Needs of special education students – GazetteNET

Published: 7/6/2021 6:30:11 PM

On June 14, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released its document Further Guidance on Effectively Allocating Resources to Support Recovery and Acceleration. Throughout this document, DESE urges school districts to “prioritize[e] funding to pro-actively and intensively support immediate needs of students whose learning, development, and health were most affected by COVID …” and to “have a sense of urgency about quickly and effectively engaging with and supporting those students who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.”

As an attorney who represents families of students with learning disabilities, I can state with certainty that special education students are absolutely among those hardest hit by the impact of the pandemic on our educational system. Many students with learning disabilities simply have not been able to access online education. Students who require one-on-one assistance, students with hearing and/or vision impairment, students who require occupational therapy, physical therapy, or speech therapy, students with attentional or emotional barriers to learning – all of these suffered tremendously during online learning. Many of them require extended school year to avoid regression over the 2-month summer break to avoid regression. Can you imagine how much regression has taken place over the 14-month period when most schools were closed?!

In light of these realities, I call on every school committee to: immediately reach out to and provide appropriate services to students with disabilities; prioritize new resources for targeted interventions and supports for students with disabilities; increase personnel and services, including special education teachers and support staff, and therapeutic professionals.

Special education students and their families deserve this heightened attention to their needs. They have suffered disproportionately during this pandemic. They deserve to receive both funding and services commensurate with the losses they have suffered. On the issue of spending COVID recovery funds, I call on each and every school committee member to respond justly.

Christine M. Tetreault

West Springfield