Support statewide movement for student equity: End stigma of lifelong labels by using People First Language
March 24, 2019

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Whereas, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that “Special Education is a service, not a place;” and

Whereas, as their Project Based Learning (PBL) project, students from El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera have requested the removal of any special education label, while increasing rigorous A-G curriculum coursework, academic awards upon graduation, and preparation for continuing education; and

Whereas, El Rancho High School students exposed their true selves only to be told that speaking from the heart was good but not enough, and they needed to go back and learn how many students supported through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Individual Education Programs (IEPs) have been helped and why services were created; and

Whereas, El Rancho High School students were not asked how the label has limited their education or social existence but they explored this topic with their peers through their PBL project; and

Whereas, Parker Palmer states in his book, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life, Welcoming the Soul and Weaving Community in a Wounded World (2004): “…individuals hide behind a wall in order for others not to see their true self”; and

Whereas, students supported through the ADA or IEP have been told by teachers, peers, and family members they are dumb, lazy, or stupid, succumbing to the belief they are special; and

Whereas, students supported through the ADA or IEP have not only been segregated or isolated from the general education population in classes and campus locations including separate schools or wings, but also from social circles due to their special label; and

Whereas, labels have become a stigma that identify an individual as less than normal, not only during their K-12 education, but the stigma can also last a lifetime, altering an individual’s self-image and future possibilities; and

Whereas, students who are labeled experience limited future options due to classes offered, low expectations, socio-emotional mindset, and the failure to self-advocate; and

Whereas, intellectual disability labels such as mentally retarded, moron, idiot, imbecile, cretin, and mentally challenged have been eliminated; and

Whereas, according to Office of Special Education, Rosa’s Law (Pub. L. 111-256), signed in 2010, amended sections of the IDEA, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Rehabilitation Act), by removing the words “mental retardation” and replacing them with the words “intellectual disability” or “intellectual disabilities”; and

Whereas, many students who have been labeled due to behaviors have average or above average IQs; and

Whereas, many students with undiagnosed dyslexia have average or above average IQs are supported through the ADA or IEP not as a result of their diverse abilities and/or unique needs but as a result of the educational system’s failure to provide appropriate curriculum instruction; and

Whereas, many schools focus on trying to remediate a student’s perceived deficits instead of strengthening the student’s abilities; and

Whereas, all students need support throughout their K-12 educational journey and all students have a right to educational equity; and

Whereas, students should not be defined by their diverse abilities and/or unique needs, medical diagnoses, or physical or socio-emotional barriers; and

Whereas, the “special needs” descriptor is used as an insult and creates a stigma and with the realization that any word used to label can lead to negative consequences; and

Whereas, according to the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities “in an effort to end discrimination and segregation—in employment, education and our communities at large…it is important to eliminate prejudicial language”; and

Whereas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “People First Language is used to speak appropriately and respectfully about an individual with a disability. People First Language emphasizes the person first not the disability”; and

Whereas, the use of People First Language originated in the early 1970s by adults with developmental disabilities in the People First/Self-Advocacy Movement and reflects the belief that people with disabilities are not their disabilities, but each is a person first, and People First Language is more than a fad or political correctness; and

Whereas, according to Kathie Snow, considered the gold standard on this topic, “People First Language is not political correctness; instead, it demonstrates good manners, respect, the Golden Rule, and more—it can change the way we see a person, and it can change the way a people sees themselves!”; and

Whereas, Snow supports the El Rancho High School students and the CFT to remove labels, and

Whereas, the CFT acknowledges and supports the removal of the labeling; of students, teachers, and classrooms with the adoption and promotion of educational equity through the use of People First Language; now;

Therefore, be it resolved, that the California Federation of Teachers adopt the use of People First Language in all documents, departments, and identification of students, teachers, and classrooms thus supporting the removal of stigmas and lifelong labels for individuals supported through the ADA or an IEP; and

Be it further resolved, that the CFT urges other organizations to adopt similar verbiage supporting the removal of stigmas and lifelong labels for all individuals; and

Be it further resolved, that the CFT will continuously challenge any derogatory associations that describe a disability before the person; and

Be it further resolved, that the CFT supports the El Rancho High School students for their self-advocacy in eliminating stigmas and lifelong labels associated with special education verbiage; and

Be it further resolved, that the CFT believes the ultimate goal is for all individuals to live in a society where no wall divides and where no one needs to hide behind their true self.  Living in the shadows of others can hinder a person’s full potential; and

Be it further resolved, that the CFT believes in the right of all individuals to define who they are; and

Be it further resolved, that the CFT supports educational equity for all students; and

Be it finally resolved, that the CFT supports the removal of labels that do not alter in any way federal funding or accommodated services through the ADA or IEPs.

REFERENCES

– Passed as Resolution 25 by CFT Convention on March 24, 2019
– Submitted by the Executive Council