December 15, 2014 – Newark, NJ – Disability Rights New Jersey, Education Law Center, the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education, the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, the ARC of New Jersey and other advocates today launched “The Inclusion Campaign” (www.inclusioncampaign.org) website. The website is a resource for families, educators and other advocates regarding the landmark 2013 legal settlement with the New Jersey Department of Education to educate more of the state’s students with disabilities in an inclusive environment.
“New Jersey’s record on inclusive education to date has been dismal,” said Ruth Lowenkron, Senior Attorney at Disability Rights New Jersey. “This settlement will ensure that all students in New Jersey will have an equitable opportunity to achieve their highest potential.”
The Inclusion Campaign is a collaboration of students, teachers, parents and non-profit organizations working to ensure that students with disabilities have their place in the general education classroom. In recent years, advocates have embraced inclusive education for students with disabilities as a recommended practice.
“The goal of our campaign is to take full advantage of the opportunity provided by the legal settlement to dramatically improve the education of students with disabilities in New Jersey’s public schools,” said Elizabeth Athos, Senior Attorney at Education Law Center. “We know that all students benefit from inclusive classrooms. We need to promote high achievement for all children, regardless of differences in ability, culture, gender, language, class, race and ethnicity.”
The Inclusion Campaign, funded by a generous grant from the van Ameringen Foundation, features a newly-designed website with information and statistics parents and other advocates can use as a guide as they work to ensure inclusive education in local school districts. In addition, the Inclusion Campaign will communicate via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
A highlight of the new Inclusion Campaign website is a short film on the benefits and challenges of the fight for statewide inclusive education. The film features testimony from parents, teachers and other advocates statewide.
Bryan Lonegan, whose son, Arthur, is educated in an inclusive classroom at the Renaissance School in Montclair, NJ, is one of the parents featured in the film. Mr. Lonegan talks about the enormous impact inclusive education has had on Arthur, by teaching him important academic skills, including reading and math, and how to make friends.
“The three years Arthur has been here [at the Renaissance School] with you have been the most important years of his life. You have showed that the experts were wrong. You made him a member of your community. He went from being a sad, frustrated and lonely boy to a kid who is happy and loves meeting new people. You freed him from the tower,” said Mr. Lonegan in a speech to Arthur’s classmates, teachers and administrators.
In 2015, the Inclusion Campaign will roll out the new website, social media platforms, infographics and short film around the state for parent and teacher organizations, legislators, and local and statewide media. The Inclusion Campaign will also encourage local government officials and school districts to organize screenings of the video in an effort to educate the public about the benefits of inclusive education.
“The Inclusion Campaign’s new website, social media presence and short film are important tools to enhance our advocacy,” said Lowenkron. “The tools are vital for our goal of making sure every child in New Jersey reaps the lifetime benefits of inclusive classrooms and instruction.”
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