Near the end of Delilah McBride’s second month of kindergarten in Taylor, Michigan, her family received jarring news from her principal: Delilah would be allowed to come to school only in the morning. Someone would need to pick her up before noon every day, even as the rest of her peers continued learning and playing together.
Delilah’s first several weeks of school in the fall of 2018 had been marked by discipline incidents and suspensions, as she got in trouble for not listening to instructions and hitting staff members. Her parents wanted to get her a special education designation — and all the supports that came with it. But instead, they were told by school administrators that their daughter “couldn’t handle full days,” said Sarah McBride, Delilah’s mother.
“It was a nonnegotiable thing,” McBride recalled. That night, as she and her husband scrambled to figure out who could watch Delilah in the early afternoon, questions swirled in her head: “How long is this going to go on? Were [school officials] able to do it?”
The short answer, according to special education lawyers and advocates across the country, is no. But that doesn’t stop it from happening frequently.
A family’s fight for special ed services: Their son had autism. Mom didn’t speak English well. COVID-19 put school online.
A year after COVID-19 shut schools: Students and teachers share what shook them – and what strengthened them
This year, millions of students have had their schooling curtailed, prompting serious discussions about the effects of lost learning time. But a subset of students in special education has been quietly plagued with this problem for decades, often with devastating consequences. Shortening the school day for students with disabilities as punishment for their behavior is illegal, experts say. Instead, schools must support and address these issues in the classroom.
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