Children's Law Center Policy Director Sharra E. Greer testified before the DC Council's Committee of the Whole and Committee on Education to stress the need for DCPS's school reopening plans to focus on the reason why a return to in-person learning is critical: The education and growth of DC's most vulnerable students depend on it. While closing schools has been necessary to control the spread of the virus, it is effectively denying these students an education.
Children's Law Center Policy Attorney Danielle Robinette testified before the DC Council's Committee of the Whole and Committee on Education sharing our support for the Education and Credit Continuity Amendment Act of 2020 and its efforts to address educational barriers faced by students in the care of DC. Students in DC's care include foster youth and youth in the custody of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) or Department of Corrections (DOC). Currently, students in care often lose most, if not all, course credit when they change schools due to changing placements.
As we enter the eighth month of the pandemic, we know that children and families are going to need the supports that DHS provides even more as we work towards recovering from the economic effects of the crisis. Senior Policy Attorney Elizabeth Oquendo testified before the Committee on Human Services to share our appreciation for the Department of Human Services' continued communication with advocates and the agency's efforts to remove physical barriers to benefit access.
Many of the DC children in foster care we serve have struggled with remote learning or supervision issues during the pandemic.
Children's Law Center Policy Attorney Tami Weerasingha-Cote shared testimony before the Committee on Health regarding the public health element of the District's COVID-19 response. We work with many children and families in the District whose social and economic circumstances make them especially vulnerable to the direct and indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although children appear to be at lower risk for severe COVID-19 infections based on the limited research to date, fallout from the pandemic has given rise to significant negative behavioral health effects in children.
Children's Law Center Policy Director Sharra E. Greer testified before the DC Council's Committee of the Whole and Committee on Education to stress the need for DCPS's school reopening plans to prioritize students with the highest needs. Some students, particularly students with disabilities as well as students experiencing homelessness and other students with high needs, are facing very substantial learning loss because their needs cannot be met outside the classroom.
Children's Law Center Policy Attorney Tami Weerasingha-Cote shared testimony before the Committee on Health regarding the significant behavioral health needs of DC's children and families. The ongoing pandemic and its economic fallout have only heightened behavioral needs, especially among the District's hard hit Black and Latinx communities. Ensuring these communities have access to behavioral health services so that children and their families can cope with their disproportionately heavy burdens is vital to achieving racial justice.
Children's Law Center Policy Director Sharra E. Greer shared testimony at the Committee of the Whole and Committee on Education Joint Distance Learning oversight hearing on issues and concerns raised during distance learning in both traditional DC Public Schools and Public Charter Schools. The public health emergency has pushed all DC residents -- especially parents and students -- into new routines and a new normal, and distance learning has been implemented for students across the District to varying levels of success.
Children's Law Center strongly believes that civil legal services not only help DC residents access justice, but that early legal intervention can have significant societal benefits. Through our own medical-legal partnerships, we have seen how early intervention improves health outcomes and saves significant sums in Medicaid costs. That's why Executive Director Judith Sandalow submitted written testimony urging the DC Council to ensure that the DC Bar Foundation, specifically the Access to Justice Grant, is fully funded in the District's FY21 budget.
Nearly all of the kids Children's Law Center represents are Black and Brown, and many routinely interact with the Metropolitan Police Department officers in their schools, at home and in their communities. More often than not, these interactions are negative, especially for students of color or ones with special needs or behavioral health issues. At at time when DC children are shouldering the weight of stress and trauma from both systemic racism and the public health crisis, CLC strongly believes now is the time to rethink the role of police in our children's lives.
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