Red zone, closed schools. There are conditions that should be met for protect children with disabilities and special educational needs (BES).
The art. 43 DPCM March 2, 2021, applicable in the so-called “red areas”, after having ordered the suspension of the teaching activity in presence, without prejudice to “the possibility of carrying out activities in presence if it is necessary to use the laboratories or in order to maintain a educational relationship that achieves the effective scholastic inclusion of pupils with disabilities and special educational needs […]”.
The following note from the Ministry of Education no. 662 of 12 March last, in interpreting this provision, stated that educational institutions must not “limit themselves to allowing attendance only to the pupils and students in question, but in order to make the principle of inclusion effective, they will consider involving in the presence of other pupils belonging to the same section or class group – according to methods and tools established autonomously and which allow their complete rotation in a defined time – with which BES students can continue to experience the adequate relationship in the peer group, in constant educational relationship with the teaching and non-teaching staff present at the school “.
If the affirmation of the principle of inclusiveness can only be shared, on the other hand, it cannot be agreed that the realization of this principle is delegated to an evaluation of the opportunities of the individual educational institutions which, moreover, should meet the favor of the families of the other pupils involved.
The establishment of essential levels of payable benefits
The incompressibility of the rights of pupils with disabilities and special educational needs can only be fully guaranteed if there has been, upstream, the establishment of essential levels of the benefits payable to them, as required by the Constitution (art. 117, c. 2, letter m).
The importance of the relationship
But not only. All pupils, especially in the current pandemic emergency that amplifies existing fragilities and gives rise to new ones, they need to maintain an educational relationship with their peers and teachers. It is for them too the establishment of essential levels of performance is necessary. Only by following this path, it is possible to guarantee the inclusion of pupils with disabilities and special educational needs, on an equal footing with their peers, subtracting its fulfillment from evaluations of opportunities.
While the principle of inclusion in the organization of face-to-face teaching activities is not decidedly pursued, on the other even those pupils with disabilities who, by virtue of their particular fragility, cannot carry out didactic activities in presence are not adequately guaranteed. In fact, no indication has been provided, at national level, about the use of assistants for autonomy and communication, unlike what happened with Legislative Decree no. 14 of 9 March 2020. According to art. 9 of the decree law, repealed by Law no. 27/2020, “during the suspension of the school service and for its entire duration”, local authorities could provide, taking into account the available staff, assistance to pupils with disabilities through the provision of individual home services, aimed at supporting the use of distance learning activities. The response of the Local Authorities was not uniform and involved differentiated intervention methods between the Regions.
Nonetheless, during the suspension of teaching activities in the presence many of them managed to organize a home assistance service for pupils with disabilities through the use of the same operators who provided autonomy and communication assistance in schools, in order to guarantee them the necessary support for the use of distance learning activities.
The right to carry out didactic activities in presence
Finally, it cannot be overlooked that, on the one hand, the right to carry out didactic activities in presence is an essential element for the achievement of the educational success of pupils with disabilities and special educational needs, on the other, however, the continuation of attendance in the current pandemic situation makes the need to vaccinate all students with serious frailty and disabilities and family caregivers even more pressing. In fact, despite the recent inclusion of cohabiting family members of the severely disabled among the priority categories by the Ministry of Health, some Regions are slow to align with these indications while in some territories vaccinations have not yet begun for people over 16 with frailty and disability in a serious situation.
ANP and COORDOWN therefore ask for the fulfillment of the three conditions listed above as an essential prerequisite for the full recognition of the right to education of pupils with disabilities: as has been said, in fact, “a right is not something that is given to you by someone; it is something that no one can take away from you”.