IEP Students’ Mental Health During Online School


An anonymous parent wrote me this today. Please take the time to read it. “My son has ADHD, an IEP and a 504 plan. It has been a lot of hard work and effort, along with assistance from him, myself, family members and some teachers from Brookside Elementary, Kellogg and Shorecrest to get him to the point where he is a good and steady student in his sophomore year. He suffered through my messy divorce, moving out of the house he grew up in in his 7th grade to freshman years. He wants to play soccer in college.  He is a strong athlete and was on the Shorecrest wrestling team, played rugby for the Seattle Vikings club, soccer for Celtic and Seattle United and made the Shorecrest JV soccer team last year. Athletics, the exercise of riding his bike to and from school and socialization with friends at school have always been his anchors. Now online school and having no sports or activities have taken all of that away.  His grades are still good with “online school” but after 9+ months without school and no hope or even a prospective date for return to school he is getting very angry and depressed. The school is legally obligated under federal and state law to comply with his IEP and 504 plans, and those for other children and is failing to do so.”

The school’s current online system is causing many students (not just IEP kids) to develop more mental health problems than ever before. The suicide rate for teens has increased during the quarantine period and students don’t stop to eat, go to the bathroom, or even sleep in the midst of online schooling. As someone with an IEP, ADHD, and anxiety, I relate to this deterioration in mental health. I never talk about my IEP, ADHD, or anxiety, but today I am speaking out on this issue because all Shorecrest Scots–freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and especially seniors–are torturing themselves just to pass this year with decent grades. I recently found out that I have generalized anxiety disorder, and for me that means when I start something like school I don’t take breaks. Because I cannot stop working, this is both a blessing and a curse. This year, for example, I once passed out in my bedroom from not eating because I needed to finish my homework for two classes. Being an IEP and 504 plan student means that I have to work ten times harder to reach my academic goals and I don’t want to let my anxiety, ADHD, or other challenges in my life take any of my achievements away. I’m sure many students can relate to me when I say I was scared I wouldn’t get into college or even pass this year. I have had to start two anxiety medications during quarantine, something that I have never had to do in a school year before. In order to raise awareness for the widespread deterioration in student mental health, myself and a group of parents have been trying to put together a COVID-safe rally to make the school be held accountable for their actions. In the following paragraph, another Shoreline parent voices their thoughts regarding student experiences during the online school year.

Anonymous Parent: “There are many kids with education challenges and regular students who this school lockout is hurting drastically. Most disappointing is the Shoreline School Board, Teachers Union and some parents acting very slowly to even plan or consider a return to school with safety measures and in some cases advocating to NOT even do hybrid school at all in 2021 even while other countries, states and even school districts in Washington are returning to school or have been back for some time. There have sadly even been students in Shoreline District dealing with suicidal thoughts. The School District committed to allowing parents and children to make the choice on whether to attend online or in-person hybrid school, some parents, teachers and the union and school board have been either minimally supportive of this and/or in some cases advocated against this at times, at best. Those of us who voted for having our own free choice and allowing others to have theirs are in effect being forcefully denied our choice. This is not fair and must end for the good of all our school children.”

The current online schooling system needs to be changed to accommodate not only special ed and IEP students, but all students. The workload is insane and we are struggling to keep our heads out of the water during these hard times. I would love to see teachers go on strike to get us back in school as soon as possible as well as have our teachers be considered essential workers. Without them, we’d be nothing. I would love to ask the school board and our state Governor Jay Inslee, just how many more students do we need to lose due to teenage suicide because of online school failing us, lack of social interaction and the lack of outlets and help resources for us?

I had a teacher last term that never had their camera on and I never saw the teacher’s real face, just a teacher ID picture. It was so sad and depressing. I turn my camera on in all of my classes and this teacher didn’t let me at all ever. I turn my camera on because I know it helps me to feel more connected. Although just a small action, things like this help students like me find a small form of human connection amidst a challenging time of self-isolation.