Inclusion Matters: Engaging Families of Students with Disabilities

Student with a disability

A few years ago, a flyer came home from my child’s high school announcing the first annual sensory-friendly school dance. Knowing that a school event was planned with the needs of all students in mind made me, a parent of children with disabilities, feel that my family was included in a meaningful way. When I found out the event was planned by other families like mine—not by the school or PTA, I was deflated.

My middle school aged son is one of the seven million students in the U.S. who receive special education services. That means that nearly 14% of all students in the U.S have been identified as having a disability that requires support at school. And that even doesn’t include students who haven’t been identified as having a disability or students who have a disability, but don’t need special education support.

Inclusion and Belonging are at the Heart of Family Engagement

When we use statistics and numbers, it’s easy to overlook the people behind them. Simply put, those numbers mean there are a lot of families like mine craving meaningful connection and inclusive family engagement.

The updated National Standards for Family-School Partnerships ignites my hope that education leaders, including PTA leaders, can help meet the needs and desires of students with disabilities. The six standards outline exactly not just why, but also how, leaders can advocate for students with disabilities. Here’s how that looks:

  1. Welcoming all families into the school community requires an understanding of the barriers families face. Students with disabilities and their families may feel isolated and excluded from school communities due to barriers you are not aware of. Simply asking families what they need to feel welcome is advocacy and builds a sense of belonging.
  2. Communicating effectively with families of students with disabilities is not always easy. Many of us have had negative experiences, some of which are based on the misunderstanding that we do not want to be asked about how PTA can accommodate our children’s disability. Even acknowledging that you are not sure what to ask is a start.
  3. Supporting student success means creating safe and supportive spaces where it’s believed that all students can succeed. Talking to families to let them know that you believe their children can meet their full potential is key in supporting success. You can start by asking one simple question: Do you have suggestions for how we can better or more authentically represent disability in our PTA?
  4. Speaking up for every child takes some pressure off families like mine, who are used to speaking up for our children’s rights and for educational policies and services that support our kids. When you speak up for and with us, you become an additional voice of support, a person we can trust, and someone who sets the standard for speaking up against bias.
  5. Sharing power requires you to be open to new ideas and different perspectives. It is also realizing that you can learn from families of students with disabilities. If you’re unsure if every voice is represented and considered in the decisions you make, ask: Do you feel comfortable raising disability-related concerns?
  6. Collaborating with the community means recognizing that the disability community extends beyond your school district and beyond the families in front of you. Include organizations that have their pulse on what’s happening in the disability community and people who are united by the experience of being disabled.

Building strong family-school partnerships is a shared responsibility

As a PTA leader, you can take the lead in applying the updated National Standards for Family-School Partnerships to your relationships with families of students with disabilities. But strong family engagement only happens when all parties are engaged. That’s why I’ve partnered with National PTA to create a series of fact sheets, questions, and conversations starters for each standard.

You can help enhance communication practices between school administrators and parents like me by sharing Strengthening Family-School Partnerships for Students with Disabilities.

National PTA has also published several policy resources, including a Position Statement on The Education of Students with Disabilities, Resolution on High Expectations for Students with Disabilities, and a Position Statement on Safe and Supportive Schools to support inclusive advocacy efforts at the local, state, and federal level.

Amanda Morin is an educational consultant, a former teacher and early childhood specialist, special education advocate, and author of five books, including The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education. She is also the mother of three children, two of whom have disabilities.

6 Ways to be a Reasonable, Unbending Advocate in a Divided World

PTA is committed to building community to support our children and their families across the country. I am always so amazed by all that PTA leaders and members do to make a positive impact, especially amid so many issues facing our children, families, schools and communities today. The expected challenges we typically experience throughout the school year have only been enhanced during the COVID-19 pandemic, social injustice, political division, school shootings and violence—and so much more.

The latest nation’s report card and emerging research has revealed what we already suspected—that our children have been deeply affected by all of these occurrences. And our support is needed now more than ever to address their needs and set them on the path to academic success in a healthy and safe environment—with a bright future ahead.

As PTA leaders, you have had challenges of your own. Not having the same access to the school building has made it difficult to connect with school staff and families to do what you do best— solve the toughest challenges and meet the needs of your community. But do not lose heart. As we have for over 125 years, our persistence and unified voice enables us to continue to push for change and pull our resources together to meet the critical needs of our communities.

