Red Clay plan to move special needs students rejected

By Michelle Provencher 7:57am, March 20, 2014 - Updated 9:39am, March 20, 2014
VIDEO: WDEL's Michelle Provencher reports.
Special needs schools will remain open for now, after the Red Clay School Board rejects motions for their closure.

WDEL's Michelle Provencher reports.

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Measures to transition students with special needs to primary public schools fail without even a vote, when the Red Clay School Board wouldn't second the motion.

The one board member who supported the action was Catherine Thompson.

"Without a doubt, hands down, the best research right now says that inclusion is the only way to go for these students," Thompson says. "It really is the last frontier for civil rights, it really is."

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Following suit with Thompson is Hazel Cole, parent of special needs children.

Cole calls Meadowood essentially a "babysitter," and realized her daughter, Grace, wasn't reaching her potential there when she was in 2nd grade.

"The issue is that she was by then so far behind that she really can't keep up with her peers. You know, her compared to other students in other districts who are thriving and they started in a fully inclusive setting," Cole says.

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Gene Seidle, however, says his seventh grade son was being bullied at his old school, but is now flourishing at Central.

"Moving into Central has taken that fear and anxiety off, so he now can concentrate on his time. A school with a thousand children, for some children, is just too much. It's too much stimulation. And he has Asperger's, he's stimulated, he hears everything. And so he's concerned about what's going on around him," Seidle says.

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Lisa Hazeldine was among one of the many dressed in red, in opposition to closing special needs schools in the district.

Hazeldine's son, Edward, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and attends Richardson Park Learning Center. She says they visited Skyline Middle School, but it isn't an option for them.

"It's a good school, it's just not for my son," Hazeldine says. "He was stuck in the bathroom. He used the bathroom and the door was too heavy for him to open. That's not safe."

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Motions to merge English Language Learners with general classes were made by Thompson and seconded by Kenneth Rivera. The four other board members voted against the measure and it was killed.

After the items were struck down, the board agreed to work with parents to find a better way to desegregate schools.

Superintendent Merv Daugherty says there's room for improvement.

"Sometimes plans are tough to do, and until you put it out there, you really don't see all the areas that you need to improve in. So I'm encouraged that we can do it," Daugherty says.

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