Demand for legal services from Connecticut families in selected cities rose 74% after children returned to in-person school, according to a report.
The report, based on families in Hartford, Waterbury, Bridgeport and New Haven, was produced by the Center for Children’s Advocacy (CCA)which aims to protect the legal rights of low-income children, while providing them with behavioral and other services that they need to thrive.
Chronic absenteeism persisted in urban schools prior to COVID-19, and it hasn’t gotten much better, said Martha Stone, an attorney and executive director at the Hartford-based CCA, a nonprofit.
Those back in school from remote learning are struggling with discipline issues, Stone said.
“We are representing kids on suspensions and expulsions, which really doesn’t help them because they’re out of school for 180 days sometimes.” she said. “We are representing children who have special needs.”
For example, CCA points to a 6-year-old who had been placed in a regular kindergarten classroom, despite having a significant behavioral health condition.
The report stated that the child frequently had disruptive behaviors in the classroom and his teacher, who was not trained in special education, resorted to making frequent calls to his parents to pick him up and remove him from school for the rest of the day. As a result, the student was missing school, and his parents were at risk of losing their jobs because the teacher was frequently calling them to the school.
CCA represented the child and officials said they got him transferred to a school that specializes in educating students with his behavioral health condition. The 6-year-old is able to stay in school for a full day, and his behavior and academic achievement have improved, officials say.
Stone said CCA’s legal teams are also working on alternatives to child arrests