The Journalism Center on Children and Families of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland announced the recipients of the 2013 Casey Medals, which celebrate the past year’s best reporting on children, youths, and families in the US. Although not all of these awards represent children and youths with disabilities, enough do that I consider it worth reporting here on Spedpro. Those stories among these that I have read capture concepts, emotions, and current issues in exemplary ways. One might not agree with the perspective represented in each and all of them, but they are compelling pieces of journalism. I’ve selected snippets describing a few that connect to special education here. However, go to the site and review the list to find others that are quite compelling.
- “Never Let Go,” Tampa Bay Times, Kelley Benham and Mike Wilson (ed.)
When their daughter was born prematurely, weighing only one pound, four ounces, journalist Kelley Benham and her husband confronted the scary and controversial questions about the medical, ethical and economic costs of saving her life. Rapid advances in science and technology are redefining viability. The series transported readers into the NICU, the incubator, into the body of a fragile newborn, and into the hearts and minds of parents balancing hope and vulnerability. Judges called it a masterfully written, relevant and boundary-breaking work.
- “Punishing Numbers,” The Center for Public Integrity, Susan Ferriss and David Donald
Police within the Los Angeles Unified School District have been issuing about 10,000 court citations a year to students — a move that some say criminalizes youth of color. Court appearances for truancy and other minor offenses disrupt a child’s education and pose a financial burden on working parents. As a result of this investigation, the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights division began monitoring the district’s practices. The L.A. School board passed a “School Climate Bill of Rights” that limits school police involvement in matters of discipline; a similar bill is before the California legislature.
- “Special Education,” The Baltimore Sun, Erica Green, Laura Smitherman (ed.) and Jen Badie (ed.)
A quarter-century into an unprecedented level of court and state oversight of special education within Baltimore public schools, problems still persist in guaranteeing equal and quality education for students with disabilities. Spurred on by desperate parents trying to secure services for their children, The Baltimore Sun investigated the system’s progress meeting the needs of its most challenging students. The judges called it hard-hitting accountability reporting.
- “31 Shocks Later,” New York Magazine, Jennifer Gonnerman and Raha Naddaf (ed.)
An investigation of how a mentally disabled teenager was rendered catatonic after six hours of punishing electroshocks inflicted by staff at a residential facility for behavior modification. After the publication of this story, the Food and Drug Administration warned the Rotenberg Center to stop using the shock device, and elected officials in two states challenged the practice. The judges in this category called this story an extraordinary piece of watchdog reporting that breaks through compassion fatigue and holds individuals and institutions accountable for their appalling treatment of children.
- “Autism as Identity, Not a Disease,” The Michigan Daily, Jennifer Xu and Jacob Axelrad (ed.)
A profile of an autistic college professor who has become an activist challenging the prevailing notion that autism needs a cure. The provocative piece was widely read and gave voice to a burgeoning disability rights movement. The article also engendered roundtable discussions and a forum on campus on neurodiversity called “Autism Speaks Back.”