Tag Archives: Special Education

Inclusive Practices, Inclusive Education

In June, we sent this letter to the Highline School Board, Deborah Holcomb, and Dr. Susan Enfield. Today, we received this from Susanne Jerde. We are extremely happy and excited about the work to change our culture in Highline Schools to be one of inclusion. Read on and share!

From: Susanne Jerde
Sent: Monday, August 24, 2015 4:29 PM
To: **Principals and Assistant Principals
Cc: Susan Enfield
Subject: Inclusive Practices

Dear Colleagues,

As we heard from Dr. Enfield and Dr. Martin earlier this month, each and every student should feel and experience the sense of belonging as a general education student first, regardless of additional services and needs. Creating a climate where all students feel a part of the school is the first step as a system in creating an inclusive culture district-wide.  To this end, we have changed our “Student Support Services” department to “Inclusive Education” to support a culture where all students belong.

Ensuring that every student feels membership in a school community is just one of the values and beliefs necessary on the journey towards creating an inclusive culture.   Inclusive practices provide opportunities to learn about and accept individual differences, lessening the impact of harassment and bullying.  As a leader, it is imperative for you to lead and model the way, staying actively engaged in pushing for innovative solutions to barriers that exclude learners from general education settings.

This year, ensuring that all students are part of a general education class and are included in general education learning opportunities (beyond PE and music) is our goal.  This includes having all students with special needs having a name on a posted class list of a general education teacher or general advisory at secondary.  A seat is not defined as just a desk and a nametag (if appropriate), but as opportunities for learning along peers in general education classes.

Supporting teachers in working with students at multiple ability levels, who have emotional and social challenges in their lives is critical. Many of you have focused on developing inclusive practices across your school, with some of the examples below.  While this list is not exhaustive, I share it as a starting place. My ask is that you each reflect on how you can lead a school where all students are included, message inclusion as a part of your school culture, and identify school-wide strategies to support a vision of students learning and participating together.  My hope is that you will share with colleagues your successes in changing beliefs and culture at future convenings.

Inclusive Examples Strategy
No program labels Always refer to a child’s classroom with teacher name and not a label, “They are in Mr. Smith’s room.” vs. “They are in the ILC room.”
Assemblies/ Awards Students are not excluded because of noise, etc.  Work to provide needed accommodations to support if needed.

Students with special needs are included in receiving awards at the school for attendance, academic/social growth.

Provide the option for students receiving supports in EBC, IAM, ILC to sit with general education homerooms at assemblies and lunch time (as it is appropriate for each student)

Clubs Use of peer tutors to support club participation
Cafeteria Students with special needs are not at a corner table, but interspersed among their peers
Field Trips All students included with their general education peers
General Education Classrooms Not a seat in the back of the room, but one where the student is expected to take part in the learning experiences provided in general education.  Students are provided with cubbies, name tags, “space” in their homeroom classroom.  Assign a buddy to those students who may not be in the classroom for the entirety of the day (includes LRC as well!) who will be responsible for sharing any missed information/communication that happens when they are out of the room. Provide time and routines for regular check ins between these students.
Parents Parents/guardians are included in PTA and SLT


Leadership Ensure that all older students are included in rotations for leadership opportunities (lunchroom helpers, conflict managers, etc.) with supports as appropriate
IEPs Principal/AP knows every students’ IEP (Strengths, needs)
Collaboration Staff are given time to work together—gen ed and sped—to collaborate on scaffolding core instruction



Over the next few weeks, your ILED will be discussing with you ways to message and lead this important work with a strong instructional leadership lens.  I look forward to continued conversations about how we can use inclusive practices to truly know every student by name strength and need. 

Here’s to a great start for the 2015-2106 school year,


  Susanne Jerde

    Chief Academic Officer

15675 Ambaum Blvd. SW

Burien, WA 98166


Letter to the School Board

June 17, 2015

Dr. Susan Enfield, Superintendent of Highline Schools
Deborah Holcomb, Director of Special Services and Student Support
Highline School Board Members:
Tyronne Curry, Sr., Angelica Alvarez, Joe Van, Bernie Dorsey, and Michael Spear
15675 Ambaum Blvd SW
Burien, WA 98166

Dear Dr. Enfield, Deborah Holcomb, and our Highline School Board:

I am writing to you as a parent, an advocate, and a community leader. I have a great concern that our students with disabilities are not being fully included in Highline Schools, nor are their needs being met.

