Stuck in the Virtual Basement? Schools Must Not Use COVID Safety Rules as a Reason to Exclude Special-Needs Kids

After more than a year of largely remote learning, many schools are, despite some lingering virtual offerings, returning to primarily in-person instruction for nearly all students. That is raising some very serious questions that we have never faced before: Do students with disabilities have a guaranteed right to be educated together with other children in person? Or can schools determine that, for health and safety reasons, some students with disabilities, who they characterize as at-risk or as presenting risks, be required to attend classes virtually? If we allow that, are students with disabilities now subject to a new kind of exclusion, a return to the bad old days when kids who receive special education services were sometimes relegated to the schoolhouse basement, out of sight and segregated? A virtual basement?