Every year in recent years, a student with special needs is named homecoming or prom king or queen. What is the motive for what seems to have become a trend?
Recently, Students at an Ohio school gave such an honor to tei long-time friends, who have become a couple after growing up together, in a show of support and respect.
Friday, September 20, 2013, Jacob Cox and Holly Thomas, 21-year old seniors with Down Syndrome at Westlake High School in Westlake, Ohio, where they will graduate this year due to their age, were named this year's Homecoming King and Queen during activities homecoming weekend.
Such efforts may be in part the result of inclusion which allows the integration of students with special needs into regular classrooms with typical students. By not separating these students into "special" education classes, schools send a message to other students that difference and diversity are part of life.
Many parents of children with special needs have fought for inclusion of their children in regular classrooms with typical children and their efforts to make their children part of their schools and society in general has met with some success.
Children that used to be ridiculed and bullied are now being made high school "royalty." On the surface this trend of crowning students with special needs with schools' highest honors during homecomings and proms seems like an attempt to be charitable or just another fad.
In reality it is a trend with roots in deeply-held values in today's schools.
Part of high school education in the 21st century is learning how to perform service to the community. This has become almost as important as grades in consideration for college admission and scholarship.
It is quite likely and highly possible that students that learn about serving their community might develop real empathy for others and respect for those living with and coping with disabilities of all types, especially in schools which proximity of typical students and those with special needs.
At Westlake typical students get extra credit for assisting students with special needs with lunch and gym during their own study hall hours so they don't miss classes. It is this peer interaction that has provided typical students with the opportunity to develop relationships and more understanding about many of the challenges faced by children with special needs.
"'I think Westlake is really good about helping (the kids),' junior Jamie Sandor, a peer, said. Her older brother, Adam, a senior, also helps as a peer. Sandor is in her third year helping as a peer, and said the student body is known for rallying around the special education students.
“'I think it’s an awesome experience for them to get the feeling the (typical) students get,' Sandor said. Sandor said she knows several of the four others nominated and heard that if those students were named homecoming kind or queen, they would hand over their crowns to Holly and Jason." (http://www.sheboyganpress.com/videonetwork/2684412941001/Special-needs-s...).
These gestures of friendship and respect shown by honoring students that have special needs may be the sincere actions of students that have not only learned academics in high school, but a few lessons in humanity.