Letter: Students not defined by ‘special needs’



I wanted to reach out to you about an article that was written recently. The article was “Going the extra mile: Carmel bus driver builds relationships with special needs passengers, families.”

I want to start by saying that I am the student’s teacher and I love that this article was written because Van is amazing, and their relationship is absolutely brilliant. With that being said, the title of the article is rough. I know in this day and age it is very hard to not offend somebody with what you write, and I cannot imagine the stress that puts on your writers, but I am going to be that person now.

The student in the article is a sweet, funny, smart and hardworking boy who loves sports and being his school broadcast anchor. He is so much more than a special needs passenger. When someone looks at this headline, that is all they see. When Van builds a relationship with his students it is great not because the students have disabilities, but because he is getting to know the students in his care. He is an adult that is taking the time to connect to a child, when his only expectation is to drive the bus.

I know this article is already out there, but I am hoping this email will help in the future when one of your writers is writing about an individual that has a disability. If it helps, always think person before the disability. For example: “Going the extra mile: Carmel bus driver builds relationships with students, families.” The picture alone will show people that the child is in a wheelchair, but he doesn’t have to be labeled that way.

Again, I appreciate that you all took the time to cover this story and I hope that you continue to find these bright moments as we get through these COVID times.

Jamie Barnes Stephen, life skills teacher, Woodbrook Elementary