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Republicans call for investigation into impact of school closures on children with disabilities

Republicans call for investigation into impact of school closures on children with disabilities
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A group of Republican lawmakers on Monday called for a bipartisan investigation into the impact that school closures during the coronavirus pandemic have had on children with disabilities as well as "state and local compliance with federal special education requirements."

GOP Reps. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseWall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study Scalise: House would 'take action' against Gaetz if DOJ filed charges Scalise carries a milk carton saying Harris is 'missing' at the border MORE (La.), James ComerJames (Jamie) R. ComerHouse committee approves DC statehood bill Overnight Energy: EPA pledges new focus on environmental justice | Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers | Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers MORE (Ky.), Virginia FoxxVirginia Ann FoxxHouse passes bill to prevent violence in health care workplaces House passes bill to combat gender pay gap Republicans argue school accountability waivers overstep Education secretary authority MORE (N.C.) and Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersHouse Republicans circulate memo on legislative concepts targeting Big Tech Democrats press Facebook on plans for Instagram for kids GOP lawmakers press social media giants for data on impacts on children's mental health MORE (Wash.) signed a letter addressed to Democratic House leaders including Reps. James Clyburn (S.C.) and Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring NY Democratic chair blasts primary challenge against Maloney Carolyn Maloney will face Justice Democrats-backed primary challenger MORE (N.Y.) outlining their request.

“Students with disabilities are falling behind. States and localities are not meeting even the minimal requirements. We are hearing from parents across the U.S. whose children with disabilities are bearing the greatest burden as schools remain closed," the Republican lawmakers said in the letter.

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The lawmakers shared stories sent to them by their constituents detailing how school closures have negatively impacted students with disabilities. One mother with a daughter who has Down Syndrome said her child became frustrated with at-home learning and will have to be held back one year. Another family said they had drained their savings to send their autistic daughter to private school.

School districts have observed a marked drop in academic performance among students this year. In Virginia's largest school district, Fairfax County, the number of F's earned by middle school and high schools students nearly doubled. Students with disabilities were found to be particularly affected, with F's accounting for about a fifth of their grades since the pandemic started.

"We urge a bipartisan oversight request to CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide data related to experiences of special education schools that have reopened or special education students that are attending school in person. Further, the CDC and the NIH should provide studies on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children with disabilities in the U.S. and other countries," the representatives continued in their letter.

They also said they were "particularly disappointed" that the Biden administration has not "more forcefully" pushed for schools to reopen. President BidenJoe BidenFour members of Sikh community among victims in Indianapolis shooting Overnight Health: NIH reverses Trump's ban on fetal tissue research | Biden investing .7B to fight virus variants | CDC panel to meet again Friday on J&J On The Money: Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats | Justice Dept. sues Trump ally Roger Stone for unpaid taxes MORE has voiced his support for reopening schools, making a return to in-person learning one of the main goals of his first 100 days in office.

The nation's leading infectious diseases expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health: NIH reverses Trump's ban on fetal tissue research | Biden investing .7B to fight virus variants | CDC panel to meet again Friday on J&J Fox News's Bret Baier posts vaccination selfie The Hill's 12:30 Report: Nearly half of U.S. adults partially or fully vaccinated MORE has also advocated for returning to in-person learning once it is safe to do so, pointing to data that indicates schools can reopen safely when COVID-19 guidelines such as masks and social distancing are followed.

Biden said last week that he was calling on states to prioritize teachers for the coronavirus vaccine so that all teachers who want a shot will have at least one dose by the end of March.

"The science is clear—it is safe to reopen schools," the GOP representatives said in their letter. "Getting all children back to full time, in-person instruction, especially those with special needs and disabilities, must be a bipartisan priority. If states or localities are violating federal civil rights laws to the detriment of students, they must be investigated, and their actions corrected."