Re: DSM: Is democracy for everyone?

Scott Gray (
Wed, 4 Aug 1999 08:53:26 -0400 (EDT)

The building of a structure which is truly safe for people who are
confined to wheelchairs is a large and expensive undertaking. It is not
something which a small start-up school can easily do when going through
the daunting process of trying to find ANY sort of building.

Different sorts of "special needs" are, indeed, very different and call
for very different approaches. NO school can realistically declare in
advance that it can accomodate ALL special needs.

Sudbury Valley recognizes this limitation. We do NOT turn away students
at the door whose schools declare them as "special needs" students.
Rather, over the course of the interview and visiting week, the very
particular needs of each student are explored. It is a very rare thing
that the school does decide that a given individual would not be safe or
well-served by the school, but it does happen.

On the other hand, it does happen sometimes that a public school declares
itself incapable of educating one of its "special needs" students, and
decides to pay the student's tuition to Sudbury Valley.

The implication of what you write, is that each and every school has a
personal responsibility to bankrupt itself whatever the expense, to
accomodate any particular student; the other 210 students be damned along
with her/him.

To give you an extreme example, would you advise that a small school with
a $150000 budget take a student who needs the school to pay for
round-the-clock supervision from a doctor? If so, then how would the
school reconcile this with its budget? If so, then how would a Sudbury
Model School reconcile this with its intent to NOT have special
supervision for its students?

Sudbury Valley is not unable to make reasonable accomodations. But we
refuse to compromise the student, the community, the programme of

To answer your question directly... Sudbury Valley is not about people
adapting to a rigid framework, OR about going to great lengths to reinvent
itself for each student. Sudbury Valley has made a community where people
must be able to find a way to fill their own needs, adatping either
themselves or the community around them to do so.

Even the state, which has a CONSIDERABLY higher budget than a tiny school,
doesn't pretend that it can accomodate every voter. There are many people
who declare themselves physically unable to get to the polling place in
the town where I live -- some of which are accomodated by the state, some
are accomodated privately, and some of whom get no accomodation.

On Wed, 4 Aug 1999, rhonda goebel wrote:

> Many aspects of the Sudbury model appeal to me, especially compared to
> the school establishment model. One thing that bothers me though is how
> some people who have special needs (physical, emotional, mental, etc.)
> seem to be excluded. If Sudbury serves as a model of democracy in
> action, does that mean that there is no place for some people with
> special needs in a democratic state? Is Sudbury about people adapting
> to a rigid framework, or a responsive framework adapting to people? My
> point is not about forced compassion, rather the concept of equal
> opportunity for all, a democratic ideal that includes everyone
> regardless of need. Sudbury has significantly demonstrated that young
> people naturally develop competency and compassion within a
> self-directed context. My best guess is that young people would
> naturally and actively include all people, if given the opportunity (as
> is now being demonstrated in the school establishment). I believe that
> true democracy is democracy for all.

--Scott David Gray
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