Nearly 30 disability rights and education advocacy organizations have launched EducatingAllLearners.org, a resource hub and online network designed to answer questions and provide insight about remote learning for special education students during the coronavirus crisis.
Despite the difficulty schools may face in offering online instruction during the pandemic, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has reaffirmed that districts must provide special education services and supply students with disabilities equal access to the same opportunities.
But keeping services flowing for special education students has been difficult. Confusion over guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and fear of violating federal laws, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, has left some school districts struggling to get their online learning programs off the ground.
Acknowledging that difficulty, the alliance aims to provide resources to ensure the millions of students with disabilities in the nation's schools aren't further marginalized, said Lauren Rhim, the executive director of the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools.
The global pandemic, which has led to the closure of at least 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and affected at least 55.1 million students, "reveals how little we prepared educators to work with children in an online learning environment," Rhim said.
EducatingAllLearners.org users can create a free account to share ideas, contribute to discussions and access case studies and webinars. The site will also host virtual office hours with special education attorneys, parent advocates, and educators to field questions about legal rights and classroom practice.
"Schools are in crisis mode, adapting quickly to meet the needs of students," said Erin Mote, the executive director of InnovateEDU, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit. "We began to see all these diversified, diffuse resources popping up all over the place. We wanted to provide a place where all those resources could come together."