Parents of school-aged kids all know how important their educational experience is in their lives. But what do you do when your children are denied an optimal learning situation based on a condition of their birth that they neither asked for nor can do anything about: being a twin.
Kathy Dolan, a New York mom of six-year-old twin boys, is seeking legislation to protect her childrens' rights in school. Her goal is to institute a law similar to the Minnesota Twins Law that gives parents of multiple birth children the right to decide whether their twins or multiples should be placed in the same or separate classrooms in school. The Minnesota law, sponsored by Senator Dennis Frederickson and Representative Marty Seifert, was signed by Governor Pawlenty in the spring of 2005.
Kathy's efforts were initiated when she encountered resistance at her local school. Upon registering her boys for kindergarten, she discovered that the school had a policy against placing twins in the same classroom. She felt that her boys would not be able to learn effectively if they were forcibly separated and wanted to challenge the policy. What she found was ... no such policy actually existed.
Instead, the individual principals in her school district were allowed to use their discretion in determining classroom placement. And unfortunately, the principal did not agree with Kathy's assessment that her sons would be better off in the same classroom.
Discussing the issue with her boys' pediatrican and preschool teacher confirmed Kathy's instinct that keeping the boys together would be in their best interest. She compiled evidence from advocacy agencies like the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC) and twins researcher Nancy Segal that support flexible placement of multiples in school setting based on input from parents.
Her principal relented, allowing the boys to be in the same classroom for kindergarten. But when it came time for first grade, she met some familiar opposition. Now she wants a law established that would protect twins and multiples from future discrimination and allow parents to have a voice in their childrens' classroom placement.
Dolan has set up an online petition where parents and other interested parties can show their support on this issue. She has also developed a website where parents of multiples can share stories about their experiences. Ultimately, she'd like to see federal legislation enacted to protect the rights of multiple birth families across the country. In the meantime, she is consulting with civil rights organzations about the possibility of a class action suit.
What can you do if you don't agree with your school's policy about classroom placement of multiples?
- 1) Ask to see the policy in writing. Very few school administrations have a written guideline on record. In most cases, it's simply "the way it's been done."
- 2) Do some research to support your case. Obtain materials from the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, websites such as this one, and articles from publications such as Twins Magazine. Some school administrators are simply not aware of the body of evidence related to this issue and may be willing to reconsider their position based on recent research.
- 3) Seek opinions from the professionals that know your children best. Consult your pediatrician for a medical perspective, and also talk to caregivers that interact with your multiples in a daycare, school, or playgroup setting. Ask them to share their input about your childrens' individual personalities and educational needs, as well as describe the dynamic of their twin relationship.
- 4) Keep a paper trail or a journal. Record in detail any incidences or anecdotes that support your case. For example, if your twins become agitated or distracted when separated, or if one tends to be more communicative.
- 5) Finally, don't be afraid to make waves. Many parents of multiples feel intimidated by school administrators and fear repercussions if they challenge their authority. You are your children's best advocates, and you have to do what's best for them.
What do you think? Join the discussion in the message forum.
Update! More states join the cause. View them all.