Segregation or simplicity?

So I have a friend with a child on the autism spectrum. As a father, he’s one of my heroes. We often disagree politically, but not all that often. And he’s caught up in a nasty situation with Huntsville City Schools.

My friends son is not in a regular classroom full time. He is in a classroom designed and staffed for kids with special needs. And from what I hear, the child has made remarkable progress in that classroom.

But the system is in a bind. It is basically broke and looking to save money. One plan to do this is to consolidated special needs children into one of three schools. In many ways it is a simple, elegant plan that might even do what it is supposed to do. Save money.

My first instinct is to say it is a good plan. That saving money in these trying times is what should happen. By lowering the cost of schooling those with special needs then the system can increase spending elsewhere. Or at least maintain current levels.

But really, it isn’t that simple. I’ve also got a son with special needs. Oh his needs aren’t the same, but they are. As a second grader he is reading at fifth grade level and finds typical classroom work beneath him. As a result, he takes up more time in the classroom from the teacher than a more “neurological normal” student.

So what prevents the system from rounding up these time-takers on the higher end of assessment and “saving money” by putting them together in a distant school. Perhaps a school with weak test scores?

The answer is absolutely nothing. Should they do so I’d have little recourse but to accept the fate or make my child attend normal classes.

To some, that might sound like a good plan though. Let my child benefit from advanced schooling and excel. But I don’t want him to just excel at school, I want him to learn to interact with those other kids too. Because when he leaves school, that’s who will be his coworkers and employers.

And ultimately, that’s what my friend wants for his child. It is easy to say that autistic children take up more money or time than “normal” kids. But that’s an excuse. Once you remove them… Segregate them out of the school… Then you’ve got the freedom to look elsewhere for waste that isn’t really waste at all. Maybe my child is next?

It comes down to this. If the school system is allowed to segregate this population out of most schools, what’s next?

So despite my understanding for the simplicity of the plan, I still have to find it wrong and abhorrent. If I don’t stand with my friend as they try to remove his child, who will stand with me when they try to remove mine? Or yours?

For more specific information on what the system is planning visit my friend’s website at Geek Palavar and hear the story in his words.

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One thought on “Segregation or simplicity?

  1. Michael – I’d love to run an excerpt from this entry in this Tuesday’s Education piece. I’m compiling responses/questions/thoughts from various parents in HSV about what’s going on right now and I think this would fit nicely. If that would be okay with you, send me an email. Thanks!

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