Friday, July 13, 2007

Special Ed Segregation

At the end of June, the New York Times published the results of a state report saying that special education students in New York City were segregated from their General Ed peers more often than in any other part of the state and twice as much as the national average. As you can see, the segregation of special education classes in NYC is pretty bad, and the students in special education classes feel it. Earlier this year, representatives of the New York City Student Union ran workshops for eighth graders about how they could influence school decisions once they entered high school. A main part of our mission has been to educate and inspire our fellow students so that they truly believe that they can make change in their schools.

To help the eighth graders realize this we started the workshops by talking about how they felt about their schools. In the general ed classes the typical student response was, "the bathrooms are disgusting," or, "my teacher doesn't listen to me." In the special ed classes, the answers were much more focused and passionate. Many of the students felt that they were excluded by general ed students. They added that instead of trying to remedy the problem, the administration's policies were actually making it worse.

In that school, the special ed classes were located in the basement (it should be added that the only classes in the basement were special ed.) The students' only class with their general ed peers was gym. These students knew that they were being segregated to an unfair extent and this further disconnected them from their school.

Out of all the classes we went to for those workshops, the only class that was able to create a comprehensive "action plan" for dealing with school policies that they thought were unfair was the grade's only inclusion class. There is your proof. Integrating students with different needs into the same class is very difficult for all parties involved. However, it can produce some great results.

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