The student voice of Vista del Lago High School

Steven Robles

The unequal treatment beyond regular education

Special education and Basic skills

June 2, 2017

All the students have a voice, a unique one and a great one but here at Vista Del Lago only 186 voices of the 2049 students are unheard of.

The special education students here at Vista Del Lago are sometimes unheard of and affected by the way that students see, treat, and categorize them. From the three levels of conditions, their lives outside of school are affected by the students and what they do. From special education students being mistreated to special education staff. Special education students, their conditions going from Mild/Moderate, Moderate/Severe and Severe. Students with such needs are sometimes mistreated and unequally seen by the school community and/or outside of school.

There are people that are friends with special education students. They are willing to talk, associate themselves with, and become friends with special needs students. Students that are willing to do this are helping out special needs or basic skill students advance in becoming better adapted to an environment with others for their future lives in the community outside of school, inside, and as well as future jobs.

“All students benefit by being in social settings with many different personalities and being around a myriad of students in different settings.” said Principal Swanson



The conditions of special education students are very different in every category, each category having their own cases on how each student learns and interacts with others. The school splits up the special education classes into three main levels.The differences in the mild/moderate and moderate/ severe are also their functioning levels. Student who cannot keep pace with mild/moderate class curriculum will be placed in the SDC moderate/severe program, so that they can become successful, however they are going to earn a certificate of completion instead of a diploma.

  • Mild/Moderate condition students are at least two grade levels behind their actual grade level, they are able to socially interact with others and some might be in regular education classes with other students. At some point in time the general education teachers identify them. They notify the principal and a SST (student study team) is formed includes all the teachers that have the students and administrator to determine if it would be appropriate to ask the parent so the student could be moved to special education services.
  • The next level is the Moderate/Severe condition which used to be called basic skills. Students with these conditions are usually 2nd grade level. It was called that because the students curriculum included them learning the basic skills needed to be able to conduct basic tasks and get a job which requires a lot of routine work. These students have difficulty keeping pace in the SDC(Special day also known as Special education) classes.
  • The third level is severe condition classes which sometimes are disabled and prefer not to interact with others but some can. They sometimes have qualified people make decisions for them due to their disabilities. Typically their IQ is usually less than 70, which is the cut off point for intellectually disabled or what used to be referred to as mental retardation.


“The rule is that the students best interest is always the first priority. Students need to be pushed to the potential. However, they must also be placed in a program which aligns with their ability level, so that they can become successful and not just get farther behind.” Said Mr. Armendarez, special education.

Everyday someone at school interacts or sees a special needs student, some treat them like friends and others see them as someone to laugh at. Students see everyone differently and mistreat someone just because of what they do and how they act. For special education every student is different and how they might be able to interact with others might be a greater or smaller challenge for the student. Yes, everyone might be different in their own ways but it all comes down to being a community of people that should help each other with the tiniest or the largest of problems.

“We all have needs, regardless if it’s small or big, we all have them,” said Shelley Crandall MVUSD Special Education Coordinator

Special Education classes are separated by their level of condition and has conditions Mild/Moderate and Moderate/Severe. Usually students that have special needs are viewed differently because of deformities that they might have and how they act, but it could also be their personality or their social status on campus.

Pastor Dallas from Discovery Christian Church said “The community feels uncomfortable because of their lack of education to support their basic needs. Since society is all messed up, we focus on the looks and ranks. Usually, kids with needs are out on the bottom, since they don’t know how to care for themselves.”

Not only are the students being mistreated but some of the teachers as well. The school is a workplace that should be collaborative and friendly so they can ensure the success of all students and not only special needs. Although that’s not always being the case because of their position of working with students that have special needs, they are considered “uneducated” Only because a teacher that helps students with special needs succeed, does not mean that the teacher themselves are unsuccessful.

“Teachers don’t understand special education, I hold two degrees, and have two certificates to teach social studies and math. I am highly qualified to teach social studies and math. Many teachers don’t realize that I am qualified to teach the classes that they are teaching and think that I am a glorified babysitter and my students are only going to do menial jobs.” Special Education Teacher Chris Winchester said

Although the staff is seen strange by some students and are also mistreated by other staff,  there isn’t only the special education class to focus on but basic skills as well. The classes have two completely different types of students that are seen and treated drastically different. The students they have in these classes are those whose conditions are severe. Many of the students have deformities and are usually at the second grade level.

Basic skills student,” The kids here are mean to us. Just because we aren’t ‘normal’ and because we’re ‘special’.”

Students with severe conditions are really the students that are viewed by their appearance, some of these students are just being themselves but the community does not see it like that. Some severe students would rather not interact with other students and just keep to themselves and talk to other students they have been in class with over time.

“Things that are different can scare people, and they do not always know how to respond with such differences. It is human nature to not always know what to expect with children with disabilities. I feel the school knows the student with disabilities are different but they are human and if we can be a little more kinder, open to differences, sincere in our attitudes, a little more patient and understanding, then we can see the better hope for this life and the future for all – at least that is what I hope they see and feel.” said Mr. Sohn, Basic Skills

All the students have lives, inside and outside of school. Sometimes it’s hard to live with the things that happen everyday. Students deal with all types of emotions due to people laughing at them, name calling, or bullying. Not only do they focus on the student but they also bully the students family making the situation a lot more grave.


