by Andrea Sears
PHILADELPHIA — Parents and students struggling to understand how their right to an education is affected by the COVID pandemic can find answers in an online back-to-school guide.
The guide, compiled by the Education Law Center, makes the point that, despite the unprecedented challenges facing schools this year, students continue to deserve equitable, affirming and culturally responsive school spaces. According to Hetal Dhagat, a staff attorney at the Center, this year’s guide also addresses the need for schools to change policies and practices that make learning spaces unsafe for students, especially students of color.
“We want families to know that whether your child is receiving their education in-person, virtually or through a hybrid model, they still retain their important public-education rights,” Dhagat said.
The Back-to-School Guide is available online at www.elc-pa.org.
The guide has more than 20 fact sheets on issues that parents want to know about. Dhagat noted it also includes a checklist for schools that are providing online learning to ensure they are equitably serving all students.
“For example, we are talking about access to internet, those really basic necessities, to ensure that online learning can even begin to occur,” she said.
The guide includes sections on students with disabilities, those in foster care, English language learners and students experiencing homelessness.
Dhagat said the fact sheets can help empower parents to advocate on behalf of their children. But if more help is needed, it is available.
“If you would like some additional assistance, feel free to reach out to the really strong advocates and attorneys that we have in this area or you can reach out to the Education Law Center’s helpline,” Dhagat said.
In Western Pennsylvania, the helpline is at 412-258-2120, and in Eastern or Central Pennsylvania the number is 215-238-6970.