Back of the Class
In this multipart investigation, reporters Susannah Frame and Taylor Mirfendereski reveal the stunning failures of Washington public schools to provide support and services for students with disabilities. The only state with a hard and fixed cap on special education funding and the number of children covered—and potentially in violation of federal law—Washington faces an education crisis with distressingly low scores in special education classroom inclusion and graduation rates. Despite research showing the benefits of integrated education, the reporters find that over 50% of students with disabilities are separated from their classmates, including at lunch. In fact, only 5% of students with autism and Down syndrome are integrated at all. They also found one school that bussed home students with special needs one hour early every day for no clear reason. The comprehensiveness of the investigation is formidable, as are the reporters themselves who take as much care in confronting school officials as they do in their profiles of the children—Noah, Anthony, Nate, and others—showing beyond the struggles with autism, dyslexia, ADHD, and epilepsy, photographs and scenes from their everyday life reading, drumming, swimming, and communicating. For impressive and diligent journalism that led the Washington state legislature to prioritize education for all children, a Peabody Award goes to Back of the Class.
PRIMARY PRODUCTION CREDITS
Executive Producer: Russ Walker. Graphic Artist: Kevin Glantz. Talent: Susannah Frame, Taylor Mirfendereski. Photography: Ryan Coe.