Special education: Another form of segregation?

cmorier.jpgI’ve received some strong and varied responses today about the story in today’s Tribune about an Asperger’s student, Corinne Morier, who was not permitted to enroll in the selective advanced drama course at Skyline High School, despite receiving `A’s in beginning drama.  

I decided to publicize the conflict because it touches on important and complicated questions of access and equity in public schools. 

As I gathered information for the story, more questions came to mind:  

How are kids with disabilities — particularly those with conditions more noticeable than Asperger’s — integrated with their non-disabled peers at school? 

How often do children with mental retardation, for example, take mainstream electives, and what kind of support do the general education teachers need — and receive — to teach these students?

Phyllis Harris, the former special education director for OUSD, noted in an interview earlier this month that “we still have two segregated systems of education in the United States: special education and general education.”

Courteny Gumora, the Asperger program’s full inclusion coordinator at Skyline High School, predicts that removing such barriers — in society, as well as in schools — could be the basis for the next civil rights movement.


Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Debora

    I read this article at 6:30 this morning and my first thought was “An audition was required for the class and she didn’t even show up for the audition. All of the other students who showed up for the audition were admitted. Accommodations aside, you need to show up.”

    I do not have a special needs child. I understand that I just may be ignorant of what accommodations need to be made, so my thought this morning may not have been fair or just. But I also wonder something else, if my daughter were in middle school and was in an advanced math class and another student with special needs wanted to take the class but did not show up for the mandatory placement test, would they still be able to be admitted?

    Also, if Skyline has a program for students on the autism spectrum, and Corinne has spoken out of turn in previous classes, wouldn’t she have had an aide to assist her, in the self discipline she lacks because of her disability, not to speak to students out of turn?

  • Susan Bergmann

    What is interesting for me is the way that people speak of the disabled, without any regard for the “political correctness” of their statements. If the drama teacher had made some of the same comments about students based on race, I believe others would have been much quicker to recognize prejudice. Also, people make assumptions about the disabled that can be very wrong. For example, many people seem to hold the stereotype that disabled children are behavior problems. In fact, many Skyline High School classes are currently very disrupted by students whose behavior is inappropriate. By and large, these are not students with disabilities. And, I must note that if Corinne’s behavior was a problem, how would she be functioning at Holy Names High School without any aide support? In fact, there are very high standards for behavior at HNHS, and this is a great relief to Corinne. Also, none of Corinne’s other teachers at Skyline (or in middle or elementary school) ever had complaints that matched those of the Drama teacher. Most teachers noted that her occasional speaking out was always on target to the subject rather than disruptive, and found her level of engagement with learning to be an inspiration, rather than a problem. But if and when “speaking out” IS a problem for a disabled student, certainly aide support is the correct intervention.

    One other point: the auditions for this year’s Advanced Drama class apparently took place on May 22, without the knowledge of Corinne, any other Asperger Program student, or any personnel from the Asperger Program. If these auditions were advertised or announced, it strains credibility to believe that NONE of the Special Ed students, nor the daily classroom aide, would have heard the announcement. Believe me, Corinne knows the need to show up and she would NOT have missed an audition, had it been public knowledge.

  • Sue

    Anyone remember the movie “Rainman”? Weren’t you sad and sorry at the end when Rainman went back to the hospital? That’s exactly where my son does NOT belong, but exactly where segregation of the disabled would leave him for a lifetime.

    From the on-line comments posted on the Tribune’s article, it seems that *someone* thinks segregation is the way to go. Too bad. It’s never worked before. Every time segregation is attempted, it gets challenged in the courts, and the courts always rule that segregation *is* discrimination – eventually.

    My son was in Communication Handicap special day classes from preschool through 3rd grade when he “graduated”. He’s been in full-inclusion mainstream classes since, and his diagnosis is autism. He rises to the challenges he’s given. Keeping him in SDC wouldn’t challenge him. He’s learning so much from his neurotypical peers, and his future is in the real world with people of all abilities and disabilities.

    I’ve also seen the changes in non-disabled kids when they’re given clear, unbiased information about the disabled kids with whom they share their classrooms and teachers. More than one “disipline problem” has become a mentor, protector, and friend to my son, and suddenly bloomed into a “joy to have in class”! Hearing a teacher describe this turn-around happening in his/her classroom tells me that having my disabled child there is a potential benefit to a teacher and the other students.

    My son and disabled kids like him don’t belong in segregated classrooms, or in institutions – where they ended up far too often in previous generations. That would be a terrible, horrible waste of their talents and potential. They can be independent and successful self-supporting adults – with the investment of the time, energy and resources to educate them.

