Three cheers for BVSD and Special Education Director Kim Bane! The decision to end segregated events for students with disabilities is courageous and forward thinking. It is another step in the long fight for the rights of people with disabilities. My son with significant disabilities will be entering middle school next year. I am grateful that BVSD leaders are showing their commitment to treating all students fairly and providing even students with the most severe disabilities a chance to belong and be respected. The arguments to continue segregated events expressed by Judith Bunker (Open Forum 4/29) say it all. She says of students with disabilities, “Socially, they are in their own category” and they are “not usually included in sleep-overs, birthday celebrations, social gatherings and other outside school activities of the general student population.” This is precisely why we can no longer tolerate these events! School sponsored segregated events PROMOTE this same attitude – that our kids are different, that they don’t belong, that they shouldn’t be invited. This perspective is what we need to change! Bunker says that other groups (i.e. football teams, drama clubs, choral groups) are allowed to have parties and dinners for just their members. This is true. Do these parties and dinners happen during school hours, planned by school staff? No. They are usually planned by students and families and happen outside of school hours. If students with disabilities or their families want to gather together in their leisure time, this is wonderful. The difference is gathering together privately by choice, verses forced segregation sponsored by a public institution. The first is fine, the second is discrimination. Thank you again to Kim Bane, Karen Daly and all of BVSD staff who support the full inclusion of our students with disabilities. You are making the world a better place for all.
Donna M. Wilson