News media is packed with stories about state and district plans for the return to school in the Fall. The stories reflect an intense planning process fraught with logistical, emotional, ethical, and financial considerations. Under the postings for these stories, a reader can scroll through hundreds of impassioned comments by caring parents and community members. In many districts, this planning has resulted in spirited public debate. In some parts of the country, students have already returned to school.
Yet, thousands of the most vulnerable students are not included at all in these plans. Students housed in juvenile detention facilities, public and private special education schools, psychiatric hospitals, alternative programs, residential treatment facilities, and immigration detention (among others) have the same rights to receive a public education. Yet… silence.
Even if the planning for these students began now, it would take time as it has for other students. If in fact, planning is occurring, it is neither public nor subject to the same level of transparency and discussion as for other students.
The National Disability Rights Network’s (NDRN) Executive Director Curt Decker has this request: “School re-opening plans that do not include planning for all students are incomplete. Do not approve them until they include every child. Every child deserves the care, consideration, and in some cases, vociferous disagreement about their safety and their future.”