State Ed Board Candidate: Special Needs Students ‘Should Be Educated Separately’

RICHARDSON (CBSDFW.COM) – A comment by a political candidate has touched a nerve with parents of special needs students.

That candidate is running in a North Texas district for a place on Texas’ State Board of Education.

In a questionnaire posted to conservative websites and, Gail Spurlock answered a question about mainstreaming special education students by saying:

“Our schools should not be used as therapy centers. If special education students can participate without disrupting the rest of the class, or without excessive expense, they should be in regular classrooms. But if the disabilities cause disruption or excessive expense they should be educated separately.”

Lori Eason and dozens of other parents with autistic kids say they are offended by Spurlock’s comments.  “Shame on her. Those were my exact words,” says Eason. “I took offense to that, because we should provide therapy to our children.”

Jeff Belloni says his nine-year-old autistic daughter Sophie’s occasional disruptions are no reason to keep her from attending school in Lewisville.  “She’s one of the kids that they’re talking about, she’s one of those people that can disrupt a classroom and that can cause problems” says Belloni, “It just shows a lack of compassion toward other human beings.”

Spurlock is running in a district that stretches from Collin County to the Park Cities.  “I’m glad they brought their concerns to my attention,” she told CBS 11. “I’ll address it on my website.”

Child education experts say special needs students more often find acceptance and improvement in public schools.  “I think the trend for a number of years has been to include special needs children in the regular classroom,” says Susan Hoff, United Way.

Upset parents say they also don’t have the money for home or private schooling.

Spurlock’s comments in the same interview promoting more programs for gifted students only adds to the aggravation of parents determined to give their autistic children every chance to achieve.

*Editor’s note – in an earlier version of this story CBSDFW reported the questionnaire Spurlock responded to was from the Collin County Conservative Republicans.  A spokesperson with the group says the questionnaire was not from their organization.

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  • Rob Walls

    When I read a news story, it irks me when the full name of the subject of the story isn’t provided before repetitively referring to them by only their last name. In this story, the full name is NEVER given. Is anybody proofreading the copy, or has the news industry just deteriorated to such a level of complacency?

    • Grahawk

      My thoughts also, Rob. No editorial review…a thing of the past.

      • jefffrey paris

        this issue is the same as Brown v. Board of Education

  • Grahawk

    Where this ? Spurlock derives an attitude of divisiveness toward “special needs” kids is truly disturbing. I drive a “special needs” bus and have seen these kiddoes thrive and “climb out of their shell” progressing through the years.

  • Don Rice

    So what is wrong with this analogy. That it is ok to slow or aalter the education of many for one is not a good legal reason. The disruption of an entire class is not justified. The laws can’t make everyone equal, they can only make an equal opportunity available. Many laws are doing more damage than good, and many court decisions have went way overboard. The government can not be everything for everybody, but they can break the tax payers trying.

    • Mark

      These kids will be a MUCH bigger tax payer burden if they do not get the services and attention they need to become functioning members of society. Think about it.

      • Sue

        I don’t disagree with her position, in part. My stepson is autistic and he does spend part of his day in a regular classroom. I agree with her that a special needs child that frequently disrupts the classroom, is disrupting the learning of the majority of the students in that classroom, and that should not be allowed. That can put an undo burden on the teacher, who is probably already stretched then. But if the child can sit in the class and participate the vast majority of the time, he/she should be allowed in a regular classroom so they can thrive. But they should be removed if they are repeatedly disrupting the class. They can always be put back in the class once their behavior improves. The real problem is that there are not enough resources for the families who have special needs children.

      • just sayin

        It does make sense to have special needs children in the classroom when they are able to benefit. The problem comes when severe cuts to education cut the support staff these children need to succeed (or to remove them when they become too stressed for the classroom situation.) It also is a problem when the laws limit the students that are able to be identified. Right now politicians are trying to divide the middle class and pit private against public employees. We need to be careful not to allow them to blame some of our children for other’s educational needs not being met when the financial cuts are really to blame. It does cost a lot to educate our children, but it costs far more not to.

  • Grahawk

    6:30 PM, Gail is added as the Spurlock.

  • Grahawk

    Don Rice said, The laws can’t make everyone equal, they can only make an equal opportunity available.

    Don, listen to yourself.

  • Angelo Peña

    Absolutely incredible. And THIS moron wants to be on the school board?

  • LoriE

    What is amazing is that Ms Spurlock answers a question about educating gifted children immediately before answering the question about special needs. She basically says that she believes we need to think outside the box for the gifted children and pull in additional resources….but doesn’t feel the same way about our children who require additional support. Funny…this email question and answer session which was posted online seems to be taken down as of yesterday.

    • max33333445555

      where exactly are the discussions about taking resources away from special needs children. if a child is disrupting a classroom – yes, put them in a different environment. if they are disruptive then they are not likely gaining acceptance by being in the classroom, which seems to be one of the major benefits touted by some of the posters.

      many of the folks that posted the most fervent defense of the current method sound like lunatics.