And keep in mind, the loudest, harshest and most divisive voices don’t represent the majority of parents. We know from research that PTA is in the mainstream, and we should lead from the broad middle, while remembering that all viewpoints are welcome because our mission is to help every child—that means every student, every family, every school and every community.

While we may not agree on all things, we must work together as one unified PTA to achieve impactful and lasting change for those we serve.

Here are six ways to be a reasonable, yet unbending advocate in this divided world. You can also watch this speech I gave on this topic to offer thoughts on how you can partner with your communities and PTA peers to achieve our mission and make a difference in the lives of all children.

  1. Surround yourself with a team of leaders who are willing to enter the fray as your partners and create a connection with them.
  2. Refuse to allow others to divide and conquer. We cannot say we are carrying out our mission if we allow others to marginalize issues we know that matter.
  3. Control the narrative. Don’t allow others to label your opinions. When you hear divisive terms on controversial topics, counter them with the simple words that express what you know to be true.
  4. Engage everyone, not just who you agree with. If you live in a bubble with only people who agree with you, you cannot grow and you cannot influence the world view of others.
  5. Take care of your mental health. Caring for our mental health could also be aided by getting perspective. You don’t have to feel miserable to be engaged and you don’t have to embrace division in your work on creating change.
  6. Continue to speak your truth. Fight back. Now more than ever, our students and our education system need us to stay engaged. A writer put it this way, “[Speak] in a healthy and productive way. Grace does not require you to take abuse.” Remember the families and students who rely on us to work together to help lead them to a better future.

Nathan R. Monell, CAE is the executive director of National PTA.

What Makes a Strong Family Engagement Policy?

Ensuring that every child can reach their full potential means investing in meaningful, inclusive and culturally competent family-school partnerships. By prioritizing policies that uplift the priorities outlined in the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, PTAs can advance transformative family engagement in their local community and beyond.

What makes family engagement policy meaningful, inclusive and culturally competent? Here are some key characteristics of a strong family engagement policy. 

Model family engagement policies are inclusive of diverse cultural and linguistic practices.

Supporting the success of all students means cultivating meaningful family-school partnerships with families from all cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

For example, in Washington, state legislation implemented language access programs in schools so that family engagement resources could be accessible in diverse languages. The commitment to providing inclusive and culturally responsive resources to families in Washington’s statewide policy allows for language barriers to be broken down and increases the capacity for every child to reach their fullest potential.

Model family engagement policies are rooted in evidence-based family engagement research.

Referencing research-based statistics that demonstrate how family engagement practices support the wellbeing of the whole child showcases the validity of family engagement in practice.

The same Washington state legislation provides a powerful basis for policy implementation by referencing how family engagement has been shown to have positive impacts for children: “50 years of research has shown that family engagement has beneficial impacts on student grades, test scores, drop-out rates, students’ sense of competence and beliefs about the importance of education” (Orwall et al., 2021).

Model family engagement policies facilitate active collaboration between families, schools and community leaders in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of family engagement policy.

When school district leaders make important decisions regarding children’s education, families must have a seat at the table. Inclusive approaches to decision-making cultivate a community where all individuals are valued, seen and actively heard.

In Michigan, statewide policy through executive order established a Michigan Parent Council to empower parents from diverse backgrounds across the state to make education and budget policy recommendations to legislators.

Model family engagement policies provide opportunities for families to become leaders in their communities through engagement opportunities at school.

Quality family engagement invests in developing the leadership skills of families so that they can empower their children to do great work.

In Florida, state legislation called the Family and School Partnership for Student Achievement Act directs school districts statewide to provide parents with detailed information regarding their child’s educational opportunities. Through streamlined and effective communication practices between parents and families regarding children’s rigorous academic opportunities, scholarships, test accommodations and course of study choices, Florida is working to support student success by building meaningful family-school partnerships.

Why does this all matter?

Only when all families are respected, included, and given opportunities to shape their children’s education, can we ensure that all children can meet their full potential. PTAs can help break down educational barriers by advocating for policies that support culturally responsive, two-way communication and opportunities for underrepresented communities to share in decision-making and co-creating solutions.

