We are shocked, saddened and angry over the latest revelation of cuts to Special Olympics made by Superintendent Atkinson and the DeKalb school board. What school board in their right mind cuts the Special Olympics? This is outrageous!
Click here to read the article about it in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and then weep. Weep for the hardened insensitivity with which our school leaders made these cuts to the budget — while maintaining a bloated administration. Weep because our leaders continue to cut the very people who directly educate our children – all of our children – in every modality in our neighborhood schools.
This is discrimination in the worst possible way. Can you imagine if our leaders had proposed cutting the sports program for girls – or blacks – or Hispanics? The Special Olympics is the special education student’s sports program! Not only that, these students rarely, if ever, qualify to compete in any of the other sports offered at our schools to all other students. DCSS’ spokesperson Walter Woods’ hard-hearted observation: “The Special Olympics program is a wonderful program, but it is elective.” Well, gee, so is high school football!
The Special Olympics is a life-saving positive force in the lives of students who often deal with social anxiety and challenges beyond most people’s understanding. They have no options for other outlets. How can anyone beat them down?
It’s really imponderable to imagine what lack of heart and conscience it takes for grown adults to virtually gut a program that is literally a lifeline for so many young people. Not only that, the Special Olympics serves as a wonderful teaching tool for tolerance, love and compassion for the students who volunteer as a Special Olympics buddy. To take that away and then make any kind of commitment to teaching character traits is of the utmost irony.
Cheryl Atkinson has made the coldest of cuts we have ever seen and a majority of our school board went along (5-4). They should hang their heads in shame. But, they won’t because they know no shame. Add this to year-after-year increases in class sizes (now even including special education!), cutting parapro support in classrooms, cutting media clerks and librarians in the schools, cutting language interpreters completely and cutting nearly all of the science teachers from Fernbank and you have a recipe for a very challenging future.
We must join together and work toward a school system that places a small, lean team of competent, caring leaders who act as good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars and who spend those dollars to best directly impact the children of DeKalb – as taxpayers intended.
DeKalb School Watch will be in high gear working to help place such leadership in the future. Our current leaders should be flogged for what they’ve done to the children of DeKalb – especially to the special education students whose lives are so positively impacted by the Special Olympics. The shocking thing about this particular cut is the tone of discrimination it represents – discrimination imposed by people who historically should have the utmost sensitivity to the civil rights of others. This is disgraceful.
We are on a very slippery slope. We really need to find a place of peace and equity in DeKalb. That kind of peace can only come when we truly focus on the children. Each and every one of them.