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Edu Dept to host summit to spotlight strategies to support students with disabilities

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The U.S. Department of Education announced plans for a first-of-its-kind virtual summit, Recovery to Thriving: Supporting Mental Health & Students with Disabilities, to highlight steps schools, colleges and communities can take to support students with disabilities and students with mental health needs.

“As communities and our country heal and recover, it’s important to acknowledge that our students with disabilities have faced unique challenges amid the pandemic and that some long-standing inequities between students with disabilities and their peers were made worse during this time,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Ensuring that our students with disabilities receive a free, appropriate public education that meets their academic, social, and emotional needs isn’t just written into law, it’s a moral obligation. We must work together so that students with disabilities and mental health needs receive the resources they need to thrive. This summit will highlight promising practices in this important work, demonstrate the Department’s continued commitment to serving our students with special needs, and provide schools with the tools to reimagine education and ensure all students succeed.”

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and, as part of the President’s Unity Agenda, President Biden announced a strategy to address our nation’s mental health crisis.

The half-day, virtual summit will occur on Monday, May 23, at 12:30 p.m. ET and will bring together education leaders, disability advocates and coordinators, special education professionals, and others to discuss issues affecting students with disabilities and students with mental health needs as our nation continues to emerge from the pandemic.

The Department will hold a series of panels to discuss five key issues areas: use of American Rescue Plan funding to address lost instructional time and providing mental health services in K-12 schools; the use of Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund funding to increase access to mental health services for students in higher education; supporting equitable pathways for people with disabilities as they transition from school through career; and considerations for digital accessibility in the emerging virtual and hybrid work and school environments.

This summit will also highlight some of the Department’s latest announcements and resources, including plans to strengthen and protect the rights for students with disabilities by amending regulations implementing Section 504 and a resource for schools, colleges and communities to promote mental health and the social and emotional well-being of children and students.

The summit’s sessions include:

  • Opening remarks from U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona
  • Remarks from U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
  • Panel discussions on key topics, including:
    • Supporting People with Disabilities as they Transition from School through Career
    • Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Students Pursuing Higher Education
    • Inclusion and Access for Students with Disabilities in the context of IDEA Implementation
    • Supporting the Whole Child as Schools Recover from COVID-19 and Serve Students with Disabilities
    • Ensuring Access in Virtual and Hybrid Environments
  • A first-person, TED-style talk with a veteran with a disability currently pursuing higher education
  • Remarks from U.S. Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal and closing remarks from U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten

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