Stronger Transitional Services
Students should feel confident for life after high school. Many students, however, are underprepared for when they turn 18 and are thrust into the world of ‘adulthood’. This is especially true for students living with disabilities. 15.3% of WA residents with disabilities do not complete high school. This is nearly twice the rate when compared to nondisabled residents (7.9%). Employment rates further show the disparity between disabled and nondisabled Washingtonians. It is estimated that only 36.8% of folx with disabilities who are of working age are employed compared to 76.4% of folx without disabilities in the same age range.
What transitional services look like:
Creating basic life skills curriculum and implementing it in safe and inclusive spaces with universal design for learning at the forefront.
The opportunity to develop basic life skills is a privilege. Navigating the world of transportation, opening bank accounts and lines of credit, shopping for food, clothes, and basic necessities, as well as developing relationships outside of one’s immediate family are not simple tasks. It takes practice and honing. Every student has the right to learn. To live independent and economically sustainable lives.
Increased readiness to enter post-secondary education, the workforce, or pursue opportunities to travel.
 Washington State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. (July 2017). Disability and DVR Statistics Report. (p. 15). Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. https://www.dshs.wa.gov/sites/default/files/dvr/pdf/2017%20Disability%20%26%20DVR%20Statistics%20Report.pdf.
 Washington State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. (July 2017). Disability and DVR Statistics Report. (p. 9). Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. https://www.dshs.wa.gov/sites/default/files/dvr/pdf/2017%20Disability%20%26%20DVR%20Statistics%20Report.pdf.
Bridging K-12 and Higher Eduction
The commonalities between these educational communities became abundantly clear in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The call for basic needs resources and mental health supports skyrocketed and schools, big and small, across the nation fought to keep their doors open and their students thriving. The success of students doesn’t end when they leave high school, therefore post-secondary education needs to be able to meet students where they are at, not just as academics, but as humans and life-long learners.
Everyone wins when these two educational institutions work together to support the current and future needs of our students.
Continued Inclusion of Accurate & Deeper Understanding of Histories and Cultures
A part of understanding who we are as people is being able to connect with others. This recognition and connection should happen in every facet of life, particularly in education. Our students need to be able to recognize themselves in both the materials presented to them, as well as the people presenting those materials.
The average child in WA spends 180 days a year in school. Given that our kiddos spend a little under half of the year in the classroom, accurate representation and inclusion of peoples, cultures, and histories should be at the forefront of teaching.
How this can happen:
Ensuring Olympia School District is held accountable for maintaining cultural authenticity of curriculum focused on Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Mexican, Middle Eastern and East and South Asian communities.
Acceptance of LGBTQIA+ kids and teens.
Ongoing dialogue with local tribal educators to ensure historical and cultural accuracy as well meaningful engagement.
Critical engagement of racism on national and local levels.
Celebrating Disability History Week in the classroom.
Continuing inclusive printed materials showcasing diverse folx, families, and characters.
Ending School-to-Prison Pipeline
Children and youth deserve to feel safe and respected. Care and acknowledgement of students’ lived experiences is paramount in educational settings. Too often kids from underrepresented communities fall through the cracks and are forgotten. Stories about their lives, behaviors, learning styles and processes, are written for them. When this happens, systemic oppression creates barriers that will follow them for the rest of their lives. One such barrier is young people being streamlined into the criminal justice system. The Washington State 2020 Juvenile Detention Report reveals that 377 youth aged 12-17 in Thurston County were admitted into Thurston’s juvenile detention center. Despite this being a 35% drop compared to the admittance rate in 2019, I do not believe this is a victory, nor a marked improvement. Every time a young person is forced into a detention facility inaccurate beliefs and stigmas frame their sense of self-worth. They are led to believe that they are less important and capable than their peers. Our young people are actively harmed by the very systems meant to protect, care, and nurture them. As a parent of a soon to be preschooler, who is incredibly bright and kind, he struggles with social and emotional learning and has an IEP. I think of my kiddo often and wonder what his journey in Olympia schools will be like and which statistic he will fall under in OSPI’s Report Card. OSPI’s 2019-2020 report of Olympia School District demonstrates that students identified as being in the foster care system (9.3%), migrant students (<10%), and gender nonconforming students (<10%) account for the highest rates of disciplinary action. Other student groups that experience high rates of short-term suspension, long-term suspension, emergency expulsion, and expulsion include:
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander (<6%)
American Indian/Alaskan Native (<5%)
Students with Disabilities (4.9%)
Black/African American (3.4%)
Hispanic/Latino of an races (2.4%)
*Please note: this information is based on what is reported and most likely does not reflect the entire/actual percentage of students affected, particularly students who are disciplined several times a year.
Our students are incredible people. They are growing in a world that is not always built to meet their needs, because it is a world that has been created mostly with adults in mind. They need to be supported. More importantly they need to be given grace. They need to live in a world that is vested in knowing who they are, not in correcting who they are.
 Gilman, A.B., & Sanford, R. (2021) Washington State 2020 Juvenile Detention Report. Olympia, WA: Washington State Center for Court Research, Administrative Office for the Courts. https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/DetentionReport2020.pdf
 Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. (2019-2020). Olympia School District Report Card. https://washingtonstatereportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/ReportCard/ViewSchoolOrDistrict/100182