Dear Editor: Recently you reported on MMSD’s proposal to purchase an isolated building solely for special ed programs. While I agree it is important to provide intensive services for those who experience disabilities, I think integration, not segregation is the answer. As a nursing student, it is my responsibility to advocate for those who do not have a voice — the students themselves. Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, students with disabilities should receive the same educational opportunities as students without. It is important that students with disabilities have a sense of autonomy, competence and relatedness in the school setting, which is often where much of their care is provided. Integrating students with disabilities not only provides them with more equitable education and a sense of belonging, but also exposes other students to diversity. I recall being in elementary school and never seeing the students with special needs, and the few times I did, their presence was often followed by snickers about their “differentness.”
Students in the schools are experiencing more extensive health care needs due to medical advances that have allowed more children to survive early health issues and illnesses. School nurses are an integral stakeholder in the care and education of these students. Instead of separating students with disabilities in an isolated building, providing education and experience to school nurses could be the key to these students’ success. This could be done through an effective partnership between the Madison school nurses and LINK, a local coalition of agencies and programs that support children with disabilities. Additionally, partnerships between the school nurse, the other support staff and the students themselves would create a supportive learning environment where all would benefit.
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