(OKLAHOMA CITY) — The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program, which allows Oklahoma parents of special-needs children to choose better schools, is the subject of a new mini-documentary produced the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA).
“A lot of people ask how the Henry Scholarship program is working for Oklahoma families,” said Brandon Dutcher, OCPA’s senior vice president. “The answer, as this film so dramatically shows, is very well indeed. It is a true blessing — a lifesaver, in some cases — for families of special-needs children who need a different option from their traditional public school.”
The program, passed in 2010 and named for the infant daughter of former Governor and First Lady Brad and Kim Henry who died at seven months of age, allows parents of disabled children to move their children from public schools to a private school of their choice. The state money allocated to educate those children follow them, permitting parents to pay tuition and other costs.
“I feel like I’m treated the right way,” says a student featured in the 10-minute film titled “Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Stories: Trinity School.” The documentary follows a number of students enrolled under the program at the Oklahoma City non-denominational private school.
One autistic child tells of being kicked and stomped at his old school, and of considering how to kill himself. “I didn’t like being bullied,” he said. “I didn’t like people calling me ‘weirdo’ and ‘gross.’”
Parents in the film describe their struggle to ensure their children were receiving appropriate services in their local public school. One describes a Trinity teacher as “the most passionate ever.” A telling close-up of a teacher’s desktop mug reads “The Best Teachers Touch the Heart.”
When the program was enacted in 2010, House Speaker Pro Tem Kris Steele pointed out that it would honor the memory of Lindsey Nicole Henry “and let it be known for generations to come that she, and her parents, are helping to improve the lives of special-needs children across the state.” And that is precisely what’s happening, Dutcher said.
“We produced this documentary to show how profoundly this program is impacting lives,” he said. “When I talk to parents, two words I hear over and over again are ‘godsend’ and ‘lifesaver.’ How can anyone watch this film and still believe the program is a bad thing?”
Though the documentary focuses on one particular school for special-needs children, it could just as easily have been produced at a number of other schools, Dutcher said. Indeed, past OCPA documentaries have highlighted Henry Scholarship recipients at Town and Country School in Tulsa and at Good Shepherd Catholic School at Mercy in Oklahoma City.
The documentary can be viewed at ocpathink.org/videos.
More information about the scholarship program is available atfacebook.com/HenryScholarships.