Vanaman German’s Janeen Steel Discusses with NPR, Students’ Struggles with Distance Learning

In a story by Cory Turner and Rebecca Klein, NPR describes how families across the country feel after over a year of turmoil in schooling. Many families saw their children cease to progress as services were unavailable during remote learning. IEPs could not be followed appropriately, shunting instruction and therapy into the home.

Now, families would like to receive compensatory services to help students resume learning and making progress. Districts and schools, however, take the view that all students were impacted by the pandemic lockdowns and that families should work within the existing system.

Regarding this conflict, the authors spoke with Janeen Steel, a senior attorney at Vanaman German:

“There is a process already. . .We have it in the law. It’s called an IEP.” Schools simply need to follow the law, she says. Steel has also seen districts offer families a modicum of help, but only in return for waiving their rights to any other pandemic-related services.

As schools reopen and students resume in-person instruction, families are faced with the possibility that the only path to successful education is through increased and zealous advocacy. Unfortunately, this mindset runs counter to the expectations of most. As Janeen points out:

“Nobody drops your kid off at school to think, ‘you’ve got to hire a lawyer.’ . . . You trust that [school staff] are the experts.”

However, many families will have to seek greater levels of service. Achieving the best outcome for every student will require the attention and dedication of everyone, from educators to advocates to families. Together, every child can reach their potential.

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