Shusterman, Miller introduce student inclusion bill

HARRISBURG, Dec. 17 – State Reps. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery, and Dan Miller, D-Allegheny, introduced legislation this week that would make sure students with exceptionalities are involved in all aspects of schools and receiving real opportunities.

“We have made great strides in making sure all students, regardless of their abilities, are included in the classroom setting,” Shusterman said. “This bill would make sure that inclusion is also happening in all before- and after-school events. Including all students gives them the opportunity to discover new things, make friends and gain valuable soft skills for life.”

On average, 17% of Pennsylvania students have an Individualized Education Program, but Shusterman and Miller say many report no integration into extracurricular activities. 

“Over the last several years, Pennsylvania has had some success in including students with disabilities more and more into the classroom, sending the message that each child deserves a safe and inclusive learning environment,” Miller said. “However, there is still work to do in expanding the way we make things like athletics, band and the arts accessible to all students regardless of whether they have a disability. This bill would help us see how we are engaging all students, how we can increase extracurricular participation, and help our public school districts identify what is and isn’t working as we work together to ensure every child has a place to discover new things and to feel a part of something bigger than themselves.”

The bill would amend the school code to require schools to report the participation rate for students with exceptionalities in their extracurricular activities starting in sixth grade. Schools would not collect personal information.

The lawmakers said information gathered would help the commonwealth identify any areas of concern that could be addressed either through state or local action.