Bay State parents of twins and higher order multiples celebrated a legislative victory last fall with the passing of House Bill 469 (also known as the ‘Twins Bill’) relative to the placement of twins and higher order multiples in public school classrooms. Prior to the passing of the bill, schools across the commonwealth were allowed to separate twins and higher order multiples—often going against parents’ wishes. The legislation, which passed and was signed into law by Deval Patrick in September 2008, now allows parents or guardians of twins or higher order multiples (triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets or more) to place children of the same grade level in the same classroom.
Erika Sander, past president and member of the Merrimack Valley (Massachusetts) Mother of Twins Association (MVMMOTA) and mother to identical twin girls said, “This is a tremendous victory for hundreds of families across the Bay State. Previously, schools would separate twins –believing that having them in the same classroom was too much of a disruption. For twins and higher order multiples that have an already-established bond formed while in utero, separation can be traumatizing. We’re proud that our state legislators recognize the decision to align or separate children in the same grade level is one that should be made by parents, not the educational system.”
The petition for the bill was initiated by State Representative Bradley H. Jones Jr. (North Reading) who said, “Parents have the right to make these tough choices about the academic future of their children. I am pleased that parents of twins, triplets, quadruplets and even quintuplets will have all the power when deciding the placement of their children.”
Under the new law, the school administration can still advise the parents, but the choice is ultimately left up to the parents. Now officially in effect, the legislation will modify classroom procedures beginning in 2009-2010 school year.
P&K asked moms Janna Knight (right) and Rachel DellaCroce (left) who spearheaded the passage on the Twin Bill to offer their best advice.
What is your best advice for parents who are trying to decide whether to keep their children together in the classroom or separate them?
When the children start school for the first time, they are not only separating from a parent, but also their twin. Most experts agree that it can be beneficial for twins to be placed together in preschool or even kindergarten. Observation and discussion with the teacher can help aid in how to place them. Reasons to separate include co-dependency; different learning styles; distraction; competitiveness; dominance of one twin and similarities too great for others to distinguish. Reasons to consider keeping them together are: if there is severe separation anxiety; there is a transition at home (i.e. recently moved, new baby, divorce, etc.), and IF the twins are not competitive, disruptive or distracting to each other or the class. Teachers can and should help foster individuality of twins that are in the same classroom by pairing them with different partners, not referring to them as “the twins” and not always seating them next to each other. Many twins determine by themselves when they are ready to separate, some by first or second grade.
Some of the issues to consider when placing multiples in school:
Are the children attached at the hip in school, or do they make their own friends and just check in with each other throughout the day?
If you have identical twins, can the teacher and other children tell them apart? This is a big deal regarding each child's individual identity. (I didn't believe this one until I lived it.)
Does one student do significantly better than the other academically?
Are they starting a new school?
Has there been a recent divorce, move or trauma?
When in doubt or unsure, together is probably a better option, especially for kindergarten and even first grade. There is comfort in twinship that can make adjustments easier