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The Trinity Voice

The student news site of Trinity Preparatory School

The Trinity Voice

The student news site of Trinity Preparatory School

The Trinity Voice

Don’t Wait, Accomodate

Trinity’s accommodations have room for expansion
Sam Miller

   The National Center for Learning Disabilities reports that 1 in 5 children in the 2015-2016 school year had learning or attention issues, and 1 in 16 school-age children received special education services for specific learning disabilities and attention difficulties.

   While these statistics paint a picture that many students across the country require their educators to take special steps to ensure their success, barriers to accessibility exist across the country in both public and private schools. Trinity is no exception.

   Public schools across the nation outline 33 specific accommodations, with room for psychiatrists to request additional aids that might not be included in the document. Our school only offers five.

   The only accommodations available for students are extended time on assessments longer than 20 minutes, allowed computer use for hand-written essays, no scantrons, use of a 4-function calculator and a copy of class notes. 

   “We can handle children that have mild learning or processing issues, but we have a minimal number of accommodations that we can make because we’re not staffed [for more],” Head of Upper School Dr. Tracy Bonday said.

   According to guidance counselor Christine Hempsted, 130 Trinity students receive accommodations, making it imperative that the school plays an active role in securing and enforcing accommodations for students diagnosed with learning and attention disabilities. 

   The first step in obtaining accommodations at Trinity is attaining a professional psychological or psychiatric evaluation. A diagnosis isn’t enough, though. Once diagnosed with some sort of disability or mental health issue, the evaluator would then recommend specific accommodations for the student. If the recommended accommodation is provided by Trinity, then it will be given to the student. 

   Being approved for adequate accommodations took an anonymous student, who receives 50% extended time for their diagnosed anxiety, nearly a semester and visits to two different psychiatrists after their first diagnosis had been denied. 

   “Having diagnosed anxiety wasn’t good enough [to get accommodations],” the student said.

   Public schools across the nation use “504 plans” to ensure that students receive the help that healthcare professionals deem necessary. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 specifically prohibits discrimination against disabled students and guarantees the right for them to access free public education. There are specialized coordinators to help parents and students with the entire process, as well as a legal burden for schools to accommodate when necessary. Because Trinity does not take public funds, it is not required to follow the same guidelines as a public school.

   Not only are the amount of accommodations offered by Trinity significantly fewer than many public schools around the country, but there are also vast shortcomings in implementing these aids. 

   Students who receive accommodations are not able to use them on quizzes or assessments shorter than 20 minutes. While a possible reason for this caveat is because some teachers like to teach after giving a quiz, the integrity of accommodations could be maintained if quizzes were only given at the end of a class, or if they could be split up for accommodated students to complete at a later time.

   Accommodations are meant to provide students with equal footing, but when they are overlooked for many quizzes, Trinity misses the mark. No matter how short the assessment is, the recommendations of healthcare professionals should never be ignored. When students take a quiz shorter than 20 minutes, their learning disability does not disappear, but the tools to manage it do.

   Some psychiatrists recommend less homework or alterations to the usual curriculum for students with certain conditions, which Trinity does not accept. Unfortunately, the size of our school is not the only reason these concerns have been ignored. The school specifically refuses to modify the curriculum based on recommended accommodations.

   “We want to make sure that we maintain the integrity of our diploma, which is why we don’t modify our curriculum,” Hempsted said.

   As a prep school, Trinity ought to emulate colleges across the nation that dedicate entire offices to aid students who need these services. As one example, on its website, Stanford University says it offers “modifications to policies, practices, or procedures,” including a student submitting a written paper on the subject matter in lieu of an oral presentation or submitting written responses to a discussion question instead of participating in an in-class discussion. A prestigious university such as Stanford providing these resources shows that a commitment to providing students with equal opportunities for success does not come at the expense of academic rigor. Trinity, unfortunately, is unwilling and unable to consistently model institutions like Stanford. 

   One reason for Trinity’s difference in the implementation of accommodations is due to the smaller nature of our campus and staff. While many public schools have buildings or staff members designated to ensure that students have equitable access to success in the classroom, Trinity does not.

   “We don’t have the staffing or the physical infrastructure to be able to do a lot of the other accommodations,” Hempsted said.

   Due to our student body-to-staff ratio along with our private school status, there are instances where the school offers outside-the-box solutions on a case-by-case basis as a teacher sees fit. These can be on a singular assignment, type of assignment, or something else entirely.

   While operating on a case-by-case basis can afford a level of flexibility that larger institutions don’t have, it can disadvantage students who are unaware of these exceptions or are less apt to advocate for themselves. Students and parents aren’t made aware of the potential accommodations that can be made, and are instead left to their own devices to seek them out.

   A significant portion of the student body is left behind to struggle without the accommodations that healthcare professionals demand they need. The school must take active steps in ensuring that students with learning or attention disabilities receive the care they need by allowing for accommodations to be used on all assessments, making the process more transparent, and providing flexibility with curriculum to benefit students with learning or attention disabilities.

   It’s clear that the Trinity faculty and staff is dedicated to seeing students succeed, but without all the right pieces, this effort falls short.

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About the Contributor
Amanda Rose DeStefano
Amanda Rose DeStefano, Opinions Editor
Amanda Rose is a junior at Trinity entering her second year on staff, serving as Opinions editor. She also participates on the debate team, listens to lots of Dominic Fike, frequents Starbucks and intensely watches "Succession." Contact her at to discuss the season finale of "Succession."

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