    The way I see it, we, as a society, can choose to invest in educating all our students in the most appropriate settings, the mainstream classrooms that look most like our society as a whole. Or we can put them away (somewhere where the anti-mainstreaming bigots won’t have to see or deal with them) and society will spend far more over their lifetimes supporting them in that institutional placement.

  • Debora

    The article in the Oakland Tribune today did not mention how the audition announcements were or were not made. My opinion this morning was based on the facts as I read them in the paper. If the comment was made that the “Asian” kid did not show up or the “Catholic” kid did not show up or the “flat footed” kid did not show up, my opinion would have been the same based on the facts as presented in the article.

    I wish the article would have stated how the auditions were posted. It would have made a world of difference in my opinion. It sounds like the auditions were designed in such a way to be exclusive, rather than inclusive.

  • Katy Murphy

    Debora: I decided not to include that information because it couldn’t easily be verified and I wanted the story to be as fact-based as possible. Also, the auditions seemed almost beside the point since the teacher said Corinne wasn’t ready — and that it “wouldn’t have worked” to have her in the class.

  • Sue

    Here’s the real kicker, I think.

    During our son’s IEP meeting, the whole situation with Corinne and the drama program were part of the discussions. We were told that Kenton would be welcome in advanced drama.

    That’s the kid with autism, which is a more severe disability than Corinne’s Aspergers Syndrome. And he wouldn’t be considered the more disruptive student? How is that possible? Were the district representatives at the meeting in a position to overrule the drama teacher? Why now, for our son, but not for Corinne? Maybe the drama teacher had a moment of enlightenment and now regrets her earlier discriminatory actions?

    Besides our skepticism of the whole “welcome in advanced drama” claim, we declined because we didn’t want to have to disrupt our son’s whole class schedule after eight weeks of school.

  • Kathy Kahn

    I do not know the particular student in question, but I have known Jan Hunter and the Skyline drama program for a number of years. I know that Mrs. Hunter always has special education students in her classes, including, when appropriate, in her Advanced Drama class. I know she has also refused admission to advanced classes to many kids who are not suffering from any disabilities.

    I also know that Advanced Drama is an advanced class particularly designed for older, more experienced students, so not getting a spot as a 10th grader is no shame, even if you do show up for auditions!

    Classes have prerequisites, and some classes require an audition or other non-coursework related experience or qualities. One of the things that theater, dance, and music can teach kids is to engage and persist, to try and fail, and try again. How many thousands of kids over the years have failed the first time they tried to enter Skyline’s Advanced Drama or Dance class, or Jazz Band, or Advanced Choir? Many of them have figured out what went wrong, worked on it, and come back to try again. They’ve had the true benefit of the great programs at Skyline.

    If someone is admitted into a class simply because she thought she would be and makes a fuss and claims discrimination, is that respectful of the program, the other hardworking Skyline actors, or the student herself? I hope she is happy in her new school — I really do, even though I assume her private school tuition is being paid by Oakland Public Schools. But I can’t help but feel she might have learned more by re-enrolling in Beginning Drama, auditioning for the plays, and trying again next year, like most students would have had to do.

  • Caroline

    The notion that private school is a refuge for disabled kids who are discriminated against in public school is, counter to most situations.

    My urban public-school kids have had several disabled kids in their classes whose families had sent older sibs to private schools that wouldn’t allow the disabled younger sibs in the door. Congratulations to Holy Names for being inclusive. But that’s a definite exception for private and parochial schools. My kids have had disabled classmates whose older sibs attended San Francisco’s Brandeis and St. Cecilia’s religious schools, for example; the religious schools wouldn’t accept the disabled younger sibs. (In one case, the disorder is progressive and will be fatal — how godly of the religious school to reject the child. Grr.)

  • A Skyline Student

    I am a Skyline High School advanced drama student. Auditions were posted outside the drama teachers classroom and announced in the school’s daily bulletin. One thing I would like to point out is that Corinne may have gotten all A’s in beginning drama, but that does not necessarily mean that she had the skills to be placed in advanced drama. Take instrumental music for example, the Skyline jazz band (which I’m also a member of) is a very prestigious class to get into. There have been a number of people turned away from Jazz Band because they lack the skills, even though they got all A’s in Marching Band, or Orchestra.

    I’ve also read a lot about “prejudice” with this whole situation. Coming from a Skyline High School Performing Arts Advanced Drama student, this has nothing, NOTHING to do with prejudice, this has been blown way out of proportion. In my opinion, they need to interview those of us who have worked with Corinne. We have a much different story than those who are blaming our drama teacher. I have also heard some testimonials that have tested the credibility of the Holy Names Students who were interviewed. Please don’t point the finger and blame us for something that is applied to ALL aspects of the performing arts, both at the high school level and professionally.