As a member of PTA, you can help by…

  • Learning about the updated National Standards for Family-School Partnerships that will roll out in the fall
  • Encouraging parents in your community to run for a seat on their local family engagement council
  • Enrolling in the National PTA’s School of Excellence Program to strengthen family-school partnerships at your school
  • Scheduling meetings with your school district staff and board of education to share with them the importance of meaningful family engagement

About the Author

Lauren Manning is a senior at Gettsyburg College and was Summer 2022 intern at PTA through the Eisenhower Institute Public Policy Fellowship

Maximizing In-Person Learning in the Era of COVID

We have the tools to keep students in the classroom and safe from COVID; we just have to use them—was one of the takeaways from a National PTA–hosted symposium on maximizing in-person learning days for students across the country.

The symposium, which took place during the National PTA 125th Anniversary Convention in June, featured a two-part panel discussion moderated by NBC News Correspondent Rehema Ellis on how our nation can plan a path forward from the COVID pandemic and how parents and caregivers can support student safety and well-being.

National PTA President Anna King kicked off the event, noting that, “it is vital to ensure the continuity of education for every child and to support children’s success socially and emotionally.”

The first panel included U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., MBA, and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Ed.D.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Murthy discussed how research and science can help inform parents’ and caregivers’ decision making around vaccinating children to protect them against COVID, as well as the mental health impacts of the pandemic on students and resources for parents on how to support their children.

As of July 28, 2022, over 140,000 children under 18 have been hospitalized and over 1,700 have died since the pandemic began.

“We should not tolerate those kinds of losses if we have a tool that can reduce hospitalizations and death,” said Surgeon General Murthy. “That tool is the vaccine.” He said that testing is another tool at our disposal that can help keep kids safe and keep them in class by detecting infections early on.  

U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Cardona highlighted the resources made available through the American Rescue Plan to promote safe school operations and in-person learning. He also implored parents to help keep schools accountable with how they spend the money they received and how vital family engagement is at this time.  

“As the father of two teenagers, I know parenting can feel like you’re building the plane as you fly, and over these last two years with the pandemic, not only were you building the plane, you were flying it through a monsoon, but you did it,” said Secretary Cardona. “For the last two years, together we fought COVID, and for the next two years, together, let’s fight complacency.”

By complacency, Secretary Cardona was referring to the status quo in education prior to the pandemic, in which the education system “worked for some but not all.”

“Instead,” said Secretary Cardona, “let’s embrace this disruption in education to reimagine parental engagement. Let’s embrace intentional collaboration with our students’ best and more influential teachers: the parents.”

The second panel featured Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) Board Chair Timothy Shriver, Ph.D.; American Academy of Pediatrics President-Elect Sandy Chung, M.D.; and National PTA Healthy Minds Ambassador Shaton Berry, MSW. They spoke about the need to protect children’s mental health in addition to their physical health.

“We all want our children to feel emotional safety so that they can feel physical safety,” said Dr. Shriver. “You don’t get to physical safety unless you have emotional safety.”

But, as Dr. Chung pointed out, our nation faces a shortage of the professionals we traditionally turn to for help: mental health providers. “We were always taught to refer to mental health providers, but there is a national shortage,” said Dr. Chung. “I was referring kids to someone, and they would have to wait six months to get an appointment.”

Dr. Chung encouraged parents and caregivers to reach out to their child’s pediatrician or other health care providers for help. “Whether or not your pediatrician may know exactly what to do will vary depending on their training and experience,” she said. “But if they don’t know what to do, they’ll know where to help you find care. The key here is just to remember you’re not in this alone.”      

“In this conversation about mental health,” said National PTA Healthy Minds Ambassador Berry, “we’re looking at it wrong. We’re looking at it from that the school is going to fix the community. And we have to think about how the community has to fix the school. If we’re not having conversations about mental health in our family, it’s never going to come into our school building.”

Berry had the following advice for parents: “As you’re having conversations with your babies every day, instead of saying, ‘What did you do today?’ Ask them, ‘How did you feel today?’ And change the narrative of how you’re talking about feelings and how you’re engaging with your child because that is a different conversation.”

The symposium was supported by Proud National PTA Sponsor Thermo Fisher Scientific and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ We Can Do This campaign.

Four Tips for Leading with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Mind

Talking about diversity, equity and inclusion is the first step but to walk the walk, we need to look intentionally at different approaches and perspectives. Before you dive in, step zero is finding what motivates your diversity, equity and inclusion work. 

