A Conversation with Darren Minarik
DRA is excited to welcome Darren Minarik to our board of directors. Darren is an associate professor in secondary social studies and special education teacher preparation and serves as co-director for the Virginia Inclusive Practices Center at Radford University.
How did you first learn about DRA?
I first learned about DRA through research I completed in preparation for a keynote presentation with the New York State Council for the Social Studies Summer Institute in 2019. I came across DRA litigation related to New York City Public Schools. I was unaware of the broad scope of DRA’s legal work until I had the opportunity to talk with a DRA board member (Steven Ragland) who knew my background and thought I would be interested in learning more about the organization.
Why did you decide to join DRA’s Board of Directors?
I felt that my presence on the board as a teacher educator and former public school teacher would provide an additional perspective to the DRA outside of the tremendous legal expertise that already exists..
Why do you think DRA’s work is so urgent and important? (Especially at this particularly strange moment in our nation’s history.)
The French philosopher Michel Foucault once wrote, “The judges of normality are present everywhere. We are in the society of the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the educator-judge, the social worker-judge; it is on them that the universal reign of the normative is based; and each individual, wherever he may find himself, subjects to it his body, his gestures, his behavior, his aptitudes, his achievements.” Disability rights are human rights and yet the concept of disability rights is still relatively new in our nation. Children with disabilities gained a right to public education in 1975. ADA was signed into law in 1990. Despite some progress, we are still addressing stigmas, stereotypes, negative perceptions, and discrimination of people with disabilities in this country. I feel there is much work to be done to challenge and educate the “judges of normality” and ensure fully inclusive lives for people with disabilities. DRA is well positioned to be the leader in making this a reality.
What issues would you like to see DRA tackle in the coming months/years?
It is my hope that DRA can develop/expand their national network to share legal work and educate others about the legal rights of people with disabilities.
What aspect of DRA’s work are you most proud of?
It is nice to know that an organization like DRA is out there and is dedicated to protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities. I cannot think of just one part of DRA’s work that stands out.
Any other details you’d like to share about yourself?
As an educator, I believe that real change can take place in our schools and in society if we empower our youth with effective civic engagement, self-advocacy, and self-determination skills.