First, you should know the good guys win this battle.
Ward and I are advocates of inclusive education*. Inclusive education says all students are together in one classroom (and for that matter, one community), regardless of their strengths or weaknesses in any area, and seeks to maximize the potential of all students.
It seemed reasonable to us that our child be included with other children. It seemed reasonable to us that he be seen as a full member of his class. It seemed reasonable to us that he has something to contribute to his fellow students.
It was however unreasonable to the school in our neighborhood. On May 10th we attended his ‘kindergarten transition meeting’ in preparation for the fall. At the meeting was his current team from pre-school – an assortment of five professionals of various disciplines and his case manager. There were seven people present from the elementary school. And – Ward and I accompanied by a supremely awesome inclusion advocate we had hired to come with us.
After Thorin’s current team presented information on him the kindergarten teacher said, “He shouldn’t be in my classroom” which sounded to a parent’s ears like “I don’t want that in my classroom.” Now, if we lived in a just world the Principal of the school who was in the room would have said something to the kindergarten teacher like, “Say, Marjorie** I hate to interrupt but could you come out in the hall a minute?”
In the hall she would have cuffed Marjorie in the head and said, “Seriously, given federal law and the least restrictive environment you really want to lead with that? Now get back in there and say you are drunk.”
But, what actually happened is the kindergarten teacher said something along the lines of kindergarten has changed quite a bit in the last 30 years and it is more cognitively challenging and basically he would fall behind. Are they splitting the atom in kindergarten now? Kids sit in circle time, they have snack time, they have cubbies – it’s like EST. (Of course they also do letters, reading, counting, etc. Inclusion education says it doesn’t matter he still gets to be in that classroom and accommodations are made so he can participate.)
It was advised he be in the developmental classroom and come in (or actually up the stairs from the basement – which must be a time warp continuum from 1972) during art and music. Art and music majors your talents are so “simple” that even my kid can participate. Think about that while paying off your student loans.
When our inclusion advocate suggested a model of inclusion where the special education teacher consults with the kindergarten teacher to provide modifications to the curriculum (and, I am using that word loosely) the special education teacher said she “didn’t have time to keep running up there.” Here is someone else begging to be invited out into the hall.
Two inexplicable things for us –
- The not-so-thinly-veiled-hostility coming from the kindergarten teacher. We weren’t mad. Sure, it might have had something to do with the law – and that we were on the right side of it.
- This woman had seen and interacted with Thorin over approximately nine months prior to the meeting. Clara-the-Amazing his childcare provider on Friday afternoons often takes him to pick up her other charges at the school. This teacher knew him and didn’t want him in her classroom? That’s lunacy. This is a kid people fight over to be around. How could she not see that?
To be continued…
*Not all parents of children with special needs are for inclusion. We get that. It is a personal choice. We are only advocating that it should be a choice.
**Not her real name.