  • Kat

    I agree with exteacher…
    I am a student at Skyline and I know Corrine Morier, Jan Hunter, and have friends at Holy Names in the same drama class that Corrine is taking. I know a side of the situation that a reporter can’t get because they assess and report a scene of people on their best behavior and is most often unrealistic.

    Corrine is very eccentric and energetic, but she is not the prime asset to the class at her new school. In her new school, she is an addition to the class, a new face, a new dedicated student, a new experience for their drama department to look forward to. Jan Hunter is an amazing drama teacher, with many years of experience, has few resources as an OUSD teacher, and one of the nicest teachers I know.

    This article fails to portray both sides of the argument. When making the accusation that the drama teacher is discriminating against a special education student, you need to look at the entire circumstance. Corinne may have Aspergers, but that does not give her a free pass into advanced drama because she missed the auditions. Any parent who sends their kid to Skyline knows that student-teacher-parent communication is lacking. You are not handed information on a silver platter with personalized weekly reminders. If the parents of Corrine knew their daughter wanted to audition for the production, then they should have taken the initiative and asked the teacher.

    Also, being an advanced drama student requires maturity, dedication, self-applicability, patience, and the capability to handle social pressure. I am a dancer who recently participated in the homecoming half time show. The same planning, time, and commitment went into that performance as does a drama production. Socially it is extremely demanding of patience. I can barely make it through a rehearsal without pulling out my hair and screaming. Therefore, saying Corinne isn’t lacking any social skills necessary to be in advanced drama is a lie. Social skills are something she will always battle because Aspergers makes social cues and etiquette difficult to control when you act on impulse.

    I do not believe Corinne was being discriminated against because of her condition. She simply does not have what it takes to be in advanced drama. It is a class of elite students who work to improve their acting, but do not need basic coaching. Instead of insisting that she deserved a spot in advanced drama, Corinne could have accepted her spot in Beginning/Intermediate Drama where she could have asked Ms. Hunter what specifically she should work on to improve, thus challenging herself in a different way than the previous year. Why does it have to be such a crime that Corrine didn’t make it into the advance drama class? I know plenty of people who take have taken Jazz I and Jazz II dance more than one year in a row, but they take advantage of the opportunity to analyze their faults and grow. Earning a spot in any advanced course is an accomplishment, but it is more of how you get there that counts.

  • Rob


    I want to second your Grr.

  • Ariella

    This is strange how there are some people who don’t know the situation and is only believing what the paper wrote. As a member of the Advanced Drama class here at skyline it would be a very diffcult stiuation to have someone who has no sign of proper displine in the theatrical field to be in a class that took TWO years of auditions for me and other students to be in the class if Ms. Hunter saw the “potential” that Corinne had there would be no doubt that she would be in this class. There is no discrimination here in this class we have been taught to be open minded to others but yet we are being critized for what we have learned. As for the article it is filled without factual information that depicts Ms. Hunter as a monster who discriminate against a student with special needs. As a sister of a child with special needs i would not attend a class or a school that treats kids with such disrespect. I am disgusted by the article that Ms. Murphy had written and I have noticed that with every comment that someone has written questiong the article Susan Bergmann has tried to critized what someon has said. If you want to question what i’m saying then you are free to question away. But we will contine to clear Ms. Hunter’s name and Skyline’s reputation. BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!!!!

  • Donald Barks

    A piece of info that seems to be missing. The District settled with Corinne’s family. The details of that settlement are appropriately private.

    While a settlement is not the same as an admission of wrongdoing, it is worth noting the speed with which the District responded. These sorts of cases can play out in the courts for years. One usually settles a case when a: they know they are wrong; or b: they beleive that their case is to weak to prevail. I would like to think that this time OUSD settled because it was the right thing to do.

    Heidi Green can assert that there was no discrimination all she wants. I think the District’s decision to settle speaks volumes.

