Local Elementary Schools Hold ‘Inclusive Week’ with No Internal Goals

Inclusive Week Poster from 2020. | Image from Inclusive Schools Network.

Despite no grievances filed for lack of inclusiveness, it was the theme for an entire week at Highland Park Independent School District (HPISD) last year. A request revealed not only the agenda for last year’s “Inclusive School Week” (ISW) at two elementary schools but also revealed the district has no internal metrics or goals for the program while spending taxpayer monies on it.

Next month, HPISD will hold its annual “Inclusive Schools Week” from December 6 – 10. Despite this focus on inclusiveness, HPISD does not allow students from outside the district to enroll unless they are children of staff members.

Dallas Express sent an open records request, under the Texas Public Information Act, for all grievances filed against HPISD for lack of inclusiveness from 2015 to the present, all invoices for ISW, and all internal metrics and goals for the program itself.

“We have not had any grievances filed against HPISD or HPISD staff for lack of inclusiveness,” HPISD Chief of Staff and Director of Communications Jon Dahlander replied on October 27. “Other than celebrating our school district’s inclusive practices, there are no internal metrics or goals for Inclusive Schools Week.”

Invoices produced in response to our open records request showed over $330 of taxpayer monies were spent on ISW. In Fiscal Year 2019-2020, $160.25 was spent on a banner and bookmarks. In Fiscal Year 2020-2021, $178.62 was spent on bookmarks, posters, information cards, and ISW Certificates. All were paid to Stetson & Associates.

Through other open records requests, Dallas Express acquired agendas for last year’s ISW at HPISD’s Hyer and Boone Elementary Schools.

Hyer and Boone students were asked to consider questions such as “What does ‘inclusive’ mean to you? Does it mean accepting? Open-minded? Kind? Do you like to be included? How do you include others?” Teachers also were to have students write out “thought bubbles” that complete the sentence “I include by…”

There were some differences between the school’s approaches, despite both being in HPISD.

At Boone, videos were part of the week’s agenda, from Monday’s Sesame Street video on inclusion for kindergarten through 1st Grade students, to Friday’s nearly four-minute interview with Ezra Frech, a young boy adjusting to his special needs, followed up with another video of him becoming a finalist in the Paralympic Games at 14. A four-page list of additional videos was also provided to Boone.

There were other activities as well.

At Boone, the art activities for Inclusive Week were to create an art mural and talk about artists who had disabilities. In music, students were to discuss musicians and composers with disabilities, such as Beethoven, and how they adapted.

In Spanish, students were to review other forms of communication, like sign language. And in Physical Education, students were to do a team treasure hunt outside, with teammates guiding another member who is blindfolded.

At Hyer, Physical Education games were to be done with the “non-dominant hand,” while art activities were to be done with hands. In music, students were to discuss “how each different instrument is needed to make beautiful music,” and “decide which instrument they are most like and what gifts that instrument brings to the symphony.”

In Spanish class, the book “All Are Welcome Here” by Alexandra Penfold, described as a “welcoming book,” was to be read.

Readers may click the links to find PDF’s of the full weekly agenda for Hyer and Boone Elementary.

Boone Inclusive Schools Week 2020

2020-2021 Inclusive Schools Activities

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