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Letters to the Editor: April 24 - May 5

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Off-base(ment) quote

In his story about my son Bill Shannon ["Turning the Tables," Mar. 28], Bill O'Driscoll inappropriately quoted a phrase I used in an interview. Addressing the fact that my son was in mainstream classrooms in the Pittsburgh Public School system, Mr. O'Driscoll writes, "When her oldest son enrolled in school, Randa Shannon made sure he didn't end up 'in the basement' with other disabled kids." This framing of my comments does not accurately reflect my discussion with Mr. O'Driscoll.

During our interview, I pointed out the significance of Bill starting school in 1976, which was the year federal Education for All Handicapped Children Act went into effect. This act was a forerunner of the more comprehensive Americans with Disabilities Act: It required the integration into regular classes of all but the most severely disabled children. The parents and organizations that pushed this bill through were motivated by deplorable practices which in many areas relegated disabled children to out-of-sight, out-of-mind locations and provided inferior academic and social experiences. It is in describing this treatment of disabled children that I used the term "in the basement."

My mother had been a special-education teacher in Nashville, often working in basements with dilapidated furnishing and mangled books. She was a passionate advocate for children with special needs. I was the mother of a child with a disability. I was familiar with the problems.

I was also familiar with the disability-education legislation when I went to the Pittsburgh schools and insisted that they mainstream Bill. I knew the school board was aware of the legislation also. Pittsburgh teachers were addressing implementation of this act in their contract negotiations at that time. I do not see what I did as separating my son from the other disabled kids "in the basement" and I did not say that is what I did. Bill and I were part of a national movement helping to change unfair educational practices. We had a lot of parents across the nation with us in spirit and in the act.

I appreciate the overall depth and thoroughness of Mr. O'Driscoll's article.

-- Randa Shannon, Stanton Heights

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