Lila will begin school this fall with the support she needs. But this strong start wasn’t guaranteed – and it wasn’t always this way. When COVID-19 closed our schools to in-person learning this spring, Lila was one of thousands of students who struggled to participate in virtual classes because of her learning disabilities. An attorney from our grantee Children’s Law Center advocated to get additional tutoring and an independent education evaluation for Lila. As a new school year begins, she’ll get more 1-to-1 assistance. And her family will be equipped to work with the school for a more appropriate individualized education plan (IEP). In a “typical” school year, too many DC children and families shoulder the combined burden of racism, poverty, and trauma. They face challenges ranging from lack of access to quality education, unsafe transportation, over-disciplining, food insecurity, and instabilities in housing. But this is no typical school year. Existing burdens are heavier and now affect students across income levels. The digital divide creates new barriers and harms students with disabilities the most. (That’s more than 13,000 DC kids with emotional, physical, or learning differences.) Those who need physical or occupational therapy cannot get services in person. Opportunities for early intervention may be missed, and absenteeism may penalize students from families with low incomes who have a technology barrier. Children living in poverty bear the brunt of this crisis. The DC Bar Foundation believes in equal access to justice, regardless of ability to pay. Legal aid is making a life-changing difference for these children – now more than ever. Lawyers, social workers, and investigators from Children’s Law Center continue reaching out to every student and family, making sure they have what they need to weather this crisis. And you can read more about their work for students in need in this week’s Washington Post story.
It means advocating for access to the right technology and devices, and for schools to provide extra support for kids with disabilities. It means helping families sort through overwhelming information to know what they’re entitled to. Often, these conversations reveal other family needs and help connect them with the right partners. Your support for the DC Bar Foundation is transforming back-to-school for Lila and many more kids this fall. Thank you. Together for equal access to justice,
Kirra L. Jarratt
CEO, DC Bar Foundation