Checking Your Practices and Your Privilege 

Now that we reconnected with our why. Let us go and check our practices. We need to try them all and find the ones that are the best practices for our community. Yes, what works for my area might not work for yours, but if we need, we can adjust it or move to another practice. Once we find those best practices, we need to adopt and document them to help our PTA grow.  

It can be challenging to examine our privilege, but we need to understand what got us here, what we earned, and what we didn’t. We need to think about what we have and what we can give or start for the community. We need to consider when we make unconscious assumptions. Recognize talent and potential are equally distributed, but opportunity is not. 

Reducing Unconscious Bias 

To reduce our unconscious bias, we need to be aware of what it is and how it can affect the people around us. Our values, family experiences, culture, and experiences are huge factors in how we see, judge, and categorize others and ourselves. We need to question ourselves and the group we work with. Ask yourself: What evidence do I have? Is my opinion based on the truth? Is this always true? With this information, we can start creating inclusive practices for our events (meetings, programs, fundraisers, etc.).  

Creating a Welcoming Space 

Our greetings and acknowledgment are vital to setting the tone. A smile and cheerful hi make a difference. Move around. Don’t always sit with the same group. Make it a conscious decision to shift where your board members sit every so often. It says a lot when we are playing on our cellphones during meetings! If we disagree with something, we should provide constructive feedback rather than giving a negative response. If you are the lead for the event, ask for everyone’s opinion. We need to create a supportive dialogue where we acknowledge feelings and clarify our conversation so we can avoid assumptions. Be open to challenging questions and situations and make sure the final decision is balanced. 

Developing Leaders for Lasting Impact 

Dive into the data. In our PTA world, it doesn’t matter if 30% of your board is from minority groups if we don’t provide the opportunity to grow as leaders. Acknowledging intersectionality is important, highlighting invisible or layered identities of our community. Recognize that unconscious bias requires mitigation, not only training. Take the time, not the easy shortcut, and recognize non-linear experiences. We, as a group, need to explore the evidence, find a solution for all to move forward, and make sure to act.  

Welcome to Thrive

Thrive. The PTA Learning Community

Greetings PTA Members,

Welcome to Thrive: The PTA Volunteer Learning Community!

Thrive! is PTA’s new online learning community for volunteers. Thrive brings PTA leadership development to you. Through Thrive’s engaging, short courses, you can take training at your own time and place—even from football practice, a dance studio or a soccer field.

I’m so excited about the potential that Thrive brings to National PTA. Leadership development has been a priority for PTA for many years. But our reach has been limited. Throughout this pandemic, we have learned that online is working for our members. Our impact has been expanding, with more people coming to meetings and trainings. So just think of how many future leaders we will be able to reach through this new online community of learners!

What is Thrive?

Thrive is Engaging: Thrive engages every volunteer in their own time and place. Because you can stop a course and start back in your own time, Thrive makes leadership development fit into your life when and how you need it to. Your leadership development thrives in your life!

Thrive is Empowering: Thrive empowers all volunteers to advocate for all children. Volunteers gain new knowledge and skills that help their local and state PTAs operate at peak level. Thrive’s accessible content means every volunteer has access to the most up-to-date, high-quality information about best practices and techniques for helping all children achieve their potential.

Thrive is for you: No matter where you are in your leadership journey, as a lifelong learner there is something in Thrive for you!

Remember, it’s the quality and power of individual actions that can make the difference. The more we learn, the louder our collective voices will become to create change for all children and young people.

Ready to get started? Our help page contains instructions for signing up and taking courses.

Anna King, National PTA President

We Are Well Beyond Enough Is Enough

In less than three weeks we’ve had a mass shooting in a grocery store, a shooting at a church, shootings at three separate high school graduations, another horrific shooting at a school, and more gun violence in our communities. This past weekend in my home state of Oklahoma, 1 person was killed and 7 injured after a shooting at an outdoor festival in Taft, Okla.

Last week, 19 children and two adults killed in an elementary school—second, third and fourth graders. Our precious children, grandchildren, godchildren, nieces and nephews.

And this was at least the 30th shooting at a K-12 school this year alone. Why?

There are no real words that can accurately convey the horror, anger, sadness and disgust I continue to feel, as gun violence continues to take innocents lives in our country.  

We have called for change repeatedly. We have prayed for change. It’s past time to make change to save lives.