    • Nadine Kirby

      I agree LoriE for her information people have to think outside the box for special needs kids as well…

  • kaylee

    Gail Spurlock is out of touch with special education in public schools, I would not want her representing my child…


    vote for someone who will fight for your child, VOTE FOR PAM LITTLE

  • Crystal

    Maybe Ms. Spurlock would like to dish out the money to train staff so kids they know how to implement successful inclusion??

    What about the children who don’t have special needs but are disruptive in class…where would she like to send them???

    • MMR

      Excellent comment. I have “typical children” who are constantly disrupted in class by other “typical” children. Some of them are considere “gifted.”

      • dtgvew

        You’ve made an excellent point, MMR.

        Boredom is a problem with gifted kids.

        If they get bored, many of them will act out.

        Gail Spurlock is trying to address this problem by devoting more resources to gifted kids and creating programs that will challenge them.

        I’m so glad that you brought up a problem that Mrs. Spurlock is trying to address.

  • Howard's Daddy

    Sarah Palin would be proud. Oops.

  • Bruce, Burleson TX

    As a father of 2 children with Autism, I am completely appalled by the comments this Tea Party Republican is suggesting. Discriminating and segregating my children who are just as much a citizen of this nation as you are. These comments and supporting this type of discrimination is no different than racial segregation in the 1960s, not allowing women the right to vote in the 1920s and those who fought against slavery in the 1860’s. If I remember correctly all men are created equal and my children deserve the same opportunities your children receive as citizens of this Nation. Being a citizen of this Nation ensures equal rights!

  • Chrisnot

    Some small number of folks out there are gifted and, we are pleased when they are identified and give the opportunity to thrive, to contribute. Strange as it may seem, some small number of autistic folks are gifted. They should have they same opportunity to thrive and contribute.

    Check out Dr Temple Grandin

    • dtgvew

      Very true, Chrisnot.

      I have an autistic nephew that has a genius level IQ. I’d venture to say that many geniuses are autistic, because higher IQ’s make it harder to relate to other people. That autistic nephew of mine, I have a feeling that Gail Spurlock wouldn’t single him out for being kicked out of the classroom. While he does need some special help in writing and socialization, he doesn’t cause excessive disturbances nor incur excessive expenses. I think that he would actually benefit from having more money devoted to gifted programs.

      But that doesn’t work with all special needs kids. My kindergartener was in a classroom with a violent special needs kid. THAT kid caused excessive disturbances. He stabbed my daughter with a pencil – and drew blood. He ran around pushing and hitting other kids. He would take the papers the kids were working on and rip them up. If he was a “typical” kid, then disciplinary actions would have been taken. However, because he was a “special needs” kid, his behavior was blamed on his condition and it never improved. He probably didn’t even know what he was doing was wrong.

      My daughter’s experience with mainstreaming was very negative. And while I understand his behavior is because of some chemicals that are missing in his brain, my daughter needs to know that it is absolutely NOT OKAY for ANYBODY to hurt her – not even a special needs kid.

      So, that’s it. I’ve had two experiences with mainstreaming – one good and one miserable. Mainstreaming needs to be taken on a case by case basis. While I believe that many special needs kids should be mainstreamed, I do think that our national policy of inclusion has gone way overboard.

      I don’t live in Mrs. Spurlock’s district, but I’d vote for her if I could.

      • Chrisnot

        I certainly can’t disagree with you.., especially about the violent situation you described. Autism does not equal violent.., it equals “not the same as us”. At this point, it seems as though our educational systems should have the capability/training to distinguish between gifted, talented kids from those having a tendency toward antisocial/destructive behavior.

        I am not aware of any “national policy” to include “mainstreaming” of all kids who seem “different”. We do need to develope folks in the educational system who can recognize the differences.., not cure them, but recognize them, then take appropriate steps. Autism does not equal violence, if, in fact, it ever has. I am sure there are symptoms of antisocial/destructive behavior that will be displayed having nothing to do with autism. So, lets not blame them.

        I have some experience in this area.., majored in language, linguistics, seconday education. This included a healthy dose of psychology. This certainly didn’t provide us with abilities to diagnose or cure anything but it sure provided the baseline for identifying those who were out of the acceptable norms. If your teachers aren’t doing this, blame them. If your school system isn’t capable of doing this, blame them. Don’t blame the autistic kids.

      • LoriE

        Clearly, the child who hurt your daughter didn’t have adequate supports in place. Nobody wants special needs children in a class unsupported. It doesn’t benefit the student nor does it benefit the class. In a situation where a special needs child is integrated into parts of the school day, compassion, understanding and a willingness to serve others can be created within the classroom. After all, don’t we all want to raise children who are compassionate human beings? The life experiences my children have at school are just as important as them learning their multiplication tables or how to compose an essay.

  • Grahawk

    I left a reply on Spurlock’s website which I find has been deleted. It was civil in tone…no surprise about that in the deletion.

