Easterseals, in partnership with Bellwether, today shared the findings of a recently published report, Ignored, Punished, and Underserved: Understanding and Addressing Disparities in Education Experiences and Outcomes for Black Children with Disabilities, during a virtual in-depth discussion that focused on the pandemic’s disproportionately negative impact on students with disabilities.

Erika Watson, Easterseals National Director, Childhood Development, Education, and Equity, and Harold T. Hinds, Bellwether Associate Partner, led a discussion featuring Dr. Hailey Love, Assistant Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Dr. Aubry Threlkeld, Dean of the School of Education at Endicott College; and Sandra Heidt, Parent & Law Enforcement Professional with a background in Social Services and Administrative Management in the City of Chicago local government. Watson and Hinds shared the report’s findings on the numerous disparities for black students with disabilities and offered specific recommendations to address those inequities at the teacher, district, and policy levels.

“This joint report shares insights from students and families, advocates, and school leaders that spotlight the disparate educational experiences of children of color with disabilities,” said Watson. “Ensuring that all students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to learn is a critical cornerstone of the Easterseals mission. Our Intersection Collective: Disability + BIPOC Youth is working to develop more effective programming and research to support youth at the intersection of race and disability.”

The report focuses on four key areas that contribute to a climate of discrimination and inequities for students of color with disabilities: identification, placement, discipline, and family engagement and support.

“The stories we documented in this report highlight the urgent need for investments to better support students of color with disabilities,” said Hinds. “We identified concrete steps leaders can take at the classroom, district, and policy levels — from improving teacher preparation, to prioritizing more authentic family engagement, to expanding access to high-quality early intervention programs — that would create more equitable school experiences for some of the most marginalized children in our education system.”

The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected students with disabilities in the classroom and in other areas including student mental health and in the loss of learning momentum. The forum highlighted the pandemic’s impact on populations of students who sometimes receive less attention in broader conversations about special education.

The full Easterseals and Bellweather report is available here.   

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