Southern California parents were rightly outraged when they found out what was really going on in their children’s special education program, and you will be too. Once parents learned that special education students were sorting through campus trash for recyclables as part of a functional skills program, shit hit the fan.
According to ABC News:
Angry parents sounded off over the program that had special education students sort through campus trash bins for recyclables. They said it was humiliating and exposed the children to germs.
“It is disgusting,” said Carmen Wells, who complained after learning her autistic son was digging through trash on his first day as a high school freshman.
Duchon said the district is reviewing the functional skills program. He said no complaints had been received about the activity, which is a standard part of the curriculum, until last week.
This is just wrong on so many levels. After parents brought the problem to the school superintendent, they received the apology that was due to them. The superintendent also planned to suspend the “functional skills” activity of sorting trash, which made up the general life skills lesson plan, along with budgeting and buying groceries.
General life skills for all students, including those with special needs, I can understand. I don’t currently have a child in a special needs program, but I assume parents would appreciate their children learning skills that facilitate independence, like those described above.
Sorting trash is not one of them. Though the superintendent claims that the activity was a standard part of the curriculum, other school board members spoke out in disagreement. School board member Brian Schafer, who also happens to be the parent of a former special ed student, agreed that digging through trash was “unhealthy” and not a valuable life skill.
It’s hard to ignore the fact that trash-sorting as part of a special ed program blatantly implies that these students are second-class citizens. From what I have read and heard from friends and family members of special needs children, advocating for a child with special needs in the educational system is a full-time job.
Special needs students need special attention and educational support, hence the name of the program. What they don’t need are ridiculous chores and “dirty jobs” that no one else at the school wants to do, just to fill time.
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