As a parent and advocate, I have experienced first-hand, or had a parent tell me directly the following incidents over the last month: a kindergarten student in an ILC class was not included in their school’s kindergarten promotion. A principal asked an ILC teacher, in front of me, not to bring her class down to the cafeteria on the day parents were invited to eat with their students because it was too crowded. Third grade students in the ILC class at an elementary school, where they are to have Chrome Books as part of a 1:1 technology program, never received their Chrome Book computers despite having raised the issue to the principal and to Highline administration. A high school student’s parent was told at an IEP meeting that the teacher and the principal did not know enough to help support their student and that they should consider paying for private school. An elementary school student’s parent was told, in front of me by the assistant principal, that their student would not receive the supports their son needed, despite having it outlined in the IEP. Three students who use wheelchairs at an elementary school were not included outside on the field because their wheelchairs could not go on the grass, so they were brought to the edge, rather than bringing the activities to where they could participate, and three paraeducators had to stay with them.

These examples are not meant to throw any teacher, administrator or staff member “under the bus,” by any means. These examples do not show what has happened behind the scenes, and often this is a miscommunication or misunderstanding. These examples, however, do point to a climate and culture that disregards students with special needs. Our students with disabilities are often forgotten about or disregarded when it comes to basic inclusion. Their academic learning, along with social emotional learning, is halted by the climate and culture of our schools. As a result, we know many parents who are choosing to homeschool their students because they do not find their student’s needs are being met in current Highline classroom settings and do not have any other appropriate options.

This is not something that can be fully changed by Highline Schools—it is going to take all of us who live in Highline to change the greater culture as this is a systemic issue. As learning disabilities are diagnosed earlier and the rates of Autism diagnosis are increasing as reported by the CDC, we must work to change our climate and culture to one of inclusion for all. All of our students are students first, regardless of gender, race, language, culture, economic background or ability. All must mean all. If we truly are to know every student by name, strength and need, that means that every single student of all abilities are known and their needs are met and strengths acknowledged.

To change our climate and culture around inclusion we must change our language. I am requesting that our district become fluent in student-first language. I am requesting that we stop using program-based language and models. My child is not an ILC student. My child is a first-grade student at Midway Elementary School.

All must mean all. Schools with 1:1 technology must have that technology available for all students, regardless of ability. If you plan on 25 students in a classroom, you plan on 25 desks and chairs. If a student uses a wheelchair, after assessing the student’s needs you might move a chair out, but you plan on having 25 desks and chairs. Promotion and graduation ceremonies must include all students of that grade who are being promoted and graduating. Field trips for a grade level must include all students. Activities for families at schools must include all students. In addition, all students benefit when certain accommodations are made. Just as we all at times use ramps that are installed primarily for wheelchairs, all of our students will benefit from smaller classrooms, better technology and more support.

This is a plea from a mother of an almost second grader, and other parents of students with differing needs. The clock is ticking on our students. This is the opportunity for us in Highline to be leaders in our community. This is the time for our students to learn from each other through inclusion so that when the time comes and they are in the workforce, they already know people of different abilities. Our segregated model and language must end. We know that most of the time people have good intentions and it isn’t intentional that our students are left out. However, we must make it intentional to include them, and include everyone.

Thank you for your time.

Mindi Welton-Mitchell, President

Erin Baker, Vice-President
Melissa Feroe, Treasurer
Nicole Gifford, Secretary
Michelle O’Dell, Family and Community Engagement

Highline Special Needs PTA Board of Directors 2015-2016

CALL TO ACTION: Special Education Legislation

Several bills are coming up for hearing this Monday, February 16th in Olympia–the three listed below are all up for hearings at 1:30 p.m. You can go to Olympia to testify or use the online commenting as online comments are now included in the hearings. Each bill below is linked with more information and from there you should be able to comment online.

HB 1947-Expanding Learning Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

(Thanks to Sarah Butcher at Bellevue Special Needs PTA for the notice on HB 1947)

HB 1947 – Establishing a comprehensive plan to expand learning opportunities and improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities or special needs using multiple strategies and statewide partnerships. (this is the Special Education Commission Bill) isscheduled for a hearing.  The details for the hearing are as follows:
Education* – 2/16/2015 1:30 p.m.
House Full Committee
House Hearing Rm A
John L. O’Brien Building
Olympia, WA
Support for legislation is always critical and one way to support legislation is through conversation with legislators in your area in addition to those on the relevant committees, and also to testify during public hearings on legislation as it comes up. The testimony can provide support and/or recommended changes and/or concerns as it moves through the process. The opportunity to testify can be by writing a letter or coming to Olympia to testify during public hearings. You can find some information about testifying at the following link.
There is a Senate version of the Special Education Commission Bill,  SB 5946 that should be heard at some point next week.

