By Anne Dachel
Last week the World Mercury Project reported on the special education epidemic happening around the world in Part 4 of their series.
“In this four-part series, World Mercury Project's partner, Focus for Health (FFH), examined the special education epidemic, its crippling effects ...”
The WMP’s evidence that increasingly students in our schools today can’t learn or behave as children always have should be cause for follow-up by the national press, one would think, but sadly it’s probably not going to happen. In fact, they’ll do just the opposite.
Sunday, May 13th the Washington Post addressed this critical topic. The headline said it all: Veteran policymaker says 80 percent of special-ed kids don’t need that label
The Post, like every other mainstream news source out there, has never addressed the explosion in special needs students as a crisis. The truth is, it’s been completely ignored. Staten Island may have 24 percent of its students in special education, 22 percent in Racine, WI, 20 percent in Wahkiakum, WA, but still, it’s no cause for concern.
However, when an impressive group like the World Mercury Project, led by well-known environmentalist Robert Kennedy, Jr., calls what’s happening in special ed an epidemic, it’s definitely going to draw more attention to the topic. The public might ask where the big name sources in print and broadcast news have been. Why have they said absolutely nothing about this?
The truth is, just like with the horrific increases in autism over the last two decades, the job of the media seems to be to first ignore the situation, and when finally forced to talk about it, deny anything is wrong.
This is exactly what the Post did in their story. The author of the piece, Jay Mathews, is the education columnist for the Post where he’s been working for nearly 50 years. Mathews interviewed Kalman R. “Buzzy” Hettleman who served two terms on the Baltimore school board and was deputy mayor of Baltimore and Maryland secretary of human resources. Surely these two people should be able to tell us what’s going on.
Hettleman, after a “long career looking at schools from every angle,” says that special education has been “captured by myths.”
Mathews: “Hettleman does not believe that most students in special education are truly disabled. Fewer than 20 percent, he says, have clearly defined conditions, such as Down syndrome, severe autism, or visual and hearing impairments. The rest, he says, are struggling learners, especially in reading. Their difficulties were sadly not identified and addressed in the crucial early grades.”
So the reason more kids are labeled SPED is because schools are not doing their job. The “struggling learners” out there aren’t getting help in their early grades, and they suffer for it throughout their years in school.
“On the other hand, special-education services for those mislabeled as disabled ‘could hardly be worse,’ he told me. ‘Students don’t catch up. They almost invariably fall further behind. All the while, they are segregated to varying degrees from peers and suffer stigma.’”
It makes no logical sense
One has to assume that schools used to do a good job helping the learning disabled, since they’ve had to educate them by federal law for over 40 years, but only recently stopped caring, thus causing the dramatic increase in SPED kids.
Looking at it from every angle, nothing said by Mathews or Hettleman relates to what’s happening in the real world.
Neither one of them acknowledges that SPED today is as much about BEHAVIOR as it is about learning problems. Why are schools everywhere putting in sensory and isolation rooms, therapy dogs, alternative seating, in-school mental health services, and hiring more and more classroom aides and school psychologists?
As expected, just as with the autism epidemic, the mainstream press is right there to tell us not to worry.
I’ve spent the last year and a half gathering nearly 4,000 stories http://www.ageofautism.com/media/ that prove we’re in the midst of an unsustainable disaster. We’re routinely given jaw-dropping statistics in LOCAL news reports with no explanation, so often in fact, that we’ve just learned to accept the outrageous rates, no questions asked.
May 12, 2018, Albany (NY) Herald: “The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, says that 50 percent of all chronic illness begins before age 14, and 75 percent begin by age 24, with 20 percent of all youths ages 13-18 living with a mental health condition.”
May 11, 2018, St. Louis Post Dispatch: “One in two American children will develop a mood or behavioral disorder or substance abuse addiction before age 18.”
May 10, 2018, WKRUN Nashville, TN: “One in 10 children under the age of 18 is experiencing some impairment because of their behavioral health.”
May 9, 2018, ABC9, Cedar Rapids, IA: … “School districts are required to report how often they use seclusion rooms or restraints to the U.S. Department of Education. The agency has now posted 2015 data. I9 dug through the numbers in 23 school districts in eastern Iowa and found there were a combined 4,904 instances of seclusion and restraint. That is 27 instances per school day.
“The new numbers nearly double the 2,514 instances reported in 2013. There were in all 4,904 instances documented in 2015.
“Iowa City had the highest usage jumping from 797 instances in 2013 to more than 1,700. This data came before the state admonished the district for over-using the rooms. Iowa City has since announced efforts to reduce seclusion room use.”
These stories are a tiny sample of what’s happening in every school. Each day, coverage like this is out there conditioning the local public to accept the decline in the mental and behavioral health of kids. Meanwhile, none of this shows up on CNN or in the Washington Post.
Now we see next move of leading media outlets. It’s to blame schools for not doing enough to help the disabled and to pretend that a special needs student is one who’s behind in reading.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.