Saturday, June 12, 2010

Special Education Parties Eliminated

Boulder Valley School District is planning to eliminate special parties for special education students, district wide. Read this article to get all the details.

Kim Bane from the district cites 2 reasons in the article for eliminating the program. Her first reasoning is the time of the events, often during the school day which takes away instructional time. Her second reason deals with inclusion.

Let's start with the second reason, inclusion. While it is important to include all students in activities at the school, this is already common practice. The special education students are always encouraged to attend and participate in all school activities. They haven't changed a policy to suddenly allow these students at activities they weren't permitted to attend before. Meanwhile, the schools are already part of the national trend of inclusion at the school on all levels, so these students are interacting with their peers in the traditional classroom daily. In fact, this past year I witnessed an honor student who worked in the resource room with special education students and was talking to one girl about whether she would be attending the basketball game later that night. This special education student who is in a wheelchair was planning to go. Plenty of inclusion going on at this school and bonding between peer groups. So in my opinion, the inclusion argument is moot.

Going back to the first reason, missed instructional time, the article notes that these students are pulled out during the school day for 2 hours, 4 times a year for these activities. Not a huge loss in instruction time, especially if you know that in special education courses it is taught that recreation and leisure activities are something that need to be taught to special education students. Therefore these could be considered additional parts to the curriculum in providing opportunities for these students to meet new students from across the district. Furthermore, let's add up the number of hours that sports students miss from instructional time to drive to a game or meet. Do you think it would exceed 8 hours in a school year? What about that missed instruction time?

In my opinion, this isn't about instruction time or inclusion. So what is it all about? Money. Plain and simple. Special Education students often require special transportation because of their needs. The article does mention this, but it seems to get lost in the controversy and focus of the issue. Students with special needs have exactly that, special needs. They need to be taught special life skills to help them assimilate into society. Transportation is one of these life skills. So why can't the district use this as a teaching opportunity for these students? Why not teach them how to use the public transit system to get to these events? I still know of special education adults who "hate the bus" and won't make it to classes just for this reason. Why do they hate the bus? I don't know, but perhaps if the school taught them this skill to attend a special event where they would meet new students, they would be more likely to participate in events on their own as adults by using the public transportation system.

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