Future Reflections Spring/ Summer1989, Vol. 8 No. 2

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BLIND CHILD ATTENDS PRIVATE SCHOOL

Editor's Note: The following article was written by Cindy Hennessy, and published in the June 29, 1986, Catholic Bulletin.

'HE'S A LITTLE BOY FIRST
AND BLIND SECOND'

MOM WHO CHOSE CATHOLIC SCHOOLING MAKES SURE STATE PROVIDES MATERIALS DUE HER SON

Parents may send their children to the school of their choice even if a child is handicapped and needs special materials and services from the state. Barbara Ferrian said she wants her blind son, Jess, to attend kindergarten at St. Anne School, Minneapolis. Jess attended preschool at St. Austin, Minneapolis this year with state-provided materials. "He's a little boy first and blind second," said Ferrian. She said Jess's blindness should not stand in the way of his getting a Catholic education. She wants her blind son and younger blind daughter to attend their parish grade school. With the help of Lisa Gustafson, a lawyer, and Audrey Goldfarb, a facilitator from the Minneapolis Public School Nonpublic Education Program, Jess received the materials he needed to attend St. Austin. He will also receive the materials and services to attend St. Anne grade school this fall.

PARENTS NEED TO KNOW RIGHTS

Gustafson, who has a deaf niece, said many parents don't know the state's obligation to provide their handicapped children needed materials and services regardless of whether they attend a private or public school. "The state is obligated to give a handicapped child material the same as if he was going to a public school," she said. "Handicapped children have a right to the same education as anyone else." Goldfarb said Jess is the first totally blind four-year-old she knows of to attend a nonpublic school. A student may not receive direct service in a nonpublic setting, but that does not mean he cannot attend the school of his choice, she said. The state must provide materials and busing to another location for special services if the student attends a nonpublic school, she said. Jess will be bussed to a public school to learn Braille and will receive materials to help him manage his classes at St. Ann. Goldfarb said the materials and services are available and there's no reason a handicapped student should not attend a Catholic school.

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