Ana Ramón • IDRA Newsletter • March 2021 •

During the summer and fall of 2020, four high school and college students led an IDRA research project to collect insights from their peers about the impact of COVID-19 on students and how the pandemic has worsened or changed the challenges young people face in their schools. The project focused on elevating the voices of the most impacted – families and students – in school reopening planning and policymaking.

The project stemmed from IDRA’s new partnership with Seek Common Ground, which launched its COVID-19 Recovery Action Accelerator in 2020 to support state and community-based organizations pursuing equitable and sustainable education policies and experiences.

IDRA announced in September the student team: Jacqueline Campos, Monica Cruz, Alejo Peña Soto and Fatimah Rasul. IDRA trained and supported these student advocates as they developed, distributed and analyzed surveys about the needs of families and students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The student research team decided to focus on four main categories in their survey questions:  education equity, home stressors, at-home learning and discipline in school. The team chose these categories to reflect the current state of education and the existing equity barriers students experience in their own schools. They collected 120 surveys from students in 11th grade through college freshmen in 28 zip codes in the San Antonio area. Key findings of the research include:

  • Three out of four students reported struggling with mental wellness issues.
  • Students carried additional burdens including poor Internet connectivity, social isolation, and insufficient opportunities to take mental and physical breaks from classes, due to virtual learning.
  • Students face pressure to maintain their education while also managing responsibilities like assisting their families, holding jobs and dealing with healthcare needs outside of the classroom.

The researcher team included questions regarding school before COVID-19. Students reported that misguided school discipline, like dress code violations, in-school suspension, and out-of-school suspension policies, are harmful and cause disruptions to their learning.

As the COVID-19 pandemic contributes to increased structural and learning divisions within the education system, the voices of students affected by the crisis must be central in all decision-making processes. The survey results described in this report clearly show that COVID-19 has created new challenges and exacerbated existing issues in students’ schools. IDRA will release the full study soon with a set of recommendations for the state, school districts and schools.

Ana Ramón is IDRA’s deputy director of advocacy. Comments and questions may be directed to her via email at

[©2021, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the March 2021 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]