Re: DSM: Is democracy for everyone?
Thu, 05 Aug 1999 23:22:38 -0400

Romey from Fairhaven School here.

Just to chime in on this topic, no new school will be able to avoid the
expense of handicap accessibility (unless they happen to find an old
school building), since ADA requirements are pretty thorough and
universal. Our building (which we built last summer) is completely
accessible, by ADA standards.

But we still cannot handle every kid with special needs...

We had, for example, an inquiry from a parent with a child who has
Asperger's Syndrome (a mild form of autism). We asked if the kid could
be independent at school and she thought he would not be able to, and
that she would need to be there with him. The impact of having a parent
who was not elected by the School Meeting at school every day seemed
problematic. We talked about possible scenarios, and she said, for
example, that he had trouble relating to other kids and she might need
to intervene if he got upset. It seemed more and more unlikely, but we
still offered the possibility of a visiting week to try it. But the
more we talked the more she realized how problematic it would be and
decided not to visit.
        Another example we had was a student who used to beat his head against
a wall when he got angry. He was withdrawn from school by his parents
anyway, but if his habit had been a little more pronounced (once he
really hurt his head banging it on a brick wall, and wore a scab on his
forehead for a few days) it could have been dangerous, and we would have
had to say he couldn't be at a school where he wasn't watched.
        The bottom line is that with 4 staff and 40 kids, or 10 staff and 200
kids, all of whom are doing what they want, where they want, the staff
is physically unable to supervise kids. So every kid HAS to be able to
take care of their own needs and keep themselves safe. In a "real
community" as Rhonda has been suggesting our schools should be, there
are families and caretakers to be responsible for those who cannot be
responsible for themselves. But to expect some members of a Sudbury
school to be responsible for themselves and then to provide supervision
for others drastically alters the nature of the school, and the dynamics
between the kids. We would gladly accept kids in wheelchairs, kids who
are functionally independent but have mild retardation or CP or any
number of other issues. But anyone whose special needs interfere with
their ability to keep themselves and others safe without supervision, or
to treat others with respect is going to endanger themselves and the
whole school.

There's our "policy" in a nutshell. Hope it helps.


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