In 2019, we wrote about the growing movement across NH to expand "Unified" school programs. In 2020, the movement is strengthening!
Dennehy & Bouley worked with Special Olympics New Hampshire, and other organizations, to pass a Commission through the state legislature in 2019 which was: A COMMISSION TO STUDY EQUAL ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITY FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES TO PARTICIPATE IN COCURRICULAR ACTIVITIES.
In the Fall of 2019, that Commission researched the positive impact that "Unified" programs have on schools and what can be done to expand them further. The Commission included a representative from each of the following: the NH House of Representatives, the NH State Senate, NH School Boards Association, NH Association of Special Education Administrators, Self Advocacy Leadership Team of the NH Council of Developmental Disabilities, NH Athletic Directors Association, NH Department of Education, Special Olympics NH, NH Interscholastic Athletic Association, NH Council on Disabilities, and NH School Administrators Association.
This was an educational and necessary process as we learned about the opportunities and obstacles to expanding "Unified" co-curricular activities in schools across New Hampshire. The Final Commission Report can be found here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/statstudcomm/reports/1435.pdf.
The Commission found that the benefits of increased participation in extracurricular activities cannot be overstated, both for students with disabilities and those without.
As a result of this Commission, Representative Timothy Lang is spearheading further legislation in the State House this year which asks the Department of Education (NHDOE) to take a larger role in expanding "Unified" Cocurricular activities in our schools. If you want to follow the legislation click here: HB 1698.
The NHDOE receives $2 million dollars each year through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) to be used for "Student Support and Academic Enrichment". The legislation asks the NHDOE to amend their ESSA plan to allow for some of those funds to be used for expanding Unified activities.
This is a very exciting development and this legislation, if passed, will provide amazing opportunities for students with and without disabilities - and their families! Stay tuned for updates during this legislative session.