In America, we teach our children that they’ve inherited life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but for far too long children have been taken from us because of inexplainable and senseless violence. Instead of confidently going to school and learning in a safe and peaceful classroom, these incidents have made us focus on safety measures and drills for active shooter situations. These incidents also have our children living in fear, wondering if a shooting like this could happen at their school. And parents and guardians are afraid to send their children to school, what should be a safe place and the best place for them to learn and thrive.

If we can’t protect our children from gun violence and keep them safe at school, how can we help them reach their full potential? And who will carry our nation into a brighter future?

There could not be a more urgent time for our elected officials to take action and for everyone to come together to be there for our nation’s students. We immediately need real solutions that will save lives and make our schools and communities safer for everyone.

PTA has been the conscience of our country on issues affecting children and youth for 125 years, and we will not go numb and we will never stop speaking loudly and demanding more for every child and young person across our country.

PTA will be heading to Capitol Hill June 15 to meet members of Congress in-person and advocate for youth safety and violence prevention and youth mental health. We urge everyone to join us.

We also ask everyone to use our VoterVoice system to send an urgent message to your members of Congress to insist they work across the aisle and pass sensible gun safety and violence prevention policies that ensure our children are protected from harm.

It’s time to recharge our efforts and actively engage in your local communities in creating safe and supportive schools for our kids. Host a school safety forum and have a conversation with your school principals about school safety policies and procedures.

Join us in showing support for gun violence prevention on Wear Orange Day, Friday, June 3, by wearing something orange, taking a picture of yourself in your orange and posting it on your social media accounts using the hashtags #Enough and #EndGunViolence.

And as we all deal with these heartbreaking events, we must also make sure to take care of ourselves and our families and talk to our children about what happened in Uvalde. It’s important that our children hear from us to help counteract fear they may feel and give them reassurance. Use these resources on mental health, grief and loss and use these tips for discussing difficult situations with children.

We’ve been thinking and praying. It’s time to replace thoughts and prayers with action, policy and change. Let’s do something to save lives and help our children and young people feel safe again. We will not rest until they are able to feel safe in our schools, and thrive to reach their full potential.

Helping Families Navigate Today’s COVID-19 Environment

National PTA hosted a virtual town hall May 18, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support families in navigating today’s COVID-19 environment. The event featured CDC COVID-19 Response Principal Deputy Incident Manager Dr. Greta Massetti, White House Senior Policy Advisory Dr. Cameron Webb, American Academy of Pediatrics Spokesperson Dr. Ilan Shapiro, National PTA President Anna King and PTA leaders Christel Wesley and Sandra West. The town hall was moderated by Spectrum News National Health Correspondent and mom Erin Billups.

“At PTA, we remain committed to making sure that our students, families, schools and communities have what they need as the COVID-19 environment evolves,” said Anna King, National PTA president. “We’re continuing to provide communities–through virtual events like the town hall and in-person events like pop-up clinics–with important information, resources and professional expertise, especially as we move into the summer months.”

During the town hall, Dr. Massetti, Dr. Webb and Dr. Shapiro spoke about being parents themselves and how research and science can help inform parent and caregiver decision making around COVID-19 and vaccinating children. 

“The past two years have not been easy, but our parents, educators and children have shown remarkable innovation and resilience. The health of our children has been at the forefront of my mind, in my role at the CDC and as a parent. Research and science played a critical role in our guidance and recommendations, specifically around vaccines,” said Dr. Greta Massetti, CDC COVID-19 Response Principal Deputy Incident Manager.“Vaccines continue to play a leading role in our health strategy and enable students to return to in-person learning. By allowing children to learn in safe and healthy environments, vaccines not only protect children’s physical health but also their overall health.”

“I’ve been approaching the pandemic not only as a policy advisor to the White House but also as a parent,” said Dr. Cameron Webb, White House Senior Policy Advisor. “My number one goal is keeping my kids healthy and safe, and the first step in doing that was making sure that I was only engaging with data-based, truthful information. The data shows that the COVID-19 vaccine, specifically for children 5-11, is safe and works. Harnessing data and science and applying that to your decision-making process is key. It is our responsibility to not only protect ourselves, but also the more vulnerable members of our community.”