Moderate/Severe student

I was born with my condition. The only problem I have is I can’t think as fast. I come from a family who has mental disorders. My brother is handicapped mentally and physically. My dad has a severe mental disorder and is currently in the hospital getting treatment.

My mom is the only one without it, she’s the one that takes care of us and protects us. I love my family, but sometimes, It’s hard for us. We face bullies and bad people everyday just because of what we look like and how we act, or dress. I hate it.

I am a transfer student, a senior that came to Vista when I left Valley View. Valley View was okay, but there were a lot of bullies. I never felt safe there, nor do I feel safe here.

There are a lot of bad people, even outside of school I don’t feel safe. Sometimes I don’t feel like I belong in the community. The only place where I feel like I belong is my house and my church.

When people bully me I don’t like it. I’ve been called many names. I’ve been called gorilla, horse teeth, ugly, bitch, slut, and many more. And It’s not only me, they go for my family too. My brother has been bullied too. Since he is in a wheelchair, he’s been pushed off of it, and they kicked him in the guts.

Also, My friend and I went to the park. We were on the swings and two boys came up to us and pushed us off the swings. And they were in the same classroom as us! They called us bitches and sluts.    

I don’t think we can control it. One day, I was at school, and people from Valley View bullied me saying “I’m glad your dad is dying, and I hope your next.” I didn’t know what to say

I just wanted to cry. I wanted to keep myself away from people, and I just wanted to not go to school. But I have to.

Even when I don’t go to school, people outside look at me funny, or laugh at me. People at my old school see me outside of school, and laugh and say mean things. People here even say “don’t hang out with her, she’s ugly.” or “Don’t go over there, she has germs, she’s gross”  

But you know what, I love myself. I am beautiful, strong, and happy. Even if I don’t have friends, or people who like me. I have Breanna, and my church friends, and especially God.

So for any of you, who are having a tough time, know you’re not alone. Just walk away, tell someone, because I regret not telling anyone.

In addition to regular education students being disrespectful and hurtful to students with disabilities, Other students with disabilities are the same way.  It’s a game of competition.  The students try to knock other students down to become more successful and make themselves feel better. Make them feel like they are better than the other students that have the same conditions as them.

Although we are all the same, having some flaws and problems, we still rank ourselves. Society is so caught up with ranking ourselves from the most prettiest, to the smartest, to the strongest. Its wrong. People see special education students as “retarded” or “inhuman” mainly because they don’t have the right education to support themselves. Saying some kids are “uneducated” because they are in special education. Special education is not just some class where the students are unable to support themselves. They are there to succeed, and try, because they want a future too, they want to be able to get a diploma just like regular education students can. Everyone can experience something with special education students, we all can help and have fun with each other. People just have to be willing to take action, be kind and open up to special needs students.


Pastor Paul- Bible Club Pastor

I grew up with a girl who lived down the street from me who had Asperger.  She was taunted at school and it was really a sad thing.  In high school there’s a lot of “being cool” to cover up insecurity. Sinful nature is why we have to teach little kids to be nice and behave.  For me personally, it broke my heart to see my childhood friend mistreated and I would try and go out of my way to be nice to her.  I must admit though, that when I was in high school I felt the pressure to fit in and so it was difficult to stick up for her in the crowd.

The kids  are a special creation of God.  They are dearly loved by God and so to should be dearly loved by us.  I think that other students who don’t have special needs are sort of intimidated by those who do have needs.

We had a team from our church who had the opportunity to serve at a special needs camp in the mountains called “Paivika”.  It was an amazing week and I’ll say, as much as we blessed them, they blessed us.  They were so full of life and wonder, smiles and hugs

Others should view the special needs student simply as another human being.  It’s good for us to go out of our comfort zones and love people who are different from us.  It’s a much more difficult challenge to love someone who’s different from you., but there’s something really rewarding in living a life of love.  It makes you a stronger, wiser, and more likeable person.  

Go out of your way and smile to someone you don’t know.  Do this on campus.  Especially with those who seem to be struggling or having a rough day.  It’s nice to be noticed.  When we do thing out of kindness and love, it breaks down walls between people and challenges others to do the same.

I try and model that no one should be left out, and no one should like someone else because the other has a mental problem. We should have no preference.  When I see people mistreating others, especially those who are more defenseless, it breaks my heart.  It shows me that deep down inside, the person who is acting cruel is just modeling what they’ve learned from others.  They actually need love to break down that wall inside of them so they can then become love to someone else.     

Everyone is different. Everyone sees things differently, acts differently and just in general are different. Certain people don’t like special needs because of what they do and how they act. Special needs is a program that helps students with learning disabilities succeed and lead them to a successful life outside of school. The same goes for general education, our disabilities and flaws come with how we think and act towards others. But with or without flaws we come to school and see someone everyday that needs more help than us, so stop looking at what others look at. Ranks, looks or actions. We all need help at some point in time so let’s help all the students, because we are a community, we don’t fight for one but for all.

“All people benefit from kindness!  Even a smile or a small act of kindness can make a difficult day feel so much easier, not only for the person receiving it, but for the person giving it as well.  When we take time to show kindness; when we give a bit of ourselves to a neighbor, we help to make the world a better place!” Shelley Crandall

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