Written by M.J. Ziemba, April 29, 2012, for Pensacola News Journal
Our country places a high priority on providing free education for all children, regardless of their race, gender or any other differentiating factor. The civil rights movement for racial equality had, at the center of its struggle, the aim of providing integrated and equal education for children of all races. The champions of civil rights knew beyond a doubt that separating one group of students from the rest and providing sub-standard education in this unequal dynamic was wrong.
I propose that educating students with disabilities in separate environments is also wrong since those classrooms may not afford the same quality learning opportunities as the other students receive.
The solution to this problem in the idea of inclusion, which seeks to treat students with special needs as different, though just as capable as their peers in learning and succeeding.
We initially segregated students with disabilities with the best of intentions. We thought that these students were in need of remediation, and that, given special services, we would increase their chance for a successful future. We were wrong.
M.J. Ziemba is the local coordinator for the Florida Inclusion Network, which provides learning opportunities, consultation, information and support to educators, families and community members, resulting in the inclusion of all students.