by Ari Robin McKenna
As many students receiving special education services in what Seattle Public Schools (SPS) calls “intensive pathways” returned to in-person learning in early April, some local educators find themselves questioning whether their students will have improved opportunities for inclusion, or if the opposite is true. Supported by a federal law, which states that all students should learn in the “least restrictive environment,” inclusion requires that students with disabilities spend as much time as possible learning with their peers who do not receive special education services. While much attention has been focused on the myriad needs of students returning to hybrid, in-person learning, these teachers are concerned that inclusion of students with disabilities will be overlooked, and their need to be included will be unmet.
During the pandemic, one terrible example of exclusion was discovered in SPS at View Ridge Elementary School. According to a story by KUOW, the principal, assistant principal, and other staff members seem to have thought the least restrictive environment for an 8-year-old Black boy named Jaleel was to lock him in a caged play area for hours at a time where he sometimes ate while sitting on the floor. Though state law requires any instance of “restraint and isolation” to be reported, there was no paper trail, and while Jaleel’s case may or may not be an isolated event, it brought to the fore existing questions about whether there was a tendency to exclude BIPOC students — and particularly Black students — receiving special education services in SPS.Continue reading SPS Educators Confront Issues of Race and Disability as Students Return to Schools