Local Advocate Says the "Vibe Academy" Limits Some Students With Disabilities

Sep 16, 2021

Credit Sioux City Community Schools

The Sioux City Community Schools District’s new virtual learning academy the “Vibe Academy” uses the slogan “Learning Without Limits”. However, one local advocate says some students with disabilities are left out of equation. 

During Wednesday's special school board meeting surrounding masks in the Sioux City Community School District, some citizens talked about a virtual option for parents to send their children. However, as Siouxland Public Media’s Sheila Brummer reports that option is not available to all.

“Originally, when I saw the VIBE Academy, I was excited.”

The Executive Director for the Disabilities Resource Center of Siouxland, Don Dew, says the Sioux City Community School Districts new virtual learning school does not serve some students with disabilities who rely on extra help.

“If someone has a para and an IEP they are being told to homeschool or send them to the brick-and-mortar school, which is not appropriate for a lot of children with disabilities."

The Sioux City Community School District says several students with disabilities, IEPs or Individual Education Programs participate in the VIBE Academy.  

Disabilities Advocate Don Dew
Credit Submitted

A statement sent to Siouxland Public Media goes on to say, "virtual learning is not ideal for every student and some needs cannot be met through virtual learning."

However, Dew, believes the district is violating the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

“What they are doing is depriving children with disabilities the same right as other student have.”

“I have talked to people who have virtual classes all over the country. Virtual classes are possible with one-on-one care.”

Dew says he also heard from closer to 20 families with concerns about inclusion surrounding the virtual education program.

“We need to make sure parents have a voice for their students, this is not going to stop until there is education for teachers and staff and those who make the decisions.”

Dew also believes the decision to not enact a mask mandate hurts the vulnerable as well.

“Especially when there is no mask mandate, children with disabilities have a higher risk of getting COVID.”

“It’s not the district protecting or helping with children with disabilities.”

Dew says he reached out to the United States Department of Education to help students in need.

“They’re not happy.”

Dew says he wants to work with the Sioux City Community School District to bring equity for students with disabilities. He is planning on taking part in an equity committee meeting tomorrow morning where he plans to continue to bring up his concerns.

Dew says there is a support group for parents that helps them know their rights. More information can be found by calling (712) 255-1065.

Full statement from the Sioux City Community School District:

VIBE Academy, the Sioux City Community School District’s virtual school, currently serves several students with disabilities and students with IEPs or Individualized Education Programs. If a student with an IEP would like to enroll in VIBE Academy, that decision is made alongside their IEP team, which helps determine if the student’s needs can be met through virtual learning. Virtual learning is not ideal for every student, and there may be some student needs that cannot be met through virtual learning. This is not a challenge exclusive to the District’s virtual school but with all virtual learning options. There are some services that cannot be provided in a virtual environment. The District exists to help all students succeed in reaching their full potential by offering learning options and supports right for each student.