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Watch the 'promposal' that's making this student feel included

Thames Valley District School Board’s first-ever prom geared towards students in developmental education programs doesn’t reflect the meaning of “true integration,” according to a local mum whose son is living with an intellectual disability.

Mother shares 'another way of thinking about integration'

Sherri Kroll and her son Jonah, who's living with an intellectual disability. (Submitted )

Thames Valley District School Board's first-ever prom for students in developmental education programs doesn't reflect "true integration," according to a local mother whose son is living with an intellectual disability.

Last Monday, CBC London published an article about the event — dubbed DE prom — being held at Clarke Road Secondary School on May 31. It featured supportive sentiments from students, staff and family.

After reading the article, Sherri Kroll reached out to CBC to share her son's promposal story and offer "another way of thinking about integration."

"I'm of the opinion if you group people together because of their disability ... when that becomes the focus, that's not integration," she told CBC.

"There is another way. Integration happens when people are natural about it and when they create opportunities for people to be together," she added.

Kroll is also the executive director at Middlesex Community Living, an agency that provides supports to adults with intellectual disabilities.

'Not being segregated in any way'

Kroll's 17-year-old son Jonah will be attending his school's prom on Friday at Holy Cross Catholic School in Strathroy.

"He's going to the prom like everybody else," said Kroll. "To me, that's integration … He's part of his peer group. He's not being segregated in any way. In fact, he's being embraced and supported to be part of the regular activities at a school."

Jonah is going to the event with a friend he met in a regular classroom. He has been able to connect with a spectrum of students at his school due to his participation in integrated classrooms and extracurriculars, Kroll said.

About three weeks ago, Jonah was surprised with a heartwarming promposal, which was caught on tape by his teacher.

Promposal reflects "true integration," says local mum. 0:12

When asked how he felt about it, Jonah said, "love."

"I'm so excited," he said. "I look forward to dancing and … It's gonna be awesome."

Kroll said her son will get to have a "real life" high school experience like his other classmates, which is important for his growth.

"I don't want him coddled all the time … I think having some falls and making some mistakes in life, you kind of figure out who you are … I don't want life to be easy for him," she said.

"I want him to have a real life experience and that means to be it included in things like going to the prom."

'They really don't need two options'

Kroll said she recognizes that the event is well-intentioned; however, she believes that inclusive practices centre on having one event for everybody and not a second, special one.

"[I do] not want to be critical of Thames Valley but offer another example of integration," she said.

She said the board should focus on creating environments that allow all people to come together.

"I think kids today are great. I think they are open to including people," she said.
Jonah is in Grade 12 at Holy Cross Catholic School in Strathroy. (Submitted)

"I would encourage people to take the energy that's put into planning a segregated event and apply that same energy into creating an atmosphere and environment where people with disabilities can be included with the prom that's available to all students, the regular prom," she said.

"They really don't need two options."

CBC News reached out to the Thames Valley District School Board for comment in response to Kroll's concerns.

Officials said "students attending the Developmental Education Prom were supervised by TVDSB staff who set the conditions for our students to feel included with their peers in a smaller event that respected their individual sensitivities – whether to light and sound, large gatherings, or to the special social pressures that often accompany high school proms."

Officials said the DE prom is geared to those in the program but open to all students. 

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