Posted on February 21, 2014 in Inclusion
From Section 3, idea #11 of Don’t We Already Do Inclusion?
Years ago, I worked with a wonderful elementary school. They were committed to making very aspect of the school inclusive, welcoming, and supportive. One issue they had not examined, however, was transportation.
During a visit, I saw a little boy with disabilities skip off an accessible bus, greet his general education classmates as they stood in line on the playground, and enter the building. I asked the principal why he was (a) using specialized transportation and (b) entering the building before his classmates. The principal said, “Um…they all do that.”
By “all”, he meant any student in the school’s “moderate-severe disability” program. These students had labels of autism, intellectual disabilities, and multiple disabilities. They “all” received specialized transportation and they “all” went into school when their bus arrived to “get set up” for the school day.
I was bothered that a school so focused on inclusion didn’t see the importance of having learners start the day with the peers. No educator seemed to question why this young man did something different than the 22 other third graders waiting, gossiping, giggling, chasing, and chatting on the playground. Further, no educator was questioning why the young man was taking a kneeling bus to school. He clearly didn’t need accessible transportation and the administrator didn’t know of any reasons why he could not ride the same bus as his brother and classmates, so why was he on that bus? The answer seemed to be, “Because we have always done it that way.” Of course some families will want and need specialized transportation for reasons not immediately apparent, but many would undoubtedly want the same transportation options used by their child’s neighbors, classmates and siblings.
In a movie I made on inclusive schools, You’re Going to Love This Kid: Teaching Students in the Inclusive Classroom (2012), administrator, Dr. Kurt Schneider, discussed the need to consider transportation in discussions around inclusive schools. He shared that issues of transportation are as critical as issues about any other “placement” and he discussed some of the questions he and his own staff members have wrestled with in the process of creating a district where everyone belongs:
Do we have segregated spaces that only kids with disabilities are accessing or only English language learners are accessing? If so, why? And let’s try to remove that. Are all kids accessing and riding the same bus that they would just if they did not have an identification? If we have busses that aren’t accessible, can we purchase the ramps to make them accessible? So those are all conversations that are taking place to align everything that we’re doing to the vision that is out there about truly being….an integrated, socially just school for all kids.
How inclusive is the transportation in your district? What would it take to make transportation more accessible for your learners? Do you have families in your schools who would actually prefer to access general transportation? What supports (e.g., teaching new skills, use of a paraprofessional) would be necessary to make this happen?