  • Donald Antoine(Four Year Skyline Drama Student)

    I arrived to school on 10/29/07 a monday morning to read that Ms. Susan Bergmann had went to the Oakland Tribune stating that my Adv. Drama teacher discriminated against a special needs students, this is NOT true. I have worked and known Mrs. Jan Hunter for four years and all Mrs. Hunter has ever done for her students is preached belief in self and that anything we put our minds to we can accomplish. I stand hurt to my heart that someone would accuse Mrs. Hunter of being prejudice against special needs students. I have watched first has Mrs. Hunter teach and produce some of the greatest actors that WERE special needs students and I was honored to work with them. Mrs. Hunter is and has always been inspirational through my eyes and I can testify first hand through the eyes of others students including other special needs students. Some people who comment this article DON’T Know the truth behind this issue how myself and others have witnessed Corrine put down other students, including special needs students, about their acting ability and that no one will ever be as good as her. I have witnessed Corrine Scream, yell, and lie on Mrs. hunter when all she ever tried to do was help her. Corrine had an aid as well, but when Corrine disrupted the class and discouraged her peers, her aid stood their with a confused look on her face like she didn’t know how to deal with it. It is also true that Corrine missed the audition for the Advance Drama Class(Despiteaa huge Sign outside Mrs. Hunters classroom, Signs posted all over campus, and an announcement in the bulletin that was repeated even after the auditions were long over with , Corrine also failed to come prepared for our auditions for Skyline’s Fall Production of “Hamlet”, and I saw this with my OWN EYES. She came in and I Quote, Mrs. Hunter said, ” okay go ahead, and Corrine stand,” What ?” and Mrs. Hunter said, ” Your Monologe”, and Corrine rips the audition paper up throws it and says” I didn’t Know I need a monologe!”, dispite that Mrs. Hunter saw her desire to be apart of the production and Provived Corrine with two roles that made Corrine happy. During the production Corrine spoke numerous disrespectful words to the cast and spoke lies on our director. I have been an actor for five years, in and out of Skyline ,and have worked with other special needs students that were kind and sweet in their actions, but I have never and won’t TO ever work in such a negative enviornment as I had to when Hamlet was in production and runing. Mrs. Hunter is an incredible woman and how daere people who don’t even know her make such negative and hurtful accusations against her. Mrs. Hunter was harrassed by Mrs.Susan Bergmann at school and also on school fieldtrips. So unless you commenters know the fullness of the situation don’t speak down souly upon Skyline, Our Wonderful Performing Arts Academy, and the best Drama teacher this school has had since the great Rawley T. Farnsworth taught here in the days of Tom Hanks. Last but least no Skyline’s not Julliard, but Skyline produces a lot of students that are accepted into Julliard then any other school I know. So readers of this comment I stand still and know that the truth will be revealed.

  • Katy Murphy

    I realize this is an emotionally charged subject, but the purpose of this blog is to allow for civil discourse about tough issues in education. It’s getting a little personal for my taste…

  • Donald Antoine(Four Year Skyline Drama Student)

    Also pertaining to Mrs. Bergmann’s comment,”In fact, many Skyline High School classes are currently very disrupted by students whose behavior is inappropriate.” If she would check the records no student that elicits inappropriate has been accepted in any of the Advanced Performing Arts classes.

  • Paul Pugh (Skyline High School Student Body President)

    I am a student of the Performing Arts academy at Skyline High School and have been a student of Mrs.Hunter for 3 years now.I can tell you for a fact that Mrs.Hunter does not discriminate against special needs students.Mrs. Hunter basis her acceptance to the advance drama class based on talent,Mrs Hunter is totally colored blind, she doesnt care if you have 8 legs or 4 arms if you are a good actor you will be accepted in to the class.Also everyone whois apart of Mrs.Hunter classes know that all announcements are posted outside of her classroom for everone to see and they are printed in the daily bulletin.If Corrine and her family were not notified of the auditions that seems like a personally problem, and if Corrine was that intrested in the class she would have asked when auditions were,most of the time when people are passionate about something they ask questions and find out about it.she missed the auditions and that was her bad.

    I also feel like the article was all one sided it doesnt state how the students who worked with corrine felt about her.Also Mrs. Hunter is not an evil person on any level at all, i feel like this article is making her seem like she is just the most dreadful person in the world when actuality she is one of the sweetest persons i know.Mrs.Hunter is like the mother on campus, you can go to her for anything and she is always willing to work with you and talk to you.

    I feel that the students who worked with corrine need their story to be told and i am willing to tell it.You’ve heard one side of the story but yuou dont know the whole story.I think Corrines mother is just trying to make a big deal out of a small situation.she missed the auditions and thats that.

  • turner

    I would agree that it is a form of segregation. But, I ask, is this wrong? Do we want to put our children with special needs into general education classes. I thought Special Ed was set up to deal with the unique challenges that these children face in learning.

    As we have seen in this blog, when we talk about Special Ed, the whole issue becomes personal. People lose sight of the big picture. It’s all about “me and my child!” So, even though there is plenty of money in Special Ed, there is not enough to deal with each student individually.


