<bt>A class at James Madison High School struck gold when they decided to use music to combat intolerance. Three students in Gideon Sanders' Combatting Intolerance class put together a five-hour Battle of the Bands that raised more than $1,500 for the upcoming Disabilities Symposium, to be held at the school April 22.
Kimiie Tran, Megan Ginley and Jenny Gargano, the class fundraisers, had tried a bake sale, which met with limited success, and a pie auction in which students bid to smash a pie in a teacher's face, which fared somewhat better. But funds were still not running at much more than $500.
Then they passed out flyers for a Battle of the Bands interest meeting.
"We weren't expecting that many bands to show up," said Ginley. "We had like 20 bands show up on the first day."
They had not expected the crowd turnout they got either, having set the winner's prize at $2 for every $7 ticket sold, which, it turns out, would have left the winner with some $430. They decided this seemed an inordinate payment for a 20-minute gig, and the prize was capped at $250.
The rest will be put toward the Disabilities Symposium, which was conceived by Combatting Intolerance students Brandon Cassady and Annie Lee, both of whom have cerebral palsy.
Cassady said he hopes to use the symposium to "break stereotypes, and that's academic, athletic and general stereotypes," regarding people with disabilities. For example, "when people hear you have a disability, like C.P. [cerebral palsy], they automatically assume you're in a wheelchair, because that's the handicapped symbol."
He said he feels that Virginia schools disrespect students with disabilities by reserving an overriding say in their "individual education programs" (IEPs). "Sanders recommended me for AP U.S. History, and the IEP people said no," he said. "I ended up doing really well in the regular history class," he said.
Cassady also pointed out that special education students often have very limited interaction with "regular-ed" students. "It's basically their way of legalizing segregation," he said.
As an example of breaking athletic stereotypes, he pointed to students with learning disabilities who manage to balance varsity athletics with their studies.
"With all the work the kids have put into it, we're really trying to make it a professional-quality symposium," Sanders said of the all-day event.
At least 13 speakers are expected, whom Sanders said will range from someone who finds adoptive homes for special-needs children to others speaking on high school life for students with disabilities to those speaking on the effects of disabilities at the college level and in the work world.
According to the school, if a special education student is dissatisfied with his education plan or with curriculum or accommodations of a class, they should speak with the case manager who has been assigned to them and may also want to speak with their guidance counselor and the special education director.
ALL EVENING the battle raged, screamed, pounded, shredded and occasionally moshed and crowd-surfed until a winner emerged from the sweaty, rowdy lineup of musicians.
Progressive rock band DER, said their victory came as a complete surprise. "We were like, 'We're just going to come and rock,'" said guitarist Aydar Shaildayev. "We didn't expect to win."
"Yeah, winning never crossed our minds," agreed drummer Miles Huffman.
As for the cause, Shaildayev said Sanders, who is one of his teachers, told him about the reason for the show. "I was like, 'That's awesome,'" said Shaildayev.