Mead High School responds to concerns surrounding the inclusion of special needs students in PE classes

Special needs students and their parents speak out against being excluded in their PE classes

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Lindsey Zanini ('23) is a special needs student who enjoys playing tennis, her favorite sport.

Everyone can agree that being left out is wrong and disheartening, yet within Mead High School, this has increasingly become a problem for students with special needs. While the school makes sure to give as many opportunities to these students as possible, these efforts haven’t reached the PE classrooms. 

Lindsey Zanini (‘23) absolutely loves to play sports, especially tennis, and she felt cast down when she and many other special education students were excluded from the rest of their PE class. According to Lindsey Zanini, in fear that they would be hurt in the normal activities, the special needs kids would be sent elsewhere to play alternative sports while the rest of the class participated in the normal curriculum. Lindsey Zanini’s mother, Melanie Zanini, said, “She told me that they were saying that she might fall, or she might get [hit by a ball].”

Lindsey Zanini’s mother, Melanie Zanini, was outraged when her daughter told her about the discrimination occuring in her PE class. “Mead is an inclusive school and that was why I was like, ‘Wait, are you sure this is happening?’” she says. 

According to Melanie Zanini, a lack of communication between paras (Special Education teachers), teachers, and parents is to blame. “Her teacher didn’t realize it was happening, and honestly, if I hadn’t heard from another para, I wouldn’t have even known either,” she said. 

In an attempt to make PE classes more fair for special needs students, Melanie Zanini reached out to the district and Mead’s principal, Rachael Ayers. According to Ayers, the school is working on hiring another part-time special education teacher. “We’re in the process of hiring a half-time teacher, reallocating how classes are designed, shifting supports unified PE course at MHS, and we are receiving additional support from the district.”

There is hope for special needs students as Mead High School strives to improve their special education program. “I do think we have a great program here, and I feel like the staff is very attentive to their needs, and I know they work so hard, and the student body, I have to say, is very inclusive. It’s amazing to go to games, and everybody is very caring, and so I feel overall very good about it,” says Melanie Zanini. 

Thanks to Lindsey and Melanie Zanini and the school district, the situation has been addressed, and hopefully, any future situations will be prevented. With these improvements, Mead High School will continue to be a supportive and inclusive place for students with special needs.