  • A Skyline Mom

    As a former Skyline mother, I have nothing but praise for the Performing Arts Academy at Skyline High. As a former Special Ed. employee, my heart goes out to our special needs students; however, I still feel that mainstreaming is not the answer to the problem. Actually, I consider it a disservice to the students, all concerned, as well as the teachers.

    I also have known Mrs. Hunter for many years now. She is a wonderful, caring teacher who is seeking success for her students while helping them to achieve their goals. She doesn’t just teach, she counsels with them and encourages them when they come to her. Let’s not forget that she is working with a very small budget.

    I am also sick of all this “political correctness”. We have gone overboard with it and I think the day is coming when we will not be able to speak at all.

  • Frank

    “would agree that it is a form of segregation. But, I ask, is this wrong? Do we want to put our children with special needs into general education classes. “

    What if we were to substitute the name of any other minority in place of special education?

    Would we view this situation any differently?

  • Dawn

    One thing I’ve learned is that most educated people know there are always two sides to every story. This article has seemed to miss that. I enourage all of those interested in the complete story, especially the author of this article, to get the other side – and who would now better than the very students who have worked closely with both Corinne and Ms. Hunter?
    I am bothered by the fact that our society has gotten to a point where we feel like we can not say no to our children. We develop levels in our curriculum for a reason and that is to meet the needs of our students; to develop those skills necessary to ensure success. We can not alll be at the same level. Why isn’t that okay? We wouldn’t think twice about putting a student in math analysis when they only had the skills for geometry, regardless of their grades. Athletics, most specifically football, is famous for hierarchal practices when they make cuts. Not only that, if you try out for Varsity as a senior and you don’t make the team – guess what? You don’t play. At all. Not even on JV.
    Let me also say that repeating a class should never be considered demeaning or insulting .If that is the level at which a student is performing, what’s wrong with that? I have had numerous students, in both regular education and special education, repeat my classes and they are better for it. Their skill acquisition improves, they often have a more mature attitude and they are in a position the second time around to be the leaders and role models of the class – a serious boost to ones self esteem.
    The last point I’d like to make is, just because two schools have the same title does not mean they have the same curriculum or the same level of standards and expectations. Just like when we buy clothes, some brands are just a better fit.
    Sadly, there are far too many instances in our country where people are discriminated against for a variety of ridiculous reasons. People of color, like people with disabilities, know this all too well. As an adult African American female who grew up with 3 African American male siblings, I am well versed in the odor of discrimination and I would not want Corrine or any other student to suffer it’s stench in any form and I can honestly say, I just don’t smell it here. There are some things that just aren’t fair. I’m not sure this particular incident is one of them.

  • Martha Evans-Holm

    I’m a mother of an Advanced Drama Student at Skyline. I’ve seen my child go through many auditions at Skyline (which have always been posted outside Ms. Hunter’s room), from admission into the Performing Arts Academy, admission into plays and into the Jazz and Dance Production classes. They all haven’t been successful. When she didn’t get into Jazz II (after receiving all A’s too) after her first audition, I too was upset. How could my daughter not be good enough to go to the next level? But after stepping back from my role of protecting my daughter, I asked the dance teacher what I could do to help her. What skills were required to get to the next level? It was very productive and my daughter has learned great lessons from the rejections, even though it hurts like anything. She has chosen to pursue her passion in the performing arts and is preparing for the next level of auditions to get into college. It’s a path that will produce many rejections. Each one will be a valuable lesson.

    This attack on Mrs. Hunter has also spilled over onto the students of her Advanced Drama Class. They are all upset and very angry. They all love her very much. I’m really proud how her students have come to her defense. They have voiced their feelings better than I can.

    About the play, Hamlet was a very hard play to put on. Not only was the material Shakespeare, but the costumes, and sets were extravagant. Corinne did make it very difficult on Mrs. Hunter and the other actors, and production crew. Mrs. Hunter runs the Academy in a very professional way and did the best she could do under the circumstances to accommodate Corinne.

    As a person who has also come into contact with special needs children, there are limitations to what a teacher can do. Each child is unique and requires certain patience. Some kids shouldn’t be put into situations that they cannot handle or put the others in harms way. And some people shouldn’t be in charge of ones who need special care. Not everyone is skilled to handle every situation. But people can learn. I’m still learning and one day I might have all the skills I need to handle every situation that I encounter.

    I hope things will be settled soon and that both sides will come out of this with a better understanding of the limitations of special needs students and teachers.

