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Equal Opportunity for All? Not for Students with Disabilities During COVID-19 Pandemic
For Immediate Release:
April 7, 2020
The $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization bill contains a provision that gives Education Secretary Betsy DeVos the power to waive parts of the federal special education rules while school districts are struggling to teach their students online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cora True-Frost, an associate professor in Syracuse University’s College of Law and the parent of a child with multiple disabilities, says this “escape hatch” out of special education is in line with the government’s long history of failing to afford equal rights to people with disabilities.
True-Frost specializes in international law and constitutional and human rights law. Her primary research interests include the development of international norms, with a focus on the role of international organizations and the United Nations Security Council in these processes.
True-Frost recently wrote a commentary for Newsday called Parenting in the shadow of scarce ventilators that expresses her concerns that people with disabilities will be last in line for ventilators during the pandemic.
True-Frost is available for an interview to discuss the impact of the provision regarding special education rules. For use in your stories, here’s what True Frost says about this decision:
“Even as the government leverages a $2 trillion stimulus package for businesses and non-disabled individuals, it is entirely unacceptable to cut necessary supports for our most vulnerable members of society, especially children with disabilities. The ‘escape hatch’ out of special education obligations in the stimulus bill is all too familiar for people with disabilities, who are most often considered last in policymaking.
“Times like these challenge our society’s true commitment to equality. Children with or without disabilities have equal rights to access the curriculum during this trying time. Children with disabilities require the accommodations provided in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Americans with Disabilities Act in order to be educated. If texts are provided, they need to be accessible to all – blind and sighted students. If online chats with teachers are provided, they need to be accessible to children with communication disabilities, not only their non-disabled classmates.
“While the actual education provided to all students may necessarily be diminished somewhat by the urgency of the COVID-19 situation, it is axiomatic that education cannot be provided to non-disabled students while being denied to disabled students.
“Unfortunately, both legislators and government agencies have a long history of failing to afford people with disabilities equal rights, hence the need for the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Permitting cuts to vital services and supports for our most vulnerable society members — children with disabilities – in order to ensure the edge of the non-disabled students or the comfort of the administration, is not acceptable.
“Even as our society changes and struggles, we must remain committed to the idea that we provide equal opportunity for all.”
Thank you for your consideration. To request an interview with Prof. True-Frost or for more information, please contact:
Media Relations Specialist
T 315.443.2990 M 315.254.9037