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Archive for the ‘post-secondary education’ Category

Exclusion of student with DS from college class sparks concern

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Protest continues to mount over a decision by Southern Oregon University to exclude a non-credit student with Down syndrome from an introductory ceramics course. The decision comes almost 35 years after the enactment of federal legislation that opened public school doors to students with disabilities.

More than 700 people have signed an online petition urging the reinstatement of 20-year-old Eliza Schaaf. An online column by San Francisco school board member Rachel Norton on SFGate.com called the university’s decision “appalling.”

College officials abruptly withdrew Schaaf from the course last month, saying that she is not qualified to meet the academic standards necessary to participate. Alissa Arp, dean of SOU’s college of arts and sciences, wrote in a letter to Schaaf that her presence in the class had resulted in a “disruption of curriculum delivery and interfered with the teaching and learning environment for the instructor and other students.” Schaaf had attended Ashland High School and had been fully included in her educational career up until that time.

SOU dean of students Laura O’Bryan upheld the decision this week in a letter that referred to Schaaf’s enrollment as a “novel situation.”

“The non-admitted policy was not designed or intended to provide an avenue for participation to individuals who are not otherwise qualified for admission to SOU,” O’Bryan wrote.

Norton, a former member of the San Francisco Community Advisory Committee for Special Education, noted that Eliza’s family had apparently made a reasonable effort to prepare the university and assure that the young woman had an orderly transition to college life.

An excerpt from Norton’s column:

I hereby wish to invoke the power of the Internets to show Southern Oregon University how wrong-headed they are by failing to see the benefits (let alone the moral imperative) of including a person with a disability.

… 35 years after the signing of IDEA, students who have experienced inclusive environments throughout their K-12 educations are now knocking on the doors of colleges like yours. Eventually, they’re going to gain access. Wouldn’t it be better if you figured out a way to welcome them?

Related commentary:

An editorial from the [Medford, Oregon] Mail Tribune says Schaaf should be allowed to complete the course, but the editorial writers leave open the question of whether the university has an obligation to serve what they call an “unusual” student. An excerpt:

… While it is difficult from the outside to understand all the issues in this case – SOU isn’t talking about it – it’s clear that universities should be able to bar some students from some classes. Even students who graduate from high school have no intrinsic right to a college education: It’s for those who can meet the academic requirements of entry.
But the university does bear responsibility for making clear who can and can’t attend.

… [The family's] experience speaks not necessarily to whether Schaaf’s presence in the class was appropriate but to how well the university was, or wasn’t, able to handle an unusual student’s desire to enroll.

The university ought to let Schaaf finish out the term in ceramics – and then turn its attention to addressing that issue long-term.

Related coverage:

A website maintained by Eliza Schaaf’s family carries many messages of support.

Vanderbilt enrolls students with intellectual disabilities

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

From the [Nashville] Tenneseean:

A post-secondary program at Vanderbilt University has opened the door to college for eleven students with intellectual disabilities. Officials hope the Next Step program, described as “an education, not a day camp,” will help students learn career and life skills that will allow them to build more independent lives in the community.

The two-year program, which relies on the work of student volunteers, has a competitive admissions process and a hefty tuition cost of $10,000.  In addition to participating in classes and extracurricular activities with typical college students, the Next Step students get job training and work on basic life skills. Eleven students are currently enrolled.

“We want them to become lifelong learners. We want them to have a sense that, ‘I belong to this community,’ ” said Next Step program director Tammy Day.

And for the hard-driving, ambitious young Vanderbilt students sitting next to them in class, there’s a lesson to be learned, as well. You can get more out of a class than just a grade.

“They might realize it’s OK for there to be different reasons to be in class,” Day said.

Earlier post here.

Vanderbilt welcomes students with intellectual disabilities

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

From the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required):

Vanderbilt University’s new Next Step certificate program is providing a college experience to six students with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to participate in classes and extracurricular activities with typical college students. The Next Step students also get job training and work on basic life skills.