  • turner dodge

    Frank, you said “What if we were to substitute the name of any other minority in place of special education? Would we view this situation any differently?”

    Special Ed children ARE a minority, and an underserved one at that. They have special needs that need to be attended to. They require more attention as do their parents. The professionals in Special Ed need to be skilled and patient. These professionals are special people. Not just anyone can work in Special Ed.

    Yes, Frank. This situation is different. Sometimes it is OK to segregate. In General Education, the Special Ed kids will be ignored, neglected or, even worse, be mistreated. In Special Ed, they get the care they deserve….or they should.


  • Sue

    I keep seeing unsubstanciated claims that special needs students in mainstream classrooms doesn’t give them the services they need. My son started his education in SDC classes, because that was what he needed at that time. When he no longer needed that placement in as determined by his SDC teacher (in agreement with me and his father), he transitioned to a regular day class. In Kenton’s seven years in general education classes we’ve seen dedicated teachers doing their best to understand and meet his unique needs just as they do for every student in their classes. They’ve been able to collaborate with us, his parents, and have asked for and received help from the Inclusion teachers in the ASIP program. General education has been successful for our son, and I believe the same would be true for Corrine.. With the exception of the current situation, obviously.

    I don’t know why this nonsense keeps being repeated, because in my experience it’s exactly what I called it – nonsense.

  • Susan Bergmann

    I am stunned by the resentment and animosity expressed by both parents and students affiliated with the Skyline Drama program towards my daughter. Perhaps it would suit everyone’s needs to have a cute, articulate, wheelchair-bound student ask to join Advanced Drama, because then people could truly demonstrate a willingness to embrace the disabled. But perhaps many people don’t understand social disabilities. Just because a person doesn’t limp or use a hearing aid doesn’t mean a disability isn’t real.

    Corinne is less sensitive than most people, but she has feelings too. She has hopes and dreams and wants to be accepted and included. She LOVED being part of the drama department, and if students didn’t like having her there, they were not blatant enough about expressing it to affect her. She felt that the students were kind and accepting, and all she wanted was to be part of their group. She is well aware that Advanced Drama is more than just a class….it functions like an exclusive clique, and she desperately wanted to be accepted into it.

    I would like very much for people to change their minds and their hearts about Corinne, Kenton, and others with social disabilities. But acceptance for minority groups has never happened just because the majority decided to be nice: the greatest thing about the United States is the Bill of Rights, and legislation to support the rights of minorities and the disabled. I think it was John Wayne who best addressed the issue of changing hearts and minds with his famous quote: “If you’ve got em by the balls, the hearts and minds will follow.” Lets start with following the law and maybe someday, hearts and minds will follow along.

    Now that our son Evan has graduated from Skyline (Class of 2007) and Corinne is at Holy Names, we are no longer up at Skyline volunteering or attending meetings. But this is still our community. Although we have received tremendous support from the disabled community, it makes us very sad to read the mean spirited comments from people who believe Corinne did not deserve to be part of Advanced Drama, and that we should have accepted that quietly and discouraged her dramatic ambitions.

  • turner dodge

    You said “I keep seeing unsubstanciated claims that special needs students in mainstream classrooms doesn’t give them the services they need. ” These claims are not unsubstantiated. I have 30 years of experience in several school district finance departments. I have followed Special Ed funding even trhough the AB 602 change in funding model.

    Don’t get me wrong. The teachers in the mainstream are dedicated and will do their best to ensure that the children are served well. Some kids just need more attention and dedication that the GE teachers can’t give. That’s where Specail Ed comes in. Hence, there is a distinct difference between the teacher to student ratios in special Ed v General Ed. Special Ed’s is way lower., as it should be.

    If you are lucky enough to have a child who was in Special Ed and later able to graduate to General Ed, good for you. Unfortunately, there are other parents who have not had that experience. So, be fair and don’t refer to people views different from yours as nonsense.


  • Sue


    You really should go back and read my earlier posts.

    Luck had nothing to do with my son’s success. He’s autistic, not Aspergers Syndrome, and more severely disabled than Corinne. He’s been Corinne’s peer and friend since the ASIP program started when they were 5th graders. He’s also the other student at Skyline mentioned in the Monday article, repeating the beginning drama class, even though his final grade was a B last year.

    Mainstreaming (done right!) has worked incredibly well for both of these kids, and AFAIK for the rest of the students in the ASIP program – up until the present. ASIP has been a very successful program, and I would be overjoyed to see the school district using it as a model for serving students with other types of disabilities.

