Dear Diary –
I had certain families in mind when I ran for WAPS school board. These families had children enrolled in the district’s special education department. Whenever I got discouraged (and I did get discouraged), I thought of these families. They were my motivation. I sought to be their voice to a system that perceives their children as inconveniences or, at best, merely individuals for whom it must provide some semblance of care. I know these families because of my daughter, Myrene. Myrene, who has Down Syndrome, has opened my eyes to the plight of these families.
School and society are intrinsically linked. If society is backward on some front, then school is likely falling in line with the backwardness. A top priority for me as a school board candidate was to shed light on the district’s need to be committed toward inclusion of exceptional learners in the general school experience. Some families shared with me their struggles in the WAPS school district. One mother shared with me how a music teacher required her child with special needs to merely lip sync the words to a concert song. This same mother also shared with me that, unbeknownst to her, her child was spending time doing custodial duties rather than being in a classroom with peers. Upon visiting schools, I saw some children routinely pulled out of classrooms. Why? I also learned first-hand that Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams in the district can easily behave as mere facades for administrative protection of this backward system.
I’m learning that not all school districts are like WAPS. The research of my WSU colleague, Amy Olson, sheds light on districts with exemplary inclusionary practices. In fact, there’s a whole line of research that supports inclusionary practices as better for everyone in a district. I’ve concluded that inclusion is not merely a strategic option … it is a civil right. Our families are inclusive – and our schools should be as well. I recognized during the campaign that this point would not garner me many votes – but I’d rather my candidacy be based on truth and justice than on an avoidance of unsettling potential voters. In fact, if my candidacy unsettled some teachers or administrators who defend WAPS’ conventional treatment of exceptional learners– then maybe I can count on that as an accomplishment.
I know that I’m not wrong on the issue of inclusion because …
If I am wrong, then the growing research on inclusion is wrong.
If I am wrong, then the Declaration of Independence is wrong.
If I am wrong, then the Constitution of the United States is wrong.
If I am wrong, then God is wrong.