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Countless reports have come in confirming that distance learning worked for some, but not for most. Although some reports found that some special education students preferred distance learning for issues like working on their own pace, under less pressure, and less destractions, others maintain that it left lots of students with disabilities far behind. Advocates say moving their recovery services online could make things worse.

  • Minneapolis Public Schools summer programs were changed from in-person to online.
  • For many students with disabilities this was difficult because they the summer support to recover ground lost during distance learning, but that format did not work for many of them.
  • The district said it could not staff in-person programs.
  • Parents and advocates noted that
    • other Minnesota districts and a dozen other Minneapolis summer programs were fully staffed.
    • federal and state laws prohibit both making unilateral changes to special education services and relying on parents to supervise instruction, advocates wrote in a letter to district leaders.      
    • the decision discriminated against a category of students who require the most support, overwhelmingly children of color, and blasted school leaders for rejecting options suggested by the families.
    • they have better alternatives to what was proposed.
    • decision was indicative of the reason trust between students, families and the district is at an all-time low
    • reason many families are choosing to leave the district. 
  • District could not hire enough licensed special education teachers and had moved approximately 450 students to online learning.
    • district “is proactively addressing this issue through a residency program with the University of St. Thomas and developing an internal paid teacher preparation program.
    • Won’t help now, but may in the future
  • Neighboring school districts of comparable size were fully staffed, some dramatically increased pay.
  • Post pandemic Minnesota enacted a law requiring schools to meet last fall with the families of every special education student to create a “recovery” plan ensuring that, going forward, they’d get the therapies and tailored instruction they missed. 
  • Families say, the district discriminated against a group of children who already spend the majority of their time in segregated classrooms by moving them online en masse. 
  • Equity advpcates consider the move to virtual learning is a step towards segregation. 
  • This move is basically handing off the responsibility to a family member on the other side of the computer, questioning the legality of that.
  • More than 80% of the students affected are nonwhite, raising even more concern.


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