    The law requires that students be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), and implementing more mainstream and inclusion programs would innoculate the district against any more lawsuits. I’d rather see children being successfully educated with effective support, than see the district pouring their limited budget into settling suits because those children weren’t being properly served in accordance with the law.

  • turner dodge

    You said “The law requires that students be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), and implementing more mainstream and inclusion programs would innoculate the district against any more lawsuits. I’d rather see children being successfully educated with effective support, than see the district pouring their limited budget into settling suits because those children weren’t being properly served in accordance with the law.”

    I totally agree…

  • Evan

    hey im corinne’s brother. its pretty sad to read some of the things skyline kids are saying about corinne. would you say them to her face? or mine if I was still at skyline? ill be back in three weeks then we can talk about it.

    people also have to realize this is not an attack on Ms. Hunter. is she a good teacher? did she act perfectly in this situation? everyone will have their own opinion, but that is a completely separate discussion. this is about making legally required accomodations. im not a lawyer, and Skyline students aren’t either. your opinions of corinne dont matter. the law protects her here. she was excluded not based on acting ability, but based on her personality and social behavior. these are part of her disability, which makes it discrimination. ask a lawyer, we did. thats why we know we’re right.

    I just hope this discussion can move more towards principles (thank you Turner and Sue) and away from personal judgments. insulting my family is like insulting me, and it’s hurtful.

  • Debora

    Donald Barks made a comment that the district settled rather than fight allegations. Organizations do not settle just on the basis of having a weak case or being guilty of the accusation. I work for a business in Oakland, we have often settled wrongful termination suits for as little as $500 to avoid court, attorney and staff costs. There have been two suits settled in the last 5 years, neither for more than $1,000. In both instances we would have won our cases as they were very strong. Keeping and storing documents, keeping up with personnel who move on so that they can be called to testify, and paying attorneys for updates on the court documents almost always cost more than the small settlement amount.

    It’s a matter of money, pure and simple.

  • Bill

    Obviously, emotions are running high surrounding the Asperger’s controversy at Skyline. They did so, too, some twelve years back when African-American parents objected to the exclusion of some of their children from advanced, honors, courses soley on the basis of their ability, or lack of ability, to write “college level” essays. The parents then contended the exclusionary practice had racial basis and won, in a civil rights suit, sanctions and reforms from the District. The arguments then, too, were that an advanced course teacher had the right if not the responsibility to keep the bar high in order to teach those precocious writers the course was attracting. The issue at hand is not so much whether a student is qualified for the course, but whether or not, in a publically funded school, it is appropriate to have advanced courses which are inaccessable to that public and, if so, what the criteria for admission are and who makes the decision. In the present circumstances it is likely the clarity of the criteria and who participates in the decision that cause the emotional charge in the debate.

  • Donald Barks

    It’s good to see that OUSD always takes the easy road. No need to stand on or for principal. Let’s just be clear that they aren’t standing on principal (as I suggest), but reach as quickly as possible for expediency.

    As I said, it seems significant to me that OUSD settled so quickly. Unfortunately for further meaningul debate on this topic (not just our opinions) we would need to know the details of a private settlement.

    And I would note, that “prisons are filled with innocent people”.

    Most often Civil Cases simply resolve disputes in a legal context. Ever watch Judge Judy or The Peoples Court? The losers always say the judgment was in error. When your company settled (as I said above, not an explicit admission of wrongdoing) you surrendered the moral high ground for economic expediency. Certainly this is a valid business position from an economic standpoint. But let’s not claim to be standing on principal.

    And one can assert that they “”would have won” their cases, but infact you didn’t win. Rather the company capitulated (for whatever reason).

    As to keeping and storing documents, CD-Rs cost less than $1.00 each. Not such a heavy burden IMNSHO.

  • Debora

    Mr. Barks, I have not yet figured out how to store a human being on CD, I know the day is coming, but I have not yet figured it out.

    Would you want the money coming from your child’s school for hundreds of thousands of dollars so that the district could stand its moral high ground? Would you want to fly in the students who will be off to college to testify when the case actually comes to court? Because that’s what would need to happen – real people would need to testify.

    I agree with you on one point, I believe we should be able to use the justice system to settle differences. The problem is the wheels of justice turn slowly. The costs mount and the loser would not be required to pay the costs for the winner, even when there is no evidence of wrongdoing. In the case where there is not enough money, as with the Oakland schools, all decisions will come down to how much will it cost? What are the alternatives? How can we reduce expenses?

    Some could call that a morally bankrupt system. Others would say that the district is finally being fiscally responsible.

  • Donald Barks


    To paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill:

    Our system of Civil Justice is the worst form of Civil Justice except all others ever tried.

