Last week, on the final day of the school year, seven-year-old Cole Guy-Salkovics brought his yearbook home from Doyle Park Elementary in Santa Rosa. When he came through the door, however, he had one question for his mom: "Why can't I find my class in here?"
As his mother Nora Guy flipped through the stapled, photocopied yearbook, neither Cole nor his other friends enrolled in the special ed program could be found. Guy couldn't believe her eyes. The special ed students' portraits were taken at the beginning of the year. The special ed teacher was even included on the faculty page. They'd spent the year sharing recess and lunch with the other kids at the school—and they were left out of the yearbook? "I emailed everyone," Guy says, "and got a response back right away."
Melinda Susan, the regional special ed principal for the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE), says that special ed students' inclusion in the yearbook varies from school to school; some simply leave the special ed programs out of the pages. SCOE used to print its own yearbook until funding got tight, Susan explained, and added that she was "hopeful that we can do one again next year."
The concept of a separate yearbook rang of segregation, and an extra page to include special ed students in a photocopied yearbook would have cost just 10 cents per copy, Guy calculated. But school principal Kaesa Enemark explained that Doyle Park also hadn't had a yearbook in several years due to budget constraints. As a new principal, she had chosen optimistically to put together a yearbook herself, to print it with meager funds from the student council and distribute it for free. While Enemark was laying out the 17 pages, just prior to bringing it to the printer after school hours, she noticed that only one of the two special ed classes had supplied a photo. "I had to make the call," she wrote, "do I include one of the SCOE classes or none?"
And so it becomes an all-too-familiar story of the limited resources available to well-meaning public educators. In the future, Guy is determined to see that special ed students at all schools are included. "The principal should not have to do the yearbook," she says. "There's no one really at fault, but if you're in the special ed system, you have to be extra vigilant. Otherwise, stuff like this does happen. Kids get overlooked, and they notice. They're bright enough that they'll feel it."