School Board Member Says Some Kids Are Not "Teachable", Causes Uproar

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express (subscribe)

BARABOO, WI--I've sometimes wondered how a fellow could get anywhere with both feet stuck in his mouth.

Perhaps I should ask Kevin Bartol.

During the Baraboo School Board's May 22 regular meeting, as the panel was reviewing policies on special education, the board's newest member said that some children simply are not "teachable".

"They may have their eyes open, but there's no one awake upstairs," Bartol said.

The district's special education director then explained to Bartol that teaching every student is district's legal, ethical and moral duty, and that every student can benefit from a public education.

Bartol replied: "I don't think that's true. What if you teach them for two or three years and they haven't learned anything?"

Well, as you can imagine, the you-know-what hit the proverbial fan.

Two days later, Bartol proposed that a team of experts be assembled to decide whether special education students were benefiting within the district and that those who were not learning should be shipped off somewhere else.

"Public school systems are not a babysitting service or a nurse-care service for children like those," he said.

In response to the uproar that caused, Bartol tried to explain that he didn't really believe there were such children in Baraboo, but that they could show up someday.

"To my knowledge, all the students that are attending the Baraboo School District fall into the category of being able to be educated," he said. "But it is feasible and it has occurred in other school districts where students that because of some type of brain damage were not be able to be educated and yet they were allowed to go to school."

Bartol did apologize Friday for any "inconvenience" that his comments might have caused.

"It was my attempt to get clarification of some wordage in one of the school policies. I should have chosen my words more carefully to adequately convey my true attempt," he said. "I inadvertently created a very ugly situation. For this, and the inconvenience, I am truly sorry."

Some locals have called for Bartol's resignation. Others have given Bartol the benefit of the doubt and said that he needs to be educated -- assuming he's "teachable".

The board meets again on June 5.


"Baraboo board member wants only 'teachable' students enrolled" (Associated Press via Duluth News Tribune)

"New board member apologizes for comments on teaching the disabled" (Associated Press via Duluth News Tribune)

"Opinion: School Board rookie needs some learning" (Wisconsin State Journal)

"Editorial: Bartol should resign" (Baraboo News Republic)

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June 02, 2006 - InclusionDailyNews Department | Email this story


Comments (newest comments at bottom)

"Two days later, Bartol proposed that a team of experts be assembled to decide whether special education students were benefiting within the district and that those who were not learning should be shipped off somewhere else."

'Somewhere else' meaning....? Another planet? An orbiting satellite? Or just out of Bartol's sight and purview? What exactly is he proposing here?

And he said this after *two days* of considering how to comment further on the topic?

I don't think he's benefiting from any help he's getting in Baraboo. They should ship him off somewhere else. Wherever that is.

Posted by: Penny on June 6, 2006 12:56 PM

Without seeing the actual/official transcript of what was said, I will be careful with what I say. Nevertheless, the statement is accurate to an extent. For example, some children are not teachable within the traditional public school system. This is why we have locked treatment facilities and/or specialized educational facilities ran by state/local governments. We do not, however, need a team of experts to determine this. Special Education teachers and special education teams are more than qualified to make such determinations. Such an assembly was probably sparked out of embarrassment and a desperate attempt to gather some form of data. Would a similar proverbial outrage been launced had he said some of these kids are not employable?

Posted by: Bob on June 8, 2006 03:46 PM

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