    The actual quote is here:


    And as far as I can see, Corinne’s family is using that same system to see that their daughter’s right to education is not abridged.

    There is an assertion in the article that Ms. Hunter may file a defamation suit. Her right as well. I don’t see you arguing against that.

    As one of the party’s directly involved with the issues that exist around this topic. My son remains in the Drama class in question, and I can attest that at the beginning of this dispute that hew was not getting any “Intermediate” instruction as avowed by Ms. Green. That a shell game was being played by labeling a Beginning Drama curriculum under the title of Intermediate Drama.

    I can also attest to the differences in the way our families concerns have been handled contrasted with the treatment of Corinne and her family. I have known Corinne for many years and can only say that her family’s advocacy has been IMNSHO instrumental in advancing the cause of Special Education particularly Aspergers/Autism.

    I can assure that the district is taking our concerns very seriously. And I must say that I appreciate all of the efforts made to work with us, I just wish that the same opportunities had been given to Corinne. My son was given the chance to move into the Advanced Drama class. This belies assertions that students can ONLY advance vis-a-vis the “audition proceess”. We also “missed” the auditions. This can certainly be attributed to his disability. We have addressed the situation where students didn’t get (for whatever reason) the correct info about auditions. Our solution is to make sure that auditions, rehearsal schedules, etc. are posted in the ASIP resource room. Rather than criticize Corinne’s lack of ino (which our son and family experienced as well) we are seeking solutions. As did Corinne and her family.

    And I can only say that I am aware of circumstances that relate to the district’s settlement that suggest even more strongly that my view of the settlement is correct. I tried to avoid such a statement earlier. I noted that the details of the settlement are appropriately private; hence I can comment no further on that aspect of these issues.

    Over the years, we have had a number of similiar struggles. I am reminded of the PE teacher at Montera who gave my son a low grade in PE for not dressing out. I expect a bunch of criticism along the lines of “why should your son get special treatment?”. The action prescribed for my son in his IEP was to be allowed to participate in gym activities in street clothes if he didn’t have his gym uniform. He was also not to be penalized for not having his gym clothes.

    As to why these accomodations were written into his IEP. Sufice it to say that the suggestion was made by a professional. It was agreed to by the district, and the PE teacher was hostile, rude and absolutely unable or unwilling to accept the explanations of how this was directly related to his aurtism. (Similiar dispute, different academic course and setting.) The administration agreed with our complaint and corrected the final grade to reflect what the teacher should have done in the first place.

    And this was by no means the only such bias we have face over the years.

    If I have read and understood Susan Bergmann’s comments, she is more disturbed by the lack of support of the Principal than the errant judgement of Ms. Hunter. Susan has expressed this view to me privately on many occaisions and publicly in the discussions following the publication of the article.

    One bright note in all of this for our family. I have heard through channels that Ms. Hunter is deeply concerned that our son not be adversely affected by the ongoing conflict. I see this as a harbinger of hope and feel that we will have the opportunity that Corinne missed to “get it right”.

    Thank you Jan Hunter for your compassion during a trying time. There are plenty of areas or dispute in life. In this instance I can see that Ms. Hunter is indeed striving for the high road.

  • Nextset

    An interesting problem, one that’s generally best left to the family and the school. Our public discourse is on the principles involved.

    Good schools have standards and prerequisites – which OUSD is not exactly known for. Special Ed kids are not known to thrive in such an environment because – they are (usually) “special needs” as in need more time, need higher staff ratios, need special attention and need lower barriers – literally.

    The only real issue is whether a given barrier to a particular class – say the drama class – is unreasonable and keeping certain people (like maybe this one) out.

    Since it’s not clear why this student was blocked form the program it’s hard to discuss whether a given barrier to the class in unreasonable. Surely having to comply with such things as not being psychotic, speaking english, showing up for the enrollment dates and attending class are typical things an “advanced class” is expected to have. I have no idea what they specific issues are with this students and like Katy says, it’s not the practice of her blog to constantly get into the pros and cons or merits of individual students – public dialog isn’t the place for that.

    Although it’s good to give students pats on the back sometime…

    Good luck to Corrine and her family and good luck to OUSD in doing the difficult job of balancing the individual students with the academic standards and rules enforced for the good of the program. May they be able to work something out to the satisfaction of all.

    While it’s not exactly a special needs problem I am familiar with schools having to bar individual students from desirable programs because of their history or personal problems. These stories usually come in at the Jr College (13th Grade!!!) level though. Sort of a too bad, so sad, thing.