School District Discriminates Against Child with Disabilities

    EDMONTON, June 23 /CNW/ - The Alberta Association for Community Living
(AACL) is appalled to find that Elk Island Public Schools is discriminating
against Hannah Gunderson, a young girl with disabilities, by forcing her to be
segregated from her friends, against the wishes of her parents and her school
community, when she travels to school. In effect Elk Island School District is
punishing a child with disabilities and separating her from her friends
because she is unable to walk.
    At a time when Alberta Education has just completed a review of special
education that calls for every student with special needs to belong and be
included, Elk Island is instituting regressive practices that deny Hannah the
right to be included. As a student with disabilities who cannot easily defend
herself Hannah needs her friends to ensure her safety and protection. The
research evidence is unequivocal in that segregation increases the risk of
abuse and violence against children with disabilities. Elk Island Public
Schools is increasing Hannah's risk of harm by forcing her to be involuntarily
segregated from her friends and classmates.
    Until this forthcoming school year Hannah was included on the same bus as
her friends, traveling to school together and sharing in all the experiences
of her peers as she grows up with them. This coming school year, without
consultation with her parents, the Elk Island District unilaterally altered
Hannah's busing to her detriment. The School District and its Trustees have
refused to reconsider this decision ruining a young child's summer and that of
her family as they anxiously consider a future where Hannah is deprived of the
ordinary relationships most other families take for granted.
    Wendy McDonald, AACL President and a parent of a student with
disabilities who is fully included, stated, "As a parent of a child with
disabilities I know how hurtful this must be to Hannah and her family. As an
Association representing many thousands of families with children with
disabilities I call upon the Elk Island School District to demonstrate its
capacity to listen, change and respond to the cries of a young child with

For further information:

For further information: Bruce Uditsky, CEO, (780) 940-4269

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Alberta Association for Community Living

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