Appeal to Dr Brabrand and board to provide in-classroom instruction to special needs kids

Appeal to Dr Brabrand and board to provide in-classroom instruction to special needs kids

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Maya H. started this petition to Fairfax County Public School Superintendent and

We, parents of special needs elementary students in Fairfax County public schools, are reaching out to all the recipients of this petition, urging you to provide the option of in-person education for some of the children most vulnerable and most severely impacted by school closure since last March, the special needs children. Our petition is for children in the PAC, enhanced autism, and non-categorical classes (the non-cat students specifically for being absent from the board’s return to school discussions). We want to lend our voices to the voiceless and urge you to remedy this terrible inequity that is causing our children to fall behind at a staggering rate. We support families who need the online option due to health risks, but those of us who are being crushed by the terrible consequences of e-learning ask to be given a choice for in-person education. This petition is signed by parents and advocates of students with special needs.

We have nothing but high praise and deep appreciation for the teachers who are pouring their hearts into making the online experience successful. This is not a reflection on the teachers’ abilities. This is a failure of the e-learning medium itself and its unsuitability to our children’s special needs for the reasons mentioned below.

 

1.      Distance learning does not provide adequate support for children who struggle with communication and maintaining focus. Many of our children suffer attention deficits and have difficulty sitting down and processing information without individual prompts. The teachers’ inability to see all their students on Blackboard prevents them from reading nonverbal cues from students who have communication challenges. This has shifted the burden of educating children with special needs from the school to the parents. For many families, especially those with single parents or parents who work outside of the home, the burden is untenable. Too many families of students with disabilities are left with the choice of having a job/earning an income or educating their children.

2.       Blackboard is not a user-friendly or all-inclusive platform. Many of our children need an adult to navigate them from task to task and move between different Blackboard links throughout the day. Teachers are expected to teach a class with a platform that allows them to see 2 or 3 other students at a time, leaving them unable to observe or help the remaining students, missing out on nonverbal cues children with communication challenges may be sending. Children are asked to listen to their teachers without being able to see them as they navigate to other applications. The number of applications and complicated login structures, including Google classroom, Google apps, Clever, MyOn, and Flipgrid are impossible for many of our children to navigate without a fully vested adult sitting with them constantly. Homework has to be printed, completed and then turned over to the teacher in a scanned copy or a screenshot. How is a special needs elementary age child expected to complete these tasks without help?

3.  As a consequence of e-learning, IEPs have been revised to provide a significantly reduced number of service hours to children with special needs. This accommodates the modified online schedule rather than providing the services our children desperately need, and which are secured to them by law. Many students have had their special education service hours reduced by half. Reduced IEP service hours feed the socio-economic inequities that are increasing throughout our region. Families with the means to do so are spending thousands of dollars to replace services in the private sector while other families simply go without.

4.      Distance learning has sidelined the social-emotional IEP goals of many students. One of the fundamental needs of children with autism and other communication challenges is socialization. Many students cannot socialize through a computer screen, and they have experienced significant regression since school closures in March.

5.      The distance learning daily schedule is too long. Students with special needs cannot sit in front of a screen for 7 to 8 hours per day and stay available for learning. Forcing them to sit down and listen is resulting in anxiety, blank stares, elopement, or a total aversion to education. We are concerned about our children’s mental health. Too many children have experienced instances of emotional break down, tearful outbursts, and regression as a direct result of distance learning.

It is absolutely unthinkable that, in the State of Virginia, entertainment venues are open while schools are deemed unsafe. It reflects poorly on our community how little we are prioritizing vulnerable children in our collective COVID response. We need all Fairfax County schools to provide in-person instruction and related services so that students with disabilities are receiving the meaningful education, supports, and services they require and are guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Each day our children are denied equal access to education, they fall further behind. Experts estimate that it may take up to 2 years to make up for the loss of in-person learning in the spring. We urge the FCPS leadership to find ways to bring students with special needs into the classroom as soon as possible. We appeal to the governor and lawmakers to provide schools with the resources needed to provide reasonable accommodations for students with special needs to return to school. Let us not fail this group of at-risk children. Instead, let this be a moment of leadership and advocacy on their behalf.

Thank you for giving this petition due consideration. We greatly appreciate everyone’s support.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 500!
At 500 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!