“In addition to my job as a pediatrician, I also have the job of father. I wanted to make sure that my kids are safe, happy and protected–and this was accomplished by getting them vaccinated,”said Dr. Ilan Shapiro, the medical director of health education and wellness at AltaMed Health Service and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.“Honest, fact-based conversations like this National PTA town hall provide parents and caregivers with the necessary information to make them comfortable in this changing landscape.”

Moderator Erin Billups also spoke with PTA leaders Christel Wesley and Sandra West about PTA’s ongoing efforts to keep children healthy and in school by building vaccination confidence in local communities.

“We wanted to make sure that we were providing reliable, science-based information to enable families to make the choice around vaccination that’s best for them. The next step was the proper dissemination of this information to communities of all shapes and sizes,”said Christel Wesley, vice president of Adams Elementary PTA in Norman, Okla. “Our pop-up clinic gave parents and caregivers a safe space to speak with a pediatrician, which is not something all families have routine access to.”

Sandra West, president of Miami Dade County Council of PTAs said, “Data became really important to us because it allowed us to prioritize the areas of need to concentrate on. Access to vaccination sites, even in a big city like Miami, was a challenge, and it forced us to come up with solutions. Our pop-up clinic was initially drive-through only and didn’t take into account how many residents don’t have access to a car. When we created a walk-up section, we were able to reach a whole new group of people who wanted to get vaccinated but didn’t previously have access.”

The impact of the pandemic, both physically and mentally, has been felt by families nationwide. Now, as most localities have lifted their mask and COVID-19 restrictions, many parents are now faced with a new set of decisions about how to best protect their children against the virus. A recording of the town hall can be watched on National PTA’s Facebook page.

4 Reasons You Should Vaccinate Your Child Against COVID-19

We Can Do This CDC Covid Vaccination

1. There’s no way to know if your child will get severely ill and even die from COVID-19

Since the pandemic began, one in six children under the age of 18 in the United States have been infected with COVID-19. Among those children, over 100,000 have been hospitalized and nearly 1,500 have died due to the virus.

COVID-19 can also cause multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but serious illness that involves painful swelling in different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs and brain. Nearly 8,000 children with COVID-19 have also had MIS-C; 66 of those children have died.

Doctors say children with certain health issues—such as asthma, diabetes, obesity and sickle cell disease—have a greater chance of getting very sick from COVID-19.

But even perfectly healthy children can get very sick from COVID-19. A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that almost half of children hospitalized with COVID-19 had no other health issues. News outlets repeatedly run reports like this one in The Florida Times-Union of children with no known health issues dying from COVID-19.

2. Even a mild case of COVID-19 can leave your child with long-lasting health problems

Estimates vary, but as many as one in four children who get COVID-19 can have new or lingering symptoms that last for weeks or months after infection.

Common “Long COVID” symptoms in children include sleep problems, tiredness, headaches, trouble concentrating and joint and muscle pain.

Even kids in tip-top shape aren’t safe from the grip of long COVID. An article in STAT chronicled how one teenage gymnast went from training daily for hours to struggling to walk up a flight of stairs after contracting COVID-19.

3. Your child could spread COVID-19 to people who are in greater danger of severe illness

Children are just as likely as adults to get and spread COVID-19.  

If your child gets COVID-19, they could be putting other people at risk, especially if they live in a multigenerational household or interact with people with certain health issues.

Older adults and people of all ages—including children with health issues—are at the greatest risk of experiencing severe illness from COVID-19.  

4. It will be safer for your child to go to school and participate in sports and other group activities after vaccination

Vaccination is the best thing you can do to protect your child from the dangers of COVID-19.

Since vaccines became available, people in all age groups, including children, who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines have been less likely to test positive, be hospitalized, and die from COVID-19 than unvaccinated people. Vaccinated people are also less likely to get MIS-C and long COVID-19.

If your child is up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, you can send them to school and to play with others, confident that they have the best possible protection against COVID-19.

Right now, everyone ages five and older can get vaccinated. Find COVID-19 vaccines near you at Vaccines.gov.

If you have any questions or concerns about vaccinating your child, talk to your child’s health care provider!

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We Can Do This is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 Public Education Campaign. Get more info and resources at WeCanDoThis.HHS.gov.

