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This week during American Education Week, we’re proud to put an apple on our teacher tree at the Kump Education Center for a teacher who represents one of the most important changes in American education in the 20th century.
Roseann L. Harvey was an unusually good teacher who received additional training to help students with special needs. Your commitment is inspiring and helps deliver on one of American society’s greatest promises: equal opportunities for all.
In the 1960s, when the baby boomers were going to school, parents of most disabled children had to seek help wherever they could. West Virginia had a school for blind and deaf children, but most students with severe learning and behavioral disabilities had no place in the public system. Wealthy parents paid to place their children in expensive facilities, but those who didn’t have the extra money locked their children in their rooms all day while the parents were at work.
In 1975, Public Law 94-142 introduced the five principles of special education: zero disapproval, non-discriminatory education, adequate education, least restrictive environment, and procedural process (Sadker, MP Teacher, Schools & Society. McGraw Hill, 2000). This law provided a lifeline for children with disabilities and families who had difficulty looking after them. After 1975, no school could refuse a child because of a physical or mental disability.
Roseann and her husband Richard Harvey recognized the importance of having additional education to serve students with mental and emotional learning disabilities. After she finished a long day of school and he finished work at the bank, she drove to Morgantown a few nights a week while she took any additional classes she needed to help children with many learning difficulties.
Many of these problems have not been identified as learning problems in the past. Too much emphasis has been placed on simplistic concepts of IQ and insufficient time has been given to diagnose individual learning disabilities.
A major result of the ADA legislation was the fact that educators began to ask: what is? “Adequate Education” for a child who has any kind of mental or behavioral disability? Medical and educational research on topics such as autism, hyperactivity, and tower syndrome has increased significantly. The new term “Behavioral health” is a sign that our society is beginning to educate about mental health issues that can lead to deviant behaviors that affect performance in school and later in the workplace. Such behavior can also lead to criminal behavior.
Dedicated special education educators like Roseann Harvey could be the first line of defense against substance abuse and criminal behavior. These teachers take the time to ensure that due process is in place for children before they develop habits that prevent them from learning the basic skills and behaviors they need to function in American society. Many of these students may need public support to live alone, but proper education as a child can help them acquire the skills they need to deal with their disabilities.
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