School Spotlight: Osseo Middle School Pushes for Inclusion
The goal at Osseo Middle School is to have students interact, so there’s not a special designation if a student is in special education classes. The school takes part in the Unified Schools Initiative that focuses on inclusive student leadership, unified sports and whole school engagement.
“Our goal really is to have our kids all together all the time,” says Jan Bitzer, Student Service Coordinator Osseo Middle School. “We don’t want there to be a difference between the special education kids to the general education one. We are starting to see a more inclusive lunch room and it’s really exciting work.”
Unified Schools Initiative
Osseo Middle School started taking part in the Unified Schools Initiative. The program which was created by the Special Olympics focuses on inclusive student leadership, unified sports and whole school engagement.
“We’ve seen that our students both general education students and students receiving special education services have grown,” says Laura Ringen the assistant principal for Osseo Middle School. “A lot of the students have displayed a lot more leadership qualities in result to the program.”
Through the program, teachers have seen general education students grow their leadership skills and special education students become more social.
“It gives them an opportunity to practice those social skills in a really safe environment,” says Bitzer. “It’s also helped our general education students gain empathy. Over all for both groups of kids I’ve seen leadership skills develop. They are becoming more in tune with their social and emotional skills. What’s really great, is they are making friends and keeping friends. It’s been so good for everyone.”
The program also benefits special education student’s families as well.
“The reaction that we’ve gotten from parents is that this program just brings their families such joy,” added Bitzer. “It’s not just changing the students experience in school but it’s changing whole families lived experience in school.”
Changing Students’ Mindsets
The experience is changing student’s mindsets too.
“I hope they can understand that we should all accept everyone for all of their differences,” says 7th grader Rakeb Azeze who is a general education student in the program. “It doesn’t matter because we are all humans.”
For more information about the Unified Schools Initiative click here.