Parents of schoolchildren depressed from COVID isolation must demand 504 plans
This article is inspired by a real child, a 13-year-old Carolina girl — best in the world! — whom we will call Addie.
The real, life-threatening pandemic among young people in America today is not COVID-19, but depression, overdosing, and suicidality resulting from the isolation and closure of schools. In June 2020, CDC director Robert Redfield addressed these threats:
"The risk per 100,000, so far, you know, into the outbreak, six months into it, is, in fact, that we're looking at about .1 per 100,000. So another way to say that, it's one in a million," Redfield said in reference to the death rate among children. "Now, I'm not trying to belittle that, I'm just trying to make sure we look at it proportional. Because if you do the same thing for influenza deaths for school-age children over the last five years, they're anywhere from five to 10 times greater."
Every disabled child in the United States has a civil right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), as enshrined in The Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Qualifying disabilities include mental health afflictions such as depression and suicidality, and the principal legal mechanism to enforce this right is known as a 504 plan. Named after Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, a 504 plan spells out specific, individually designed accommodations to assist a student with disabilities in succeeding in his education.
This 1973 law shifted responsibility from families to send students to school who are capable of passing a general educational program (or accept that the student may be dismissed from the school) to the schools. Regardless of physical, mental, or behavioral problems, every student is entitled to an individual educational program and the accommodations required to make it succeed.
Prior to the mass, undeclared biological warfare by the People's Republic of China against the USA, Addie's life was happy. The oldest of four, she lives in a big white house with green shutters. A massive oak tree in the front yard protects her home. Her stay-at-home mom is smart, and her dad has a good job. Addie was held back in the first grade, but her family took that in stride. She was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder at age 8 and offered medication, but Mom was having none of it. "Addie is my unicorn jockey," she says, laughing. When Addie's middle school shut down in March of this year, she could not learn without teachers who could engage her, without books she could hold, and without friends to giggle with. Almost as soon as her school closed, Addie slipped into depression.
For most mental disorders, the line between acute and chronic is drawn at six months, and by that standard, Addie is chronically depressed. Her school is still closed. Today, Addie is a wan, spectral figure who doesn't like to leave her room. Her mother used to coax her to the computer by saying, "Addie, 50% is better than zero." But is it? Addie can learn geometry any old time. But chronic depression in a 13-year-old may reset her brain and harm her for the rest of her life.
During the school shutdown, Addie's teachers are supposed to be available online for 30 minutes a day and 30 minutes after school. But Addie cannot reliably access any teacher during her sad "school" days of left-wing-imposed purdah, and her union-protected teachers are not available after school, despite the requirement to be so. Just another lie. Under pressure, the unions are throwing a limited number of students a bone of actual classrooms. But conditions for those students — muffled in masks and spaced several feet away from each other — often worsen depression and anxiety.
In Addie's generally prosperous county, 30% of students are failing at least one subject. As is usually the case when the left reports statistics, that is probably an underestimation of actual failure rates. The shutdown exposes another huge and destructive left-wing hypocrisy. The same teacher unions that welcomed vast influxes of money for burgeoning special education programs, and that fought for special rights for public school students to be taught in foreign languages, are using COVID-19 as an excuse to abandon the special education needs of depressed, failing students.
Patriots must begin direct action against the oppressors, private and public. Demanding a 504 plan for educational accommodations for every student like Addie, who is depressed or otherwise unable to learn in conditions of teacher neglect and house arrest, is an immediately available action of civil resistance. A 504 plan is a legal right progressives insisted upon. It sets the stage for legal action if schools do not respond adequately and continue to willfully provide educational programming that worsens a student's mental condition. Demanding a a 504 plan will demonstrate to young people that they are not the helpless victims of abusive government agencies. And it will save lives.