Special Students Named Homecoming Kings and Queens
[Source: USA Today]
By Sarah Reinecke and Jeff Martin, USA TODAY
CHESTER, S.D. — Homecoming brought joy to Betsy Daniel this fall, when classmates chose her as homecoming queen.
A similar scene played out this month in New Mexico, where students erupted in cheers when a classmate with special needs was named homecoming king.
In Lawrence, Kan., a boy with Down syndrome is on the homecoming court after classmates went to administrators and demanded his name be on the ballot. The king and queen at that school, Free State High, will be crowned Friday.
“It’s really amazing to see because there was a time when they were never even invited to go to prom, so to be the king or queen is just phenomenal,” says Kirsten Seckler, a spokesperson for the Special Olympics.
Under federal law, students with special needs have the right to be in the same classes as the rest of the students, to the maximum extent possible, says Frances Duff, a teacher at Cibola High School in Albuquerque.
As that has happened, and students with special needs become more integrated into the school culture, “they’re no longer seen as different,” Duff says.
“There’s a climate of acceptance and enjoying each other,” says Duff, who has seen this first-hand at Cibola, where students with special needs have been chosen homecoming king twice in the past couple of years.
A student with autism, Luke Sachs, was named Cibola High homecoming king in 2008, Duff says. Then, James Keefner, who has Down syndrome, was named homecoming king this fall.
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