#InclusionMatters

all inIn early December 2015, Seattle Public Schools pulled all funding from the Experimental Education Unit’s inclusive kindergarten program. When asked to rationalize the decision, SPS Special Education Executive Director Wyeth Jessee made some comments about compliance issues and misappropriation of funds, but as Fanny Yang described, this was a “glaringly faulty argument.”

Not only was this decision based on a faulty argument, this decision was just bad science.

The Kindergarten program at the EEU does a lot of great things. Every EEU kid, teacher, and family benefits from the implementation of cutting edge teaching strategies and research. The individuals who graduate from this program, move on to schools and communities around the Sound with a message of inclusivity and compassion. These are the people who make sure everyone has a voice at the table. And we can’t risk loosing this.

My own time teaching at the EEU dramatically shaped who I am today as a teacher, a parent, and a public health professional. As my own daughter approaches the age of two, I marvel watching her interact with the world without prejudice. The EEU nurtures this natural inclination kids have to play with all their friends. It equips children, students of education, teachers, and families with the words necessary to be lifelong advocates for inclusion. These kids, families and educators are living proof that inclusion is best practice, good science illustrated through the words spoken at the school board meeting earlier this week.

I don’t teach at the EEU anymore. In 2012, I graduated from the University of Washington with my Masters in Special Education, and transitioned into a Public Health graduate program. This decision was greatly fueled by what I learned working in an inclusive environment. Even though I don’t teach at the EEU anymore, I use what I learned there everyday.

As a parent, I strive to teach my own daughter how much #inclusionmatters. I know how important this lesson is to her development, shaping her into the compassionate person I hope she will become. These lessons are especially important at a young age. Research in early neurological development shouts loud and clear that early experience translates to later skill. When we teach our children about inclusion now, they become the inclusion experts of tomorrow. It is just good science.

I also use what I learned at the EEU everyday as a public health professional. In public health, effective policies improve health outcomes for everyone. But policies are only effective when everyone has the opportunity to weigh in. When we get all stakeholders around the table, and we listen to their thoughts and ideas, we generate public health policies that are responsive to the needs of a community. We generate policies that work.

We have a moral obligation as members of a community to ensure that all stakeholders have a place at the table. And recess is a good place to start practicing. It is just good science.

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