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August 10th, 2001

Corey H

I’m a person who believes in equality and equal opportunities. I don’t think people should be discriminated against, say, getting a good education simply because of a disability.

But I also acknowledge that some people have special needs. Illinois, like most states, has a separate Special Education program that caters to the needs of people who are mentally or physically handicapped. The class sizes are generally small, so teachers can concentrate on working with these kids.

In 1992, a lawsuit was filed against the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois, and two educational organizations on the behalf of eight disabled students – including one named Corey H. The lawsuit claimed that the city had not given these students a fair shake when it came to education. In 1998, Federal Judge Gettleman ruled that the Illinois State Board of Education, as well as the Chicago Board of Education, had failed to provide a proper environment for these kids. The suit had expanded to include the Illinois State Board, so any ruling would affect not only the city but the entire state as well.

And what a ruling it was. It appears innocuous, and looks to be a good thing, but in reality this lawsuit means that kids in Special Education are no longer permitted to be separated from kids in the “normal” education system. I don’t know if I need to tell you how incredibly inane this ruling is. Imagine that you have a class filled with 4th graders, but two of them are at the age of three mentally. One has little control over bodily functions; the other also has a physical handicap. The teacher hasn’t gone through any training to understand the needs of those two kids, and she shouldn’t’ve. But now you’ve got everyone in that class affected. The teacher now has to deal with these kids, which affects the time that would be spent on lessons. The “regular” kids will sit around and goof around while the teacher tries to attend to the kids… or they’ll just make fun of the kids. And the disabled children? It’s a toss-up. We’ll have a huge mess on our hands.

In addition, this ruling severely affected the certificates Special Ed teachers must obtain. While one could concentrate on, say, working with kids exhibiting just one type of disability, the ruling lumps almost all disabilities into one large group. This means that, instantly, thousands of teachers will be deemed inadequate and will have to head back to school just to teach; a Special Ed classroom would have kids with various disabilities.

It’s a shame that the original issue has ballooned into something so ridiculous. While it’s possible that the city didn’t provide the proper environment, it’s silly to suggest that all students – including the severely disabled – will have the same opportunities in the same classroom. Special Education is so named for a reason. This judge’s ruling cuts a necessary system off at its knees. -pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

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