The MLO Minute: “WHERE ARE WE NOW: Three Years Since The COVID-19 Pandemic”
By Michael Connolly, Esq., Supervising Partner of The Special Education Department —
It is hard to believe that three years ago the world as we knew it came to a screeching halt as it grappled with the COVID-19 Pandemic, with devastating heath, economic, social-emotional, and educational impacts. People were dying, most businesses were closed or remote, schools were closed, and people were staying sheltered in their homes. Although in many respects things have gotten back to normal — business are open, schools are open, people are going out to stores, restaurants, and events three years later — we are just beginning to realize the extent of the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on society, and in particular, on education.
We know based on post-pandemic data, that extended virtual learning and school closures had a significant academic and social-emotional impact on students, and in particular, students with special needs. For example, student scores in reading and math are at some of the lowest levels recorded. Likewise, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation among students is up across the board, particularly among teenage girls. However, there is a silver lining to the pandemic – although, it certainly doesn’t make up for its devastating impact on students. For example, school districts held IEP meetings virtually, giving parents more flexibility; allowing them to attend during a lunch break or from the office instead of taking time off from work to attend in-person. The virtual format for IEP and similar meetings continues despite a return to the pre-pandemic status quo in many other respects. Similarly, school districts have become more flexible with virtual learning options during short periods of illness or school closures due to inclement weather. In fact, some school districts have removed “snow days” altogether from their calendar.
The most significant silver lining, however, would be the opportunity that parents had to work with their child and observe their child’s educational program – albeit in less-than-optimal circumstances – in a way that was not previously available to them. For parents of students with special needs, this new opportunity allowed them to develop a better understanding of their child’s needs, how they learn, and what supports and services their child requires to learn. As such, parents have become more knowledgeable and effective advocates for their children.
Throughout the pandemic, MLO continued to advocate on behalf of students with disabilities and their families in a verity of educational matters, disability-based discrimination, Title IX actions, and damages cases. We offer initial consultations at no cost and are often able to take cases on a contingency basis so that families do not to pay hourly legal fees. Families should not hesitate to reach out to us by calling 610-648-9300 or by clicking here.