Elementary school addition and renovation. Middle school addition. High School renovation and addition. Apparently, there was a great deal of progress in the decision-making process because the talks of construction contracts that were tabled in February have since been approved at the June School Board meeting. Were the voices of special needs children in Jasper County represented in discussion of their educational needs? Did I miss the minutes of a special school board meeting? Did I overlook an article in the local newspaper? Were there explanations, discussions, and votes on the proposed plans of construction at the schools that I failed to hear about?

I would like to know the plan but more importantly I want to inform some of you that may not know that there is an entire group of Jasper County students that are continually being overlooked and disregarded. Our ‘special needs’ students ride a ‘special bus’ to receive a ‘special education’ from ‘special teachers’ in what must be a ‘special county’ because Jasper County cannot provide for our children with special needs. I am not privy to information such as the exact number of students that are transported to other counties to receive their education or what disability the students have but I do know that my daughters with autism have been taken out of Jasper County every day of the school year for more than eight years of the ten years that they have been so-called students of Jasper County Unit #1 school district. Every day for Eight of Ten Years.

Am I to assume that there is, or more likely assume that there is not ‘special’ considerations in the blueprint plans for providing a least restrictive and equally accessible learning environment for the students that are currently being unnecessarily excluded from their school and community? I emphatically appeal to the Jasper County Superintendent of Schools and the Jasper County School Board Members to inquire and address the issues regarding the significant shortcomings in providing these students the educational opportunities that they deserve.

What exactly is it that other counties have that Jasper County doesn’t have? And what is it that schools in other counties are willing to do for our students that Jasper County won’t do? *** Ask yourselves, is the proposed construction plan appropriate and in alignment with the overall mission to provide the best education possible for Jasper County students when our district cannot even meet the educational needs of an entire group of our own students? Is this how we provide the best education for our students? Is this how we show support for the residents in our community?

Just imagine what wonderful things the Jasper County Special Education Coordinator could do if she could focus mostly on students that were attending Jasper County schools.

The personal disappointment and self-imposed parent/advocate guilt are the least important of considerations in the realm of what is involved in the Discrimination and Exclusion of Students with Disability. The implications and missed opportunities for the students are significant. There are far reaching and long-lasting effects that extend beyond exclusion from extracurricular activities and community involvement.

Our small community is strengthened by lifelong relationships with those we have grown up with. Faces we have seen, experiences we have shared, and friendships cultivated since kindergarten help shape us and provide the comfort that makes Jasper County home. This is called Social Capital. How can these children build Social Capital or join and strengthen our community through their unique perspectives and abilities if they are being excluded?

Lets figure out how to get these children back into Jasper County schools and involved with the other people that call Jasper County home too.

I want to denounce any perceived negativity toward the special education professionals and to thank the many teachers and support staff with Southeastern Special Education (SESE) and JCCU#1’s transportation services. This is an administrative issue and in no way indicates dissatisfaction with the professionals that have provided direct services. Thank you, Noble/Richland county schools and Clay County school for making room and putting forth the effort to include and to provide an education for my daughters and the other students from Jasper County. Special recognition should also be given to Limitless and the Life Café for establishing and providing appropriate and exciting opportunities for our students with special needs right in our home town.