Vice-President of the Alabama Board of Education Ella Bell has found herself under fire following a June 21 board meeting in which she asked whether or not a special academy could be formed for special needs students in order to improve test scores within Alabama’s public schools.
“Is it against the law for us to establish perhaps an academy on special education or something on that order,” asked Bell, “so that our scores that already are not that good would not be further cut down by special-ed’s test scores involved?”
While her question didn’t draw ire on the spot, it caught the attention of Cameron Smith, a regular columnist for AL.com and vice president for the R Street Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C. who wrote a column on Thursday saying Bell wants to “force special needs children into an institution.”
Now there’s a change.org petition calling for her to immediately be removed from the board of education. Less than 18 hours after it’s creation, the petition started by Mary Catherine Hanson of Bessemer, Ala. has over 30,000 signatures.
Bell claims her remarks were taken out of context.
“The AL.com article with the headline stating a desire to ‘institutionalize’ special-need students takes my remarks out of context and defies the standards of objective journalism,” Bell released in a statement via the BOE on Thursday. “I never uttered the word nor have I ever considered ‘institutionalizing’ students with special needs. I asked a question about the legality of creating an academy that focuses squarely on the needs of students with intellectual disabilities. I understand how insensitive what I said must have sounded. To individuals who were offended by my remarks, no matter how well intended they were, I sincerely apologize.
Watch Bell’s question at the board meeting below: