County Must Double Efforts To Include Students With
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 3, 2003
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND--The state of Maryland is among the worst in the country for inclusive education, according to a story in the Baltimore Sun.
Howard County is among the worst in the state.
Part of the problem is that the county refuses to close Cedar Lane, a specialized school that serves children with disabilities in a segregated facility.
The school district wants to rebuild the aging institution because of overcrowding and lack of resources. But the state says it will not approve the building of any segregated, separate facilities for children with disabilities.
"It really is a civil rights issue," said Jessica Pearsall, who has a son with Down syndrome in first grade and a 4-year-old with autism. "So many of the arguments against including kids with disabilities are the exact same arguments used as reasons to segregate African-Americans."
Diana Mitchell, the school system's special education coordinator, said she thought the county's record for inclusion was much better than the statistics show. Mitchell said the county hopes to reach federal inclusion goals by 2007.
"The schools are the cornerstones of the community, and if they can learn to look at children with disabilities as people, that will ultimately spill out into the community," Mitchell explained.
Catriona Johnson's son, Asher Johnson-Dorman, is a fourth-grader with autism who spends nearly all of his school time in a general classroom with his peers.
"These are kids that belong in the neighborhood schools. The supports should be there to educate them," said Johnson, who is also director of Public Policy initiatives at Maryland's Developmental Disabilities Council. "It's part of the work of public education . . . and it's in the law."