Every year, the first week of December is Inclusive Schools Week. More than anything else, Inclusive Schools Week is about inspiring all of us to think bigger about who we are, which students our schools serve, and how we can serve every student better.
So, to help get you in the mood, here are some stories I find incredibly inspirational:
Including Samuel is a documentary made by a photojournalist whose second son, Samuel, was born with a disability. Samuel’s family believes strongly he should be included in mainstream classrooms, but they also understand the trade-offs that full inclusion can require.
Here is Samuel’s father, Dan Habib, giving a TED talk:
Harper’s Playground came to be after Harper’s parents learned they would be parents of a child with a disability. They immediately wondered: how would they help Harper play with other children and find friends? From that, a movement toward more inclusive play spaces for children was born.
This week is National Inclusive Schools Week, an annual event celebrating schools that welcome all children and families. Tonight, parents at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy hosted a showing of Including Samuel, a very moving account of a family’s determination to include Samuel, a young boy with a disability, in everything they do.
At tomorrow night’s Board of Education meeting, we will be observing National Inclusive Schools Week several ways: by honoring the teachers at the Presidio Child Development Center, the district’s only inclusive preschool program, and by hearing a report by our Special Education department on inclusive practices in SFUSD. (We’re also issuing a commendation to Support for Families of Children with Disabilities, a great support organization.) Finally, the SFUSD Community Advisory Committee for Special Education, a group of parent advocates working to improve SFUSD’s special education programs, will present its annual report and recommendations to the Board.
In case you weren’t sure, let me be clear: I think inclusion is a civil rights issue just as I think same-sex marriage or racial equality are civil rights issues. I have a little home library of inclusion documentaries, but my favorite, and by far the most professional and compelling, is “Including Samuel,” produced by photojournalist Dan Habib to tell the story of his family’s work to include his youngest son Samuel in everything they do, every day. The three-minute trailer is below, but go to the film’s web site and watch the extended 12-minute trailer — it’s worth it. And then make sure you watch “Including Samuel” on PBS — it will be shown locally in the Bay Area on KQED Channel 9 at 6 p.m., Sunday Oct. 18.
My favorite speech in the whole movie is when Samuel’s mother looks right into the camera and says:
Now that I’m so close to a person with a disability I can’t believe that I was so blind to what people with disabilities in our community, in our country, in the world deal with every day. There was this huge civil rights issue, this huge amount of prejudice going on, and I never noticed it before.