schools may do the same. Meanwhile, some of the students we work with are just this week receiving computers to use for their remote learning.
There is no question this pandemic is putting more than 13,000 special education students at risk of falling further behind. We are already advocating with schools to provide compensatory education to help students catch up. And we will work with the Mayor and the DC Council to protect critical funds in next year’s school budget to make sure that schools and families are ready if there is a need for remote learning again this fall.
One thing is certain. The calls to Children’s Law Center will increase as more students need help. That is why we are working to get families the answers and resources they need to keep their child’s education on the right path.
On behalf of the students we work with—thank you, as always, for your support.
Tracy L. Goodman
Director, Healthy Together