We Can Do This: Strategies to Address Vaccine Hesitancy through Local PTAs

Insights and Resources from our Recent Roundtable

National PTA’s urgent work to build vaccine confidence is well underway in 19 communities across the country. Recently we hosted a virtual roundtable to equip PTA leaders with accurate information and practical strategies to help address vaccine hesitancy and leverage every strategy to make schools safer for children and staff and maximize in-person learning. (Note: National PTA does not have a position on COVID vaccine mandates.)

Here, we share highlights from the conversation and resources local PTAs can put into practice right away.

Take Action to Keep Kids Safely in School: What Your PTA Can Do to Address Vaccine Hesitancy

Roundtable, February 2, 2022

  • Shaton Berry, Healthy Minds Ambassador, National PTA
  • Kate King, DNP, M.S., RN, LSN, President Elect, National Association of School Nurses
  • Laura Mitchell, Vice President of Advocacy, Montgomery County Council of PTAs, and Whole Child Fellow, National PTA
  • Michael Scott, CHES, Senior Program Manager, The Center for Black Health and Equity

  • Special Guest: Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, M.D., United States Surgeon General
  • Facilitator: Anna King, President, National PTA
  • Co-Facilitator: Nathan R. Monell, CAE, Executive Director, National PTA

Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy: The Surgeon General kicked off the conversation by thanking the PTA leaders who are already hard at work leading vaccine confidence campaigns in their communities. He noted the important role PTAs and community organizers can make in a moment like this, serving as a bridge to accurate and accessible information that is attuned to local concerns.

As a parent of young children himself, Dr. Murthy also expressed empathy toward any fully vaccinated parents and caregivers that may feel cautious about vaccinating their children, and acknowledged it is important that hesitant parents and caregivers be given the opportunity to express their concerns and be provided factual information. He observed that misinformation about vaccines circulating on social media platforms may have caused some parents and caregivers to become fearful. He noted that trusted messengers like local pediatricians, fellow parents, and other respected community members are likely the best positioned to help assuage such fears.

Kate King: School nurses are on the frontlines of the pandemic, but they can’t do this work alone. She urged collaboration among parent groups, school nurses, local boards of health and cultural organizations to help families overcome misinformation and make better-informed vaccine decisions. She urged parents and PTA leaders to speak with their own school nurse to access their recommended local resources. (If your school doesn’t have an assigned nurse, advocate for getting one!) Kate recommended several additional sources for reliable vaccination information:

Laura Mitchell: PTAs have a big role to play in helping our communities reach a safer post-pandemic stage. The key: Talk about vaccination everywhere! When families get comfortable asking questions from a trusted source, like their PTA, they are more likely to get vaccinated. Mitchell shared several successful conversation strategies from the Montgomery County Council PTA, who recently partnered with doctors to host “Vax Facts” webinars in multiple languages, teamed up with schools to get out the word about vaccine clinics, and regularly posts information in high-traffic locations, including grocery stores and their schools’ digital platforms.

Shaton Berry: When we help families make informed vaccine decisions, we’re supporting their health and mental health by reducing overall anxiety. Local PTA leaders don’t need to be health experts to navigate these conversations – they can tap into the National PTA family for ideas, tools and support. Shaton recommended three resources in particular:

Michael Scott: African-Americans continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and this population is less likely to be vaccinated and more likely to experience severe illness or death due to the pandemic. It is important to acknowledge the historical events that have contributed to vaccine hesitancy among the Black community and other historically marginalized groups, and to recognize the racial inequity that persists today in our health care experiences. Scott highly recommends these two resources, developed by or in partnership with The Center for Black Health & Equity:

As we reflect on the learnings from this round table, National PTA wants to recognize and acknowledge that some PTAs may be having a hard time determining and navigating your role in increasing vaccine confidence within communities where this issue has become especially polarizing.

In communities with a lot of hesitancy, your PTA may want to start by facilitating a forum for people to express their concerns and hear from trusted local messengers (such as pediatricians, coaches, and clergy). Your PTA can choose a couple of fact-based COVID-19 resources to share with the families who participate in the forum.

Whereas in other communities where the issue is less around hesitancy and more around eliminating barriers to access. In that case, your PTA may want to help support a vaccine clinic – or host one! – and use the power of PTA to address issues like transportation, translation services, food, awareness and so forth.

We hope you’ll find these insights and specific resources helpful. Keep your eye out for more updates from National PTA in the weeks ahead as we continue building vaccine confidence together. Together, we can do this!