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Special Olympics recognizes HHS for inclusive activities

by | Aug 22, 2020 | Education

Editor’s note: Special Olympics released the following statement about Hopkinton High School.

Special Olympics Massachusetts has announced that Hopkinton High School, a Special Olympics Unified Champion School, is receiving national banner recognition for its efforts to provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without disabilities. Hopkinton High School is receiving this honor as a result of meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect. An award presentation will take place at a later date, to be determined.

Hopkinton High School will be amongst a select number of schools to receive this distinction. [It] will be presented with a banner to hang in the school and be included on a list of other schools around the country that have achieved this distinguished status.

“Receiving National Banner recognition is truly an outstanding and well-deserved achievement for these 15 schools. It shows that they have truly embraced what it means to be inclusive both on and off the playing field, in the classrooms and in their communities,” said Patti Doherty, vice president of schools and community development for Special Olympics Massachusetts. “Not only do these schools offer unified sports, youth leadership and whole school engagement within their school, but they have elevated it to the next level and have reached the standards of excellence set forth at a national level.”

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools is a strategy for schools pre-K through university that intentionally promotes meaningful social inclusion by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities to create accepting school environments, utilizing three interconnected components: Special Olympics Unified Sports, inclusive youth leadership and whole school engagement.

More than 210 schools are currently participating in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming in Massachusetts, as part of more than 7,500 schools across the country engaged in the program. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools aims to expand to 10,000 schools by the end of the 2023-2024 school year.

The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools model is supported by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. This model has been proven, through research, 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*. Key data points include:

• 94 percent of teachers/school staff say the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program increases opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities to work together.
• 98 percent of involved teachers believe participation in the program has increased the confidence of students with disabilities.
• 92 percent credit the program with reducing bullying, teasing, and offensive language.

A Special Olympics Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement and respect for all members of the student body and staff. A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has demonstrated commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence. These standards were developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community.

The primary activities within these standards include: Special Olympics Unified Sports (where students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates), inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement. National banner schools should also be able to demonstrate they are self-sustainable or have a plan in place to sustain these activities into the future.

*Evaluation conducted by the Center for Social Development and Education (CSDE) at the University of Massachusetts Boston

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