'Inclusion' And Guinea Pigs
At a recent PTA workshop on inclusion at Howard High School, I heard an alarming statement made by the director of special education, Sandra Marx: "Inclusion is a reality."
This is no longer a buzz word. . . . It's happening quietly right here in Howard County. . . . Most people with non-disabled school-age children don't even know what the term means. If they have heard it, they figure it's not important because it won't affect them. That's where they may be fooling themselves.
The Individuals with Disabilities Act states that students with disabilities must be educated with their peers without disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate in their home schools. This is a wonderful, well-meaning ideal in a perfect world.
Let's first consider the word "peer." Peer is defined in the dictionary as "a person who is equal to another." A Level 5 student with multiple handicaps and possible medical complications is hardly an intellectual or physical peer to a "normal" student his or her age. Our children are currently being educated with their peers at Cedar Lane School. To move them to their home schools would be disastrous for them and the other non-disabled children.
I would assume that grand mal seizures during class would be disruptive to the students. Unfortunately, many of the students at Cedar Lane have seizures frequently, if not daily. The regular teachers are not qualified to deal with special needs kids. They are not educated in teaching methods . . . nor do they have the staff to support them.
Our children will be guinea pigs to this new trend of "inclusion." . . . They can't speak up for themselves so we have to do it for them. . . . We don't want to have our children manipulated to comply with least-restrictive environments. They are in the least restricted environment for them. We want to make sure that Cedar Lane continues to be a choice for our children and any future children for which it is appropriate. We must ensure that a continuum of placement is available and that inclusion doesn't mean taking away our choices.
The Council And The Hansen Memorial
I would like to comment on the Nov. 2 editorial about a memorial for John Hansen and the way in which it was handled by the Columbia Council. I was not asking the council to sponsor a memorial, but asking it to allow his friends to establish a memorial on Columbia Association property. I wanted permission to discuss the feasibility of three ideas with the Columbia lTC Association staff. Any further plans would still need council approval. The money for establishing any memorial would be raised in Mr. Hansen's honor by the Columbia Democratic Club and the arrangements would be made by Mr. Hansen's friends, not the Columbia Council.
What upset me the most was the insensitivity with which my request was treated. It was a personal request made on my behalf and that of Mr. Hansen's other friends. . . . I was also upset because I thought better of the Columbia Council. I have watched a lot of meetings and everybody always expressed their opinions. It never occurred to me that the council would decide not to discuss the ideas at all.
I would also like to comment on the reasons for remembering someone who died with a permanent memorial.
My 17-year-old son, Alex, died five years ago from complications of pneumonia and muscular dystrophy. I did a lot of things in his memory. I didn't do things in memory of my son because his death was a tragedy. I did them because I loved him and missed him and the things I did helped me and others heal. I wanted people to know that Alex Waters existed, that he meant a lot to people and that he made a difference. All these reasons apply to Mr. Hansen, as well. Maybe the Columbia Council should not be expected to honor Mr. Hansen, but it could have allowed his friends to do so.
The editorial, "Honoring John Hansen," expresses a strange viewpoint of the fundamental concepts of representative government, if one may loosely refer to the Columbia Council as government. To suggest that council member Hope Sachwald is "foolish" to believe that the Columbia Council is obligated to be non-partisan should give your readers pause for thought.
Likewise, the editorial explanation that "the old bugaboo about council members being of no particular party is more window dressing than reality" -- if there really is such a bugaboo -- begs any logical connection between the political loyalties of the individual members of the council to the concept of nonpartisanship of the council itself.
Hope Sachwald apparently understands that as the Harper's Choice representative to the council, she is representing all the residents, not her own political party. Why would you call that foolish?
I am appalled by the Oct. 29 article, "Council rejects proposed Hansen memorial." This article sensationalized a very sad situation -- and one which I believe that the Columbia Council handled in an appropriate manner.
The Columbia Association conducted a city-wide memorial service for John, and then the Harpers Choice Village set up a memorial fund, and is planning a plaque in their village. Beyond that, we miss him personally. I understand and respect Laura Waters' feelings of wishing she could do more for John. Having known John for several years, I think he would have been comfortable with our actions.
I believe that people will respect that sometimes public arguments do not take place on sensitive subjects for good reasons.
The writer is a member of the Columbia Council.