The two-year Next Step program is among an estimated 250 postsecondary offerings for people with intellectual disabilities across the country, according to the National Down Syndrome Society.

Elise D. McMillan, co-director of the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at Vanderbilt, says the trend reflects the growing aspirations of disabled people.

“This is a whole generation of young individuals with disabilities that have grown up benefiting from the Americans with Disabilities Act,” she says. “They have been included in their public schools, and, in many ways, they have the same dreams and aspirations as their brothers and sisters and other students.”

Students with disabilities get internships on Capitol Hill

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

From Politico.com:

Three young adults with intellectual disabilities are working as interns in Congress, courtesy of a new pilot program affiliated with Mason LIFE, a post-secondary program for adults with intellectual disabilities at George Mason University.

While the internships don’t guarantee future paid employment, organizers are hopeful that the office experience and self-confidence the students gain will give their resumes a welcome boost.

Mississippi Republican Rep. Gregg Harper, whose son has Fragile X syndrome, reached out to Mason LIFE to get the internship program started.

“After dealing with these issues for 20-plus years, that’s kind of where our heart is,” Harper said. “A lot of times, when you get out of high school and you’re dealing with intellectual disabilities, you fall off the educational face of the Earth. Sometimes you’re looking to give hope to some of these families who want their child to continue on.”

More colleges serving students with intellectual disabilities

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

From the Charleston, SC, Post and Courier:

Four universities in South Carolina are now offering courses of study for students with intellectual disabilities. The programs allow students to enroll in some mainstream college classes, and will offer some separate independent living and vocational classes.

Proponents of on-campus programs for students with intellectual disabilities say they help disabled students learn to function better in the world and traditional students to learn more about people with disabilities.

… Les Sternberg, dean of USC’s College of Education who has a background in special education, said, “I’m a cheerleader for this kind of stuff.”

“Everything that’s offered to the non-disabled student should be offered to the disabled as well,” Sternberg said. “Not only is it the right thing to do, it helps students become more employable.”

See also:

College of Charleston launches ‘Realizing Educational and Career Hopes (REACH) Program’ — Charleston and the Lowcountry News

Students with Down syndrome get a taste of college life – Community College Week

Student with disabilities wins fight to live in college dorm

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Oakland University violated federal law by excluding him, judge rules

From the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Oakland [MI] Press:

A federal judge has ruled that Michigan’s Oakland University has violated the federal Rehabilitation Act by failing to allow a student with a cognitive impairment to live in a campus dorm. An Oakland spokesman said the university will appeal the ruling, but will allow the young man to live on campus during the process.

U.S. District Judge Patrick J. Duggan ordered Oakland to make a room available to 25-year-old Micah Fialka-Feldman, who has been taking classes in the school’s OPTIONS program. Fialka-Feldman pays a fee equal to full tuition but doesn’t earn grades in the program, which is designed for students with cognitive disabilities who would not otherwise be able to meet the university’s admissions requirements.

The university has maintained that Fialka-Feldman, who takes buses two hours a day to get to class from his parents’ home, is not eligible for a dorm room because he’s not enrolled in a degree-granting program.

Duggan said the university’s assumption that the young man would be unable to follow housing rules “appears to be grounded on prejudice, stereotypes and/or unfounded fear.”

Earlier posts here.

(Detroit News photo)

Georgia district hosts college fair for students with disabilities

Friday, December 4th, 2009

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Georgia’s largest school district is holding a college fair for students with disabilities, gathering representatives from 30 colleges and universities to meet with students who have physical, emotional and learning disabilities.The fair is free and open to families across metropolitan Atlanta.

“We want to make sure our students know all of the options ahead of them when they are looking at life beyond the K-12 experience,” said Jennifer Fornek, Gwinnett School’s director of Instructional Services. “We want the students to be successful when they leave us.”

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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