Treatment of disabled student raises questions

TEMP ORARY October 27, 2011 0

Philip Garber Jr., a student at Morris County, NJ's County College of Morris, received an email from his history professor stating that his stutter was disruptive. (Matt Rainey/New York Times)

Should every college student be given the equal opportunity to speak up in class? Professors should be encouraging their students to participate and answer questions. However, a New Jersey college professor, Elizabeth Snyder, asked one of her students to stop participating by refraining from asking and answering questions in class because of his stutter. Snyder told the New York Times that the student took up too much time in class by wanting to answer every question asked during class. Instead of praising the student for participation and trying to work through his stuttering disabilities, she said she wanted to “put him at ease” by telling him not to talk at all during her class. How often do we come across a professor who doesn’t want her students to participate in class?

There is a good chance this student went through his school years without thinking it was wrong for him to speak in class because of his stutter, until he took Snyder’s course. In education, everyone should be granted the equal opportunity to learn and expand their minds by participating in deep discussions and asking his or her instructors intriguing questions. Don’t we go to school to learn about things we are curious about? If I wanted to ask one of my professors a question, but was not allowed because I took too long to ask it, I would be annoyed. The reason is because not only would I not be able to learn, but I also would not be given the same opportunities as the other students in my class. What this student has experienced is an abomination to the education system because it goes against the point of education, which is to teach students what they do not already know so they can enhance their knowledge for the real world.

Sophomore Kim Wendling, a secondary math education major, disagreed with Snyder’s approach to the situation in her classroom. “I truly believe that no child should be left behind in their schooling for any reason, especially if they have a disability that they cannot control,” Wendling said. “As an aspiring teacher, I will most likely have disabled students in my classes, but I plan to work with them to make sure they understand the class and grasping all of the materials,” she added.

On Snyder’s side of the argument, could it be that the student crossed a line with participating too much in class? Is there such a thing? Everyone knows that one kid in class who can’t seem to put his or her hand down whenever a professor asks a question or even worse, the kid who just does not stop talking during a class. It is possible that the student had these tendencies and his stutter did not help the issue. However, does this make it okay for a professional educator to ask the student to stop speaking in class? As a college professor, Snyder should want her students to participate regardless of their disabilities and although she is entitled to feel a certain way about her students, she should not act on them even if it interferes with a student’s desire to learn.

Students with disabilities at Etown are given multiple opportunities to learn as much as the students without disabilities are. Etown has its own Disability Services as part of the College’s Center for Student Success that deals directly with students who have disabilities on campus. According to the College’s website, “Disability Services is committed to providing equal access and reasonable academic accommodations for qualified students with documented disabilities.” Each student may have varying severities of disabilities, so Disability Services strives to give students the best accommodations on a case-by-case basis. One of the biggest services offered is the note taker service where students take notes in class for students who have an impairment and cannot take their own notes as successfully.

There are many ways to go about accommodating students with disabilities, even those students attending higher education campuses. If a smaller campus like Etown has its own Disability Services, there is no excuse for bigger campuses not to have one especially because students with disabilities will most likely need more attention in a larger classroom setting. Students with speech impediments, like the student Snyder’s classroom, should not be shunned for having a disability, but instead, praised by their professors for having the guts to participate in class when there are students without any disabilities who choose not to participate at all. It is disappointing to hear stories like this one because as a nation, we have come too far in making education an opportunity for everyone to be going backwards in our progress.

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