Hamilton board takes special needs award

By  Vanessa Bertone, The Catholic Register
  • November 3, 2006
 The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic School Board received the Marsha Forest Centre Rose Quartz Warrior Award on Oct. 30 for being the first school board in the world to include special needs students in its regular classrooms. The last program which separated special needs students closed down in 1969.

"We're all children of God, and we shouldn't be separated," said Patrick Daly, chairperson of the Hamilton-Wentworth board. 

The board is the second recipient of this international award based out of Toronto, which honours movements that assert the rights of special needs students that have received the status of "world level leadership."

The board was the world's first to treat all children equally, with no separate classes for special needs students who attend regular classes with support from an educational assistant. The board made this move before the United Nations implemented its Education for All Act.

This standard has become a precedent for all other boards in the world, and is directly affecting education in countries such as Russia, England and Malta. Representatives from other countries come to Hamilton to observe inclusive education in action.

The award is named after  Marsha Forest of Toronto, who worked with school systems around the world to give special needs children the right to attend regular classes. Forest would give pieces of rose quartz in recognition of acts of inclusion and friendship towards special needs students, hence the name "Rose Quartz Warrior."

Since its inception in 2003, Dr. Mithu Alurthe is the only other winner. She led India to declare a national policy stating all children will be included in regular classes.

In conjunction with the award is the release of a book and DVD outlining the history of the board's programs and the Marsha Forest Centre in Toronto. The book was written by James Hansen, the superintendent  in 1969. Hansen was  instrumental in the creation of this program.

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