Pennsylvania curriculum introduces disability history


Calla Reynolds, Asst. Editorial Editor

On March 10, 1949, the Pennsylvania Public School Code of 1949 (P.L. 30, No. 14) was implemented for the alterations, revisions, amendments and consolidation of laws regarding public school systems. Over the summer, the Pennsylvania legislature met again to discuss an amendment to the act, which is the Education Code Bill H.B. 1642. The Education Code Bill promotes a disability-inclusive education in schools across the Commonwealth.

The House Special Education Subcommittee held a hearing, during which many people discussed how they felt excluded from the school curriculum due to the lack of representation for the disabled. Republican House Special Education Subcommittee Chairman, Jason Ortitay and State Representative Joseph C. Hohenstein, who were both present, recalled that the testifiers made a solid point; “the concept of seeing one’s self represented in a role model fights the effects of exclusion and installs essential pride into learning minds.” Taking the argument into mind, Ortitay and Hohenstein worked together to devise a proposal for the Pennsylvania legislature.

After the hearing, Hohenstein and Ortitay presented new legislation that encourages Pennsylvania schools to implement a curriculum that includes individuals with disabilities. The new legislation creates a three-year pilot program to instruct students on the political, social and economic contributions of disabled people in history. Additionally, the bill intends for schools to make accessibility changes for the better of their students. For instance, alterations to graduation requirements and staff training on educating students with special needs. 

“My hope is that with disability inclusive curriculum, we can come closer to celebrating disability and diversity with pride,” Hohenstein said in an article published by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, “and we can bring about inclusion in our society, as well as a sense of internal pride and celebration in our differences. It is a shared truth that exclusion and failure to talk about diversity breeds stigma, shame, ignorance, and misunderstanding. Every child deserves to be seen.”

Advancing with Hohenstein and the legislature, Pennsylvania schools began to implement more disability-inclusive lectures starting in the 2022 – 2023 school year. Many history courses in public schools have begun revising lesson plans to accommodate their disabled students. Freedom social studies teachers acknowledge the impact this could have on their students.

“It creates an environment where you are all one. There is nobody isolated because of things they do not necessarily have control over,”  Mr. Cole Eged, social studies teacher, says in regard to the new bill. 

In addition, Eged adds, 

“Here at Freedom, I believe we do a great job in itself, already doing a lot to include individuals with disabilities. Whether it be intellectual, physical, social or emotional, myself – and the rest of us in the district – definitely implement various ways to include everybody.”

The Pennsylvania legislature continues to work on behalf of all, including those with various physical or intellectual disabilities. Following the legislature are schools like Freedom, which continue to implement inclusive education systems for the better of the students.