Special Olympics Southern California has announced Murrieta Mesa High School, Murrieta Valley High School, and Westminster High School are receiving national banner recognition for their efforts to provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without disabilities. The three Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools are receiving this honor as a result of meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect.
Murrieta Mesa High School, Murrieta Valley High School, and Westminster High School will be among a select number of schools to receive this distinction. They will be presented with a banner to hang in their school and be included on a list of other schools around the country who have achieved this distinguished status.
“We are so proud of the work these schools are doing to spread awareness about inclusion,” said Bill Shumard, president and CEO of Special Olympics Southern California. “We are depending on the next generation to carry Special Olympics and its movement forward and that’s why Unified Champion Schools are so important. Congratulations to Murrieta Mesa High School, Murrieta Valley High School, and Westminster High School for this huge accomplishment!”
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 333 schools are currently participating in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming in California, 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% 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% of involved teachers believe participation in the program has increased the confidence of students with disabilities.
- 92% 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
About Murrieta Mesa High School
Murrieta Valley Unified School District, Inland Empire. Visit https://bit.ly/3bmqTZl for more information.
About Murrieta Valley High School
Murrieta Valley Unified School District, Inland Empire. Visit https://bit.ly/3jQZVMD for more information.
About Westminster High School
Huntington Beach Union High School District, Orange County. Visit https://bit.ly/3bjmuGu for more info.
Special Olympics Southern California
Special Olympics Southern California enriches the lives of 38,200 athletes and their communities through sports, leadership programs, and athlete health. Our free, year-round programs lead to improved health, self-confidence, and independence among athletes with intellectual disabilities and acceptance and inclusion in the community. Special Olympics Southern California has earned a four-star ranking from Charity Navigator for exceeding industry standards. This ranking is the highest Charity Navigator offers to an organization and is given because Special Olympics has demonstrated strong financial health and a commitment to accountability and transparency. Learn more at http://www.sosc.org.