INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 19, 2019) — Special Olympics North America has announced 14 Indiana schools will receive national banner recognition for their efforts to engage students with and without intellectual disabilities in inclusive activities during the 2018-2019 school year.
The schools are all participants in Special Olympics Indiana’s Unified Champion Schools and Champions Together programs and are being honored for meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy, and respect.
Local Indiana’s National Unified Champion Banner schools are Columbus East High School and South Ripley High School.
The schools are among a select number across the nation to receive this distinction, and each will be presented with a banner to hang in their school this fall. One of the 14 schools will be further recognized as part of the “ESPN Honor Roll” for 2019, listed among the top 34 inclusive schools in the nation.
“We are incredibly proud of the way that schools across Indiana have embraced this idea that students of all abilities can and should lead us toward a better, more inclusive future,” said Special Olympics Indiana President and CEO Jeff Mohler. “These 14 schools have gone above and beyond in their commitment to this program and they deserve every bit of this recognition for helping to create unified school communities.”
The aim of the Unified Champion Schools program is to empower youth to become agents of change by encouraging special education and general education students to work together—along with educators and administrators—to promote social inclusion through a variety of year-round activities related to three main components: Unified Sports®, Inclusive Youth Leadership, and Whole-School Engagement.
A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has an inclusive school climate and that has demonstrated a commitment to the program by meeting 10 national standards of excellence defined by a panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the academic community. National banner schools also must demonstrate they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these activities into the future.
Through an innovative partnership with the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) known as Champions Together, Indiana has become a global leader in the implementation of Unified Champion Schools programming. This partnership has led to the establishment of Unified Track and Field and Unified Flag Football as officially sanctioned IHSAA sports—along with the development of state championships in Unified Bocce and Unified Bowling—and has helped to provide new opportunities for students of all abilities to “play unified” and to learn from each other while representing their schools in competition.
“The IHSAA is extremely proud of our member schools for achieving this prestigious recognition from Special Olympics,” said IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox. “These schools have embraced the inclusion revolution and in doing so, have positively changed the cultures in their schools and communities. There are very few considerations more important than these enhancements to the scholastic experience.”
More than 650 schools are currently participating in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming in Indiana, representing a full 10 percent of the more than 6,500 schools across the country engaged in the program. Special Olympics has a global goal of creating 10,000 Unified Champion Schools by 2020.
The Unified Champion Schools model is supported by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. This model has been proven, through research by the Center for Social Development and Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston, to be an effective and replicable means to providing students with and without disabilities the opportunity to form positive social relationships and promote a socially inclusive school climate.
For more information about Unified Champion Schools or Champions Together, contact Special Olympics Indiana at 317-328-2000 or visit www.specialolympics.org/our-work/unified-champion-schools.