You may have noticed that I don’t write about my school on this blog. I rarely write about my district. And never about my students. It is not what this blog is about.
I write using my real name. I’m not a “sock puppet,” a term I recently learned. A sock puppet is someone who scams others by using a phony ID when posting on the internet. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods was recently busted for being a sock puppet when trashing competitors and manipulating stock sales.
I respect my colleague’s and my student’s privacy and stay away from postings that would identify them.
But I am proud of my school and the work that we do with Special Needs students. As a public school, we welcome all students that live in our district, regardless of their learning needs. We work with many children with autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy
There are two factors here. One is that, as a result of struggle and parental demands, the law requires that public schools accept all children, no matter what disability they may have, and teach them in the least restrictive environment.
The other factor is that our school, parents, students, staff and administration have worked hard to make our school a warm, accepting, inclusive and safe place for everyone who learns and teaches in it. This is not something that happens by itself. It takes effort, sensitivity and consciousness.
So it is with more than a little anger that I read John Wooten, right-wing columnist for the Atlanta Journal.
In arguing for charter schools, he claims that one of their values is the fact that they don’t have to accept Special Needs students.
Critics note, for example, that private schools aren’t required to have curriculums tailored to special-needs children, or to hire certified teachers or those trained in special education. True enough.
They note, too, that competitiors are free to accept or reject applicants. True enough.
What’s happening here is that the locus of authority is tranferring from government to parents. For the first time in well over a century, the earth is moving in a direction that empowers parents — all parents, not just those with money.
For choice to be real, providers of education services should never, ever, be required to take every applicant. If they can’t serve a child’s particular needs — either because he’s disruptive, not up to grade, or deemed to have problems the school’s not equipped to address — they should be free to reject him.
When enough like-needs children exist, creative educators and entrepreneurs in the free market will create new schools.
This is a lie. It is public schools that have been the most responsive to the demands of parents, particularly to parents with Special Needs children. The more distant the school from the control of the public, the less they need to act on behalf of the common community. This has not happened without political action, nor has it happened quickly enough. But to the degree that there have been advances for those with disabilities, it has taken place where the public has leverage: in the public sector.