  • Ellen Bannister

    As the parent of a child with autism, I am stunned that a candidate for a school board would be so callous about such a large percentage of school aged children. Does she plan for the education of special needs children to be separate but equal? As a country, we’ve been down that path before. Shame on Lori Eason. I suggest that she educate herself about these children she’s trying to shut away.

    • RME

      I think you mean shame on Gail Spurlock :) Lori Eason is the parent of a child with autism and spoke out against Gail Spurlock.

  • Jesse

    Perhaps this candidates needs to be separated from his own disillusions, because he is holding the rest of society back.

  • PL

    My son has Autism, and Iit’s a battle now to get fair treatment.. SO does ms Spurlock want to return to the days of when “People with special needs” were institutionalized??? Will that be cost effective for you!!!!!!

  • Golden

    As a parent of both a child with Aspergers, and another with Downs Syndrome, I am saddened by this woman’s attitude.
    I wonder if she even considered what inclusion does for the “typical” child? It allows them to interact with people whom are different. They learn not to fear what is different, but to see the person behind the difference. Perhaps through those experience; they can come to realize that most of the time, people whom are considered “disabled”, are actually “differently-abled”.
    It IS akin to segregation, and it would only have the effect of perpetuating stereotypes, and returning us to a time when “separate but equal” was acceptable.

  • PSS

    Doesn’t this conflict with the ADA? Is she willing to fight that battle?

  • asdf

    This was a completely reasonable statement made in a completely non-offensive way. Is it so outrageous to suggest that kids who cannot sit in a normal classroom without disrupting the class shouldn’t be there? Parents of special needs kids are up in arms, but parents of normal needs kids should be happy that their children’s educations aren’t coming second to social experimentation.

    I understand that there are a lot of politicians out there who could care less about special needs education, but to attack this woman over her statement is crazy. She advocated special needs education! She even advocated placing many special needs kids in regular classrooms! But just because she didn’t pretend that educating special needs and regular kids together could never cause a problem, people of course freak out.

    • MMR

      Honestly, when was the last time you were in a classroom? There is no “normal” anymore. There are children who learn more typically than others and there are children who are more gifted in their learning.

      Parents of children with special needs tend to have longer vision…they see that in the future these children who are not typical will be living in “typical” society. They will need to learn to do all the things that “typical” children learn, and those “typical” children will need to learn to live and work with people who are not so “typical.” Funny thing is that children who grow up with or go to school beside someone with extra challenges are usually better off for the experience. They are more compassionate, more helpful, smarter, more able.

      And to be honest, her statement was offensive. “Our schools should not be therapy centers.” Well she just cut the jobs of all the school social workers and just moved out all of the children who are being abused, those living under the poverty level, those who are “gifted” and can’t cope, as well as anyone with a classified an official disability.

  • dave

    As a father of a special needs teacher, I can tell you that many special needs children learn much more and have better gains in a classroom and teacher that is eductated and trained to teach them with technics developed to maximize their specialized learning. The goal is to bring them into the standard class rooms, but until the student is actually ready for that environment, they often learn less, get further behind and are hurt more being forced into a classroom with teachers unprepared/not eductated to teach to special needs children.

  • Franny

    Well, that’s Texas for you. Perry cares nothing about Women, Children, the Elderly, or the disabled. Disturbing, but these yahoos will vote this know nothing back in, because in Texas they always vote against their own best interests. Almost as bad as the rest of the Nation when it comes to voting in GOP, and the Tea Party Members. Javen’t you learned your lesson yet voters?

    • dave

      Just another uneducated biased bigoted comment from the left. I hope you realize Perry was a rising star democrat until approx 12 years ago, at which time he sudo changed parties.

  • MMR

    Thank you for this report J.D. Miles. I hope more stations will cover the state board of ed elections and the issues in this race.

  • BIlly

    The problem is that Special needs kids deserve a special needs teacher. Teachers are not trained in the Master’s programs to administer special education methodologies and interventions, they’re trained to teach students whose IQ is less than one standard deviation below the norm for their age group. I am a school administrator and agree that inclusion and testing have come at the expense of flexible teaching and student achievement. Classroom sizes are not only larger than ever, but also now have special needs students in them, with little support other than a regular ed teacher who is given a list of accommodations and interventions to implement. The current protocol fails students of all learning backgrounds. Imagine a freshman class with 32 students, four of which have accommodations for learning disabilities like dyslexia or adhd, and two with moderate to severe conditions such as autism or working memory two standard deviations below the norm; 5 students are “at-risk,” 4 are advanced learners, and all have Ipods, cell phones, and profound sense of entitlement issues. Something’s got to give and I salute the courage this person had to at least say something has to change, even if it does sound callous to those with “inclusion” kids. Sorry, but something must change because 70% of students think Minnesota borders Mexico and two thirds are obese and think wikipedia is a good source of factual data.

  • Jay

    Did this Tea Bagger moron never hear that SCOTUS has decided that “separate but equal” isn’t equal? Being true for matters of race, it is also true for matters of the handicapped. I think that her IQ is somewhat lacking…as is her education.

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