Changing the Future for Inclusion

According to the California Department of Education, children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their peers without disabilities.

Clare and Tarin are some of the young people looking to change that.

The girls are currently seniors at Davis Senior High School and recently joined other students throughout Northern California and Nevada to host awareness campaigns at their respective schools during R-word Week in March. The initiatives were part of the annual Spread the Word to End the Word movement around the country, educating the public about the negative effects of using the word “retard(ed)” and encouraging people to pledge to stop saying the word as a starting point toward creating more accepting communities for everyone.

Tarin and Clare, who started a Best Buddies club at Davis on their own at the beginning of the school year, organized a week full of activities around the R-word campaign to promote inclusion between students in special education and general education. Monday was a “Pledge Day’ that encouraged students to sign the Spread the Word to End the Word banner; on Tuesday, the girls developed an obstacle course to challenge general education students to maneuver around blindfolded, to simulate vision impairment, and to navigate in a wheelchair; Wednesday featured speakers from Best Buddies and Special Olympics; and the week culminated in a Unified Basketball game on Friday during the lunch period.

“We want students to understand that people with disabilities are no different than anyone else,” explained Clare. “They enjoy doing the same things – playing basketball, watching sports, going to movies with their friends. It’s important to get that message out there by having these social events where students can come to watch, interact and learn.”

The Statewide Taskforce on Education recently reported that less than 30 percent of students indicate that they would be comfortable even speaking to a classmate with an intellectual disability. Tarin believes that the issue can be remedied through education and simply getting students with special needs to be a visible and comfortable part of the campus.

“Depending on the way you grow up, a lot of people aren’t really educated about [special needs] and don’t know what’s different and how to react,” she said. “With the R-word, people may not really realize what they’re saying and the impact it can have when they use it. That’s a major part of this campaign.”

Along with the group at Davis, R-word awareness campaigns, activities and Unified Basketball games were held at Rocklin High School (in conjunction with Whitney High School), Reed High School, Desert Oasis High School, Crocker Middle School, Givens Elementary School, Dondero Elementary School, Harmon Elementary School and others during the week.

Clare explained that, while there are some obstacles to getting the interest of all students, the overall response has been positive.

“We’ve had a lot of support from our school and a good number of students came out to the Unified Basketball game,” she said. “A lot of people signed the banner, which was nice to see. We saw that some students have never really thought about the R-word being hurtful until this week.”

Inclusion and respect start at an early age. And while Clare and Tarin will soon graduate and move on to the next chapters in their lives, they hope that the momentum that they and Special Olympics put into place will continue for future students at the school.

Davis will host a Unified Track event on Wednesday, March 15, taking advantage of the school’s roughly 230 track athletes to build more relationships and awareness for students with intellectual disabilities on campus.
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Mission High School Hosts Great Skills Day

Many different classes from across San Francisco Unified tried their hands at basketball at a skills day hosted by Mission High School! As we discussed in this blog entry, a skills day is a great way for student-athletes of all abilities to practice their sports fundamentals. It doesn’t matter whether the student-athletes are just like Mike or not – skills days allows everyone to excel.

High school students through transition (post-high school age) made their way to Mission High School to try their hand at basketball. Mission High School’s Best Buddies Club held Opening Ceremonies, where the Special Olympics Oath was recited and got the attendees excited for the day.Galileo 1 There were various stations set-up for student to practice their basketball skills to get themselves ready for the upcoming competitions. Students worked on their shooting, dribbling and passing during the skills day.

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It was great to see so many students and parents supporting the athletes in the gym!

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After classes made it through the skills portion of the event, Galileo Academy of Science and Technology and Mission High School put on a Unified basketball exhibition game! In Unified Sports, students with and without intellectual disabilities compete together on the same team.

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The game between Galileo and Mission was very competitive and the participants all had a great time! The Unified game had everyone in the gym cheering! Mission High School students filled the stands and congratulated the student-athletes after the game.

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All the students that came out to the event had a wonderful time! The general education student volunteers all had a great time, too! They helped at each skills station and got some one-on-one time with the student athletes. There were lots of high fives being given!

Thanks to Mission High School for hosting and for everyone who made this skills day a success!

Los Cerros Builds R-Word Awareness Into Tournament

We love working with Los Cerros Middle School! Not only do the students (AND teachers AND administrators) take the Polar Plunge, but they also volunteer and host a Schools Partnership Program competition (click here to read about Los Cerros hosting last year)!

When Los Cerros hosted basketball, the Panthers included a Spread the Word to End the Word campaign into their hosting duties. Teaching students of all abilities why it’s important NOT to use the word retard is great at any campus because it builds respect. It also helps open minds as a school prepares to host students receiving special education services for a sporting event.

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Thanks Los Cerros! If you’re interested in having your entire school take the pledge to end the r-word, email HeatherJ at SONC dot org.

You can be as awesome as the Panthers and take the pledge to end the r-word by clicking here!

When Can You Use the R-Word?

Lots of people think it’s OK to use the r-word in certain situations — like when you’re not actually insulting someone with disabilities or just joking with friends. This video tackles an important question: When can you use the r-word?

(If you can’t see the video click here).

So, in summary:

Q: When can you use the r-word?

A: Never!

You can make a difference — take the pledge to end the r-word by clicking here!

Liberty High School Takes the R-Word Pledge

Students at Liberty High School in Contra Costa County’s Brentwood pledge not to use the r-word! Liberty is part of the Unified basketball program we’ve been talking so much about lately!

Pictured with the r-word sign are students from Ms. Gates class:


If you’d like to join Liberty in taking the pledge to end the r-word, click here!