It is now a quantifiable fact that school closures do more harm than good. We have test scores, increased suicide rates, mental health decreases, and more warning signals from the New York Times to the Democrats. We know that prolonged closures adversely affect our children and that the unions in Chicago and elsewhere pushing for remote learning are doing everything they can to keep children out of schools.
While the mental, academic, and social health of all of our children is important, there is a demographic of students who suffer the most: Children with special needs.
Students who fall on the autism spectrum, students who need accommodations, and students who generally just need extra support in the classroom are now left without because there is no classroom to be in and no help at home. While no one knows their child and his or her needs better than their parents, and the parents can provide some support at home, there are very talented, very well trained professionals at school who have dedicated their lives to helping these students get the most out of an education system that is built for the average, everyday kid – not the kid with exceptionalities.
Sometimes, these professionals and the services a school district provides are the only things standing between a student with special needs and the system leaving them behind.
This isn’t just about coursework, either. School is sometimes the only other place besides home where a child learns social cues, human interaction, and healthy emotional development. I’ve written about this before, but it’s especially true for these students. You have to have human interaction outside of your family in order to develop socially and emotionally, and for many students with needs beyond what the average student requires, school is the place where not just their social and emotional development, but indeed their very understanding of even basic social cues, can occur.
Students who are on the spectrum, for example, can struggle a lot with this. Others, kids with physical barriers like poor vision or hearing, need to be trained to pick up on things that most kids can easily interpret. Then, there are professionals in speech development who can offer the training students need to overcome speech barriers – training that parents may struggle to teach or may not have time to give in the midst of everything else that is part of parenting.
If you have never had the opportunity to work with or see some of these children in a school setting, what you have not witnessed is both the struggle that can take place and the absolute perseverance of these children. They fight, at times much harder than anyone will ever truly know, and when they find their success and achieve their goals it is one of the best moments you can witness in a child’s life.
But unions are pushing to close schools again. They defy the science. They defy the data. These are people who are fine with kids learning remotely or not learning at all (and, oftentimes, there isn’t much difference) because teaching while people are getting sick is just such a hassle.
Remote/virtual learning is not an education plan. It is, at best, a temporary solution that can be implemented on a school-by-school basis. It is not something that makes sense for entire school systems to adopt long term or for unions to push for. It actively hurts our kids, and while some can handle it in the long run, our most vulnerable children suffer when these decisions are made. That is unacceptable for a profession that is supposed to be serving these children.