So we observed the self-contained classroom at the middle school that Kayla is zoned for.
We figured out pretty quickly that this was most likely the placement the school was going to recommend for Kayla in 6th grade.
We learned that the students spend the majority of their day in the classroom because they're getting all of their academic instruction in the 5 core academic subjects in this classroom. (Kayla's current placement is being in the general education setting 79-40% of her day [I don't have on-hand her actual percentage of time] and I dislike that range because it's such a broad range between being almost at 80% included to 40% included. The recommended middle school placement would have her in general education settings less than 40% of her day.)
We learned it's possible for a student to 'move up, or out' to another classroom setting based on how well they are preforming academically.
We learned that the students aren't assigned lockers like the rest of the school population.
We also learned a few other things during our observation tour.
This classroom is in what used to be the Home Ec room. The school doesn't offer Home Ec anymore so the self-contained classroom moved in to this room. I don't know when Home Ec went away and I don't know what classroom they were using before and I don't know know why they moved in to the old Home Ec room.
What I do know is because it was a Home Ec room it still has refrigerators and stoves and sinks.
We learned that sometimes, maybe as part of a Social Studies or Math lesson, the students will learn to cook.
I wasn't completely thrilled at the idea, but not totally against it either. After all, I remember having Home Ec in middle school. I remember learning to thread a needle and complete sewing projects (a stuffed pink pig with a button for the eye!). I remember some cooking lessons, too.
The difference is that was something the whole school took as a class. The difference is the rest of the student body no longer has Home Ec as a class. If it was something the rest of the middle school students were learning to do I would be somewhat ok with it.
But then there was something else.
At some point a washer and dryer was acquired for this classroom.
And as part of that whole "life skills", "being independent", "real life experience" (I'm not really sure what the whole justification is) ...
We learned that "...sometimes they wash the football team's uniforms. They learn how to measure and do laundry, and the football team gets clean uniforms. It's a win-win!"
This was reiterated to us during the IEP meeting in a description of the things they are doing in the classroom and that the students are learning to use the washer and dryer and "they wash the football team's uniforms and it's ... great!"
Let that sink in for a moment.
Sometimes they wash the football team's uniforms.
Why is this even a thing? Why is this ok? Why is this acceptable? How is this appropriate?
I don't know how often they wash the uniforms. This does not mean this is the only thing they are learning in the classroom. This doesn't mean they aren't doing academics either.
I felt shocked, saddened, disappointed, disbelief, speechless, frustrated, anger. I felt like having these students wash the uniforms is demeaning; as if they are less-than.
I've heard other parents tell stories of high school students in special education classrooms collecting trash or cleaning up the cafeteria after lunch and I couldn't believe that was allowed.
Then I found out something like this is happening right at the school where my daughter is supposed to go, at the middle school level ... that they are washing the football team's uniforms.
Students receiving special education services should not be doing ... chores ... that the rest of the student body does not have to partake in. Why are they singled out? It continues to create a divide; an "us" vs "them" mentality at the school.
What do those football players think of those students with disabilities who are washing their uniforms? How does that create an even peer relationship?
Why is doing laundry even so important at the middle school level? And if they do feel this is an important skill to have at this grade level then it is also an important skill for the rest of the students to have.
Why not give the players on the football team those same important, real-life, independent, life-skills experiences like doing laundry? Why not teach the football players to wash their own uniforms? They are, after all, the ones who are dirtying up those uniforms.
The thing is this: I am not sending my child to middle school to learn to do laundry. Especially not the laundry of the football team. It doesn't matter if it happens once a week, once a month, once a quarter, or once a year. One time is one time too many. Even one time is not acceptable.
We will teach our daughter to do laundry at home ... we send her to school for the same reason we send our son (and the same reason any parent sends their child) to school - to get an education.
Until students without disabilities are learning to do laundry at school, I don't find it appropriate for my child to learn to do laundry at school.
Especially not in middle school.