Mask Up for Students with Disabilities
Tennessee’s children with disabilities must be protected from COVID-19 and be afforded the same opportunities for in-person learning as children without disabilities.
Children with disabilities want to learn, make friends, and take part in the school community. In the 2020-2021 school year, Tennessee’s children with disabilities were disproportionally impacted by the sudden move to virtual learning, often missing out on essential supports and services guaranteed to them through federal laws. This year, schools must shift to protect their students from COVID-19 while still allowing them to learn in-person.
As Sherry Wilds, Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) Assistant Legal Director and Director of Pro Bono & Legal Interns, recently stated, “Children with disabilities do best when they are in the most integrated setting appropriate and receiving the in-person services they need.”
Children with disabilities are also at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and face worse outcomes when contracting the virus. Pre-existing health conditions make kids with special health care needs, chronic illnesses and disabilities particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. However, this risk can be mitigated.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Academy of Pediatrics advise that everyone in a school community wear masks. Some people with disabilities are not able to wear face masks. So, it is not enough for children with disabilities alone to wear a mask to school - everyone must mask up in order to keep them safe and healthy. When schools implement this simple strategy, children with disabilities are more protected.
“Universal masking in schools is best for Tennessee’s children with disabilities.” says Jack Derryberry, DRT’s Legal Director, “It allows our children to be safer and learn in-person. And it’s so easy - let's mask-up for students with disabilities.”