SB 5850- Concerning Restraint or Isolation of Students in Public Schools

(thanks to Arzu Forough of Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy for the notice on SB 5850)

SB 5850 – Concerning restraint or isolation of students will be heard in Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee on Monday Feb 16th at 1:30 pm.  Statewide parent testimony is needed. If your child or another student you know has experienced harmful seclusion and restraint, please consider attending this hearing to support SB5850. If you can’t be there, you can send your written testimony to the committee by the morning of Feb. 16th.

Below are members of the Senate Early Learning & K-12  Committee that you need to call and write to. It’s especially helpful for them to hear from their own constituents. If you live in their districts, please consider attending in person, calling and writing.

If you’re looking for what to say, consider:

“Hello, my name is (____________). I’m your constituent and am a parent of a child with autism.  Regulating seclusion and restraints of students is very important to me and my family.  This issue is also a priority for Washington State PTA. I am asking you to please consider supporting this bill. Thank you very much.”

Please be polite, ask the legislative aide to let you know after your senator  has agreed to support. If the person on the phone asks questions you don’t have an answer to, please refer them to Ben Buccholz (509) 303-9585 or Arzu Forough (425)590-7231.

If you’re not sure which district you live in, click here to look up your legislative district.

HB 1941 Providing for a Simple Majority for School Bonds

We shared information here on our previous legislative post but want to remind you this hearing is also taking place this Monday at 1:30 p.m.

Legislative Update February 11th, 2015

Legislation Updates!

Here is a bill that may be of interest pertaining to school district bonds: HB1941 calling for a simple majority vote instead of the current 60% needed to pass.
Many thanks to our friends at Bellevue Special Needs PTA who have been providing detailed updates on bills relating to special needs students and families. This came from their recent legislative update by Sarah Butcher:
Restraint and Isolation:  HB 1240
For more information on the bill and upcoming hearings look here.  We are organizing parents, advocates and educators to attend in support. You can also write into your legislator with your comments.
Paraeducator Standards:  HB 1293 and SB 5179  
For more information on upcoming hearings or to send comments on SB 5179 look here.  For more information on upcoming hearings or to send comments on HB 1293 look here.
Special Education Commission
There will be legislation based on the recent report of the Office of The Education Ombuds.  We will notify you when the bill is dropped and we have need of specific action.
SEL Bill:  HB 1760 / SB 5688  
Providing Students With Skills That Promote Mental Health and Wellbeing and   Increase Academic Performance.  
For more information on upcoming hearings or to send comments on SB 5688 look here.  For more information on upcoming hearings or to send comments on HB 1760 look here.
There will be other bills that will impact Special Education students, we will update you on those as they come forward.
State Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC)  The SEAC helps to facilitate the provision of special education and related services.  They work on issues specifically related to special education in Washington.  They allow public comment in their meetings, generally at 3:30 pm.  Their next meeting is on February 4, 2015 in Olympia

CALL TO ACTION: Office of the Education Ombuds Report, and Blue Ribbon Special Education Commission

SpecialEdTaskForce Report FINAL11.14

(from our friends at Bellevue Special Needs PTA!)


Last week, the Governor’s Office of the Education Ombuds released their final report and recommendations regarding the creation of a Commission to improve outcomes for students with disabilities in our public schools.  [The report is available for download above.]  As advocates, parents and educators you know it is time for Washington state to take an intentional look at how we educate students with disabilities.  We need the Governor to understand that this issue is important to you, to know that there is an immediate need for this work, and to know that he should support it.  Feel free to write your own personal message or you can edit and use the message below.  If you are a parent of a student with a disability please mention that in your message.  Also… please send out to your networks!

Remember that your voice and your story are powerful advocacy tools.  Please use them and join us in this effort!

Sample Message:

Dear Governor Inslee,


As a parent of a student with a disability (or advocate of students with disabilities), I am writing to ask for your support in the creation of a Blue Ribbon Special Education Commission for Washington State.


Our systems of general education and special education are not meeting the needs of students with disabilities.  I have read the report from the Office of the Education Ombuds and stand behind its recommendations.   I ask you to do the same.  Disability does not discriminate and students with disabilities are in all areas of our education system across our great state. Any work to improve outcomes for them, will also benefit all students in our schools.


Please take leadership on this opportunity.  Lend your voice, and support, to Washington’s Blue Ribbon Special Education Commission, so that when we say “All students”, we truly mean “Each and Every Student” in our state.


Thank you for the work you do and for being an advocate to ensure that all of Washington’s students, including those with disabilities, have the opportunity to achieve personal and academic success.



Your Name

You can send the Governor an email message at https://fortress.wa.gov/es/governor/  or you can write or call him at:


Governor Jay Inslee

Office of the Governor

PO Box 40002

Olympia, WA 98054-0002


(360) 902-4111

TTY/TDD users should contact the Washington Relay Service at 711 or 1-800-833-6388