Podcast | What the shutdowns taught some WA parents about special education

For some families, the pandemic provided an opportunity to better understand how their children learn.

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Dehlia and Denira Winbush

Dehlia Winbush and her daughter Denira outside their home in Kent, Washington, on March 18, 2022. (Chona Kasinger for Crosscut) 

Of all the educational challenges created by the pandemic, none is likely as great as the requirement that public schools continue to provide “free and appropriate” education for students with special needs. 

For many students and families involved in special education, the shutdowns were a nightmare. So many crucial learning accommodations seemed to vanish overnight. Local and national media decried the many failures, lawsuits were filed, and state investigations into districts, including Seattle Public Schools, found violations of the federal law that requires public schools to serve these students.

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Many of these students continue to face considerable challenges. But for some students and parents served by special education, the shutdowns provided a kind of silver lining: the opportunity to better understand how their kids learn and become better advocates for them.

For this, the final episode of this season of This Changes Everything, host Sara Bernard speaks with some of these parents about what they’ve learned about their children in these difficult days and how it has actually made their experience with education better.

Keep listening

Episode 1: How 'grace' became the word for some WA educators

Episode 2: The mental health crisis afflicting students and their teachers

Episode 3: Where online learning is actually working

Episode 4: The toll that 'normal' school takes on students of color

Episode 5: Meet the students pushing for more equity in public schools


Host/Producer: Sara Bernard

Reporters: Venice Buhain, Claudia Rowe

Editorial assistant: Brooklyn Jamerson-Flowers

Consulting editor: Donna Blankinship

Executive producer/story editor: Mark Baumgarten

Audio support: Jonah Cohen


A transcription of this episode will be made available shortly. If you would like to be notified when the transcript is available, please email mark.baumgarten@crosscut.com.


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