What happens after high school?
That's one of many questions that many of us that have kids with disabilities think of. Will our kids be able to go to college, get a job, live independently? Will they be happy?
Two young people with disabilities enrolled in Florissant Valley Community College in the St. Louis, Missouri, USA area. They had hopes, dreams, and scholarships they had earned during high school. What happened to them is detailed in a story found here.
...It happened to Jennifer Adelsberger two years ago. She attended Florissant Valley for four years and was close to getting her associates degree in early childhood education. She has disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and has difficulty in reading comprehension. But, with help, she graduated from McCluer North High School.
However, at Florissant Valley, Adelsberger couldn't get her degree because her advisor, she says, told her that she would not be able to graduate. She needs four classes to get her degree; a math class, two in student teaching and a fourth in class training with children.
After she was told she wouldn't be able to pass those classes, she left school and has been looking for work since. Her father, Larry, says she's had her heart set on being a teaching assistant, working with young children, and what happened at Florissant Valley has affected her outlook and personality. ...
It would appear that the math class is the stumbling block. I find it hard to believe that the school can't identify a tutor that could help her to get thru that one class. I'm sure it couldn't possibly be that this young woman looks and talks a little different from the norm, and they didn't want her student teaching. Surely there is no other discrimination involved. This is born out by looking at the other case, in which things seemed to start out just fine:
...For Jeremy Andert, the fall at Florissant Valley was much quicker. He too had an A+ scholarship and he graduated from Hazelwood West High School in the spring of 2006. In the Fall, he began at Florissant Valley, taking just a remedial reading class and physical education. It was to be an easy transition from high school to the rigors of college.
He was doing well in reading and physical education. In fact, his teacher had written him a mid-term report, indicating he was passing the class and was succeeding in school. ...
It sounds like Jeremy was approaching things in a realistic manner, and things were going well. His mom thought he was doing well, too (who wouldn't, having been given the satisfactory mid-term report).
...However his mother, Cathy Andert, had a meeting with a school advisor, who told a different story. Cathy says the advisor told her that she didn't care to have "retarded" students in her classes and she wasn't "having" it. Cathy says she was taken aback by those comments. ...
I think I would have been more than "taken aback" by those comments. Ms. Andert was much kinder than I would have been. The school, for its part, offered this lame response:
...Laura Sternman, a vice president of student affairs at Florissant Valley, says such comments are not the college's "attitude" taken on campus. Sternman says the college does all it can to help disabled students, saying the school is "very proactive" when it comes to such help. ...
Actions speak louder than words, and Florissant Valley's actions speak volumes. And so does its web site, where you can follow a link from this page called “You Should Know the Difference Between High School and College for Students With Disabilities.”
There are things written there, such as
A college education is a privilege instead of a right and special programs are not required
Students are responsible for their own behavior and inappropriate behavior is not tolerated
Students are expected to do the same work in the same time frame as all students
These hardly seem consistent with an institution that says it is doing all it can to assist disabled students.
For those that are not in the US, community colleges are 2 year public institutions that offer lesser than bachelor degrees, usually "Associate of Arts" degrees. Students can pursue various courses of study there, or use it as a stepping stone to a four year institution. As can be gleaned from the above, education at the college level is not governed by the same sets of rules that apply to education up to that point.
Various people on the web have commented regarding how some colleges in some instances are providing accomodations for students with special needs. But it appears that their legal responsibility is only to supply equal access (things like physical access, access for guide dogs, etc.), and there is no requirement for them to accommodate developmental or behavioral disabilities.
While some colleges seem to have greater outreach than others, it appears that at least some people at Florissant Valley Community College feel so emboldened that they can say that they don't want to have to deal with 'retarded' students in their classes.
If you wish to express your opinion to Laura Sterman personally, here is her contact information:
Vice President of Student Affairs
St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley Campus
3400 Pershall Rd.
St. Louis, MO 63135
You also might want to copy your note to the president of Florissant Valley, Ms. Marcia Pfeiffer:
I could not find a public listing of the e-mail of Henry Shannon, Ph.D., the chancellor of all of the St. Louis Community Colleges, but if it follows their convention, it should be