A special need for some special education

Kaye Hansen shares stories about how she helped to create some of the first special education programs in the Santa Clarita Valley. January 14, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Back in the 1960s, there weren’t any special education programs in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Instead, special needs children were considered “uneducable” and were only permitted to attend kindergarten.

So, when Kaye and Arlen Hansen’s son Kelly started kindergarten at Santa Clarita Elementary in the fall of 1962, it didn’t take them long to decide that something must be done.

“All the other kids got to go and do all these things and he just always wondered how come he couldn’t do the same,” Kaye Hansen said. “After that, he wasn’t educable enough to take into the school system, so we had him home. He was 6 years old, and we didn’t know what to do with him.”

Seeing the need for her son and thinking there must be others who could benefit, Hansen called a special education program in Los Angeles, inquiring if it could be brought to the SCV.

A family portrait of the Hansen Children, including Kelly, whose special needs inspired his mother to help build some of the first special education programs in the Santa Clarita Valley. January 14, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

She was told if she could find 10 “uneducable” children and a place to hold a class, they would provide a teacher. Dr. Bowen, the special education representative she met with, then asked to meet Kelly, who sealed the deal.

“Here he was riding a tricycle, wet, runny nose, I mean, he just put on a really good show from the very beginning,” Hansen added, chuckling.

With the help of Myron Sproul, longtime SCV educator and vice principal at Hart High School at the time, Hansen was able to find a total of seven special needs children. Though just shy of the 10 kids needed, Hansen pressed on.

Soon, she was put in contact with the Rev. Charles Dennis at the Santa Clarita United Methodist Church, where a recent addition of classrooms and restrooms to their church made for the perfect home for the program.

“They sent this wonderful lady (to head the program) that was just a perfect fit for these children,” Hansen added. “In fact, when Kelly became of age to go to the junior high, they told me that he could really go to an inclusion program, which they called something else in those days, but I didn’t want him to go to the junior high … Kelly was happy.”

The special education program remained at the church until 1968, when it was moved to a side building at Emblem Elementary, with the help of Arlen Hansen, who was also a building contractor.

“They built a whole little section right in front for the school,” Hansen said.

Kaye Hansen, right, sits next to her daughter Karla Posner, left, who followed in her mother’s footsteps and now also works with special needs children. January 14, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Kelly continued through the program until he was 21, when he was, again, left with nowhere to go.

The Hansens again went to work to create another special education program, this one for adults.

In December 1969, Pleasantview Industries, a nonprofit organization serving adults with disabilities, opened a workshop at the old Saugus Union School District offices.

Here, adults with special needs could not only develop work skills, but also find supported employment.

“We started out as primarily a facility-based program with a work activity center, which we still do have, and over the years have been able to place people into jobs in the community,” said Gerry Howard, executive director at Pleasantview. “We currently have 66 people working in jobs in the community, which has surpassed the number we have in the facility.”

Howard attributes that to the implementation of the transportation system in the SCV, which made the industrial centers more accessible.

Kaye Hansen shares stories about how she helped to create some of the first special education programs in the Santa Clarita Valley. January 14, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Since then, Pleasantview has moved into an old Saugus Elementary School building that was cut into three sections and transported to the Rosedell Elementary School property.

“Arlen was president of the board when I was hired in 1977,” Howard said. “I was hired as executive director right out of college and I was first and only up until this point.”

“The Hansens were very instrumental in getting the program started, and I was appreciative of the board and Arlen’s support, as we were all kind of finding our way,” he added.

Today, Emblem Elementary has a facility dedicated to special education and all five school districts work together to provide special education. 

The Hansen family has continued to have a hand in the community, such as Kelly’s sister Karla Posner, who not only works with the special education program at Mountain View Elementary School, but also works with Major Impact Theater, a nonprofit theater troupe for adults with disabilities. 

“So, Kelly’s always in my heart,” she added, smiling.

Looking back, Hansen never expected her and her husband’s efforts to lead to this.

“We didn’t know what we were doing when we started the school, we just went out on a limb and worked together,” she said. “We met the most wonderful people. People who needed us and we needed them, and the (special needs) community was so accepted… and the school district was just a great help in every way.”

A family portrait of the Hansen Children including Kelly, whose special needs inspired his mother to help build some of the first special education programs in the Santa Clarita Valley. January 14, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

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