A Brief Inquiry into Accessibility on Campus
Is San Dimas a place accessible to all? Or do we miss the mark?
February 28, 2023
For centuries within both the legal, legislative, and social world, public education has been lauded and established to be a place for fostering the next generation of humans. But, public schooling, on the other hand, has usually been built for what the dominant society deems as good, strong, or palatable. Although the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA 1990) has granted disabled Americans accommodations in public spaces, how has San Dimas tried to tackle the ever-important issue of accessibility on campus?
According to San Dimas High School’s Education Specialist Emilee Crumrine, quite well. Crumrine, an educator whose experience with special education spans nearly a decade, knows firsthand the lines of bureaucracy and red-tape schools can become enwrapped in due to efforts for expanding accessibility. “There are two ways people with disabilities are protected by the government,” Crumrine explains. “There’s the ADA which covers all people, adults included, and the [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)] which extends people in school.”
This delineation is paramount as there are certain benefits and accommodations made for students with disabilities that their adult counterparts do not have access to. “An [Individualized Education Plan (IEP)] is a set of accommodations given to a student if their condition impacts their education,” Crumrine says. A team of educators and specialists congregate to determine the methods that can best uplift the student and allow them to realize their full potential, regardless of ability. IEPs are granted by the attainment, or lack thereof, of a certain benchmark given. For example, a student with Dyslexia may reach the established benchmark for all of their classes, but struggles in English to a degree that significantly affects their education. Crumrine and her colleagues would meet with parent and child and figure out the most effective way to give the student success in this area.
What accommodations would they be given? That’s a nigh-impossible question to answer. “What we call special education is a continuum,” Crumrine points out. “For example, if you break your foot and can’t play in PE, you’d receive accommodations. That is special education. That falls on the same spectrum as a student who’d require a wheelchair for daily use.” Crumrine says that this is a major point of confusion for students, even those who receive accommodations via the school. No student is, to put it colloquially, special-er than another. Their education is simply impacted by different things and requires a different form of help.
Similarly, Section 504 of the aforementioned ADA guarantees people with disabilities, whether physical, mental, or intellectual, are free from discrimination within public spheres. “ follows you beyond school. You can be protected by a 504 your entire life,” she explains. One student, known as Student A for anonymity’s sake, had fears that “the things I need to, like, function and be successful will get taken away from me when I turn 18.” Services like wheelchair ramps, accessible infrastructure, communication devices for Deaf/HOH individuals, and adequate accommodations for people with visual impairments are all protected under Section 504. “They’re given accommodations, not full-blown services [with a 504].”
San Dimas is heavily equipped with the necessary tools for allowing each student to reach their greatest potential. For students with an IEP, it may be necessary for certain curricular modifications to be made. Crumrine, who is the provider of said services, works with a well-rounded team to ascertain what services a student needs.
There are three main types of education offered to students. The first is general education. That is the freest and least restrictive type of class here. Teachers “follow the accommodations outlined in the IEP” while keeping up with the standard course. The next is coteaching, which is where there are two co-teachers and, often, a paraeducator present. This is to effectively cut the student-teacher ratio of a class from 1:30 to 1:10. Following is a Specialized Academic Instruction (SAI) class that has smaller student populations and lacks the breadth of a general or cotaught class. “They might slow down [the pacing] or not dive as deep into it in an SAI,” Crumrine explains. Both general and cotaught classes can fulfill the A-G requirements extolled whereas all classes following coteaching, SAIs included, do not. All of these classes are populated by students who, when placed on the continuum of special education, can be classified as mild-to-moderate, indicating the level at which their education is affected by disability.
For students that would fall under the mod-severe umbrella, “we offer the greatest number of programs between the two high schools, [Bonita and San Dimas],” Crumrine discloses. Programs such as FAST (which includes the Best Buddies Club), the Adult Transitional Program, Behavioral Support, and ASDI are all instituted to allow high schoolers and recently graduated alums to earn Certificates of Completion and skills to prepare them for their next chapter of life.
SDHS offers services that are not present on all campuses within Bonita Unified. This school has an extraordinary number of ways to help those often ostracized and left out of educational and social spheres. Every single teacher on this campus has one goal in mind: every single student deserves to be the best they can be. Through protections given to students via the government and services via San Dimas High School, thousands of children can be uplifted into a realized form of themself. But, Crumrine laments that there is one thing stopping many students: fear.
“No one wants to be seen as ‘not getting it.’ If you ask for help, you’re perceived as less-than.” There is an epidemic of apathy toward help and fear of asking for it. School is meant to be the place where lifelong skills are picked up, relationships are formed, and curiosity is fostered. But when there is this obstacle standing between a student and the help they may need, it is a disservice to what public education is supposed to be. Crumrine’s compelling closing statement regarding accessibility is as follows: “When you’re unwilling to ask for help or unwilling to get the help you need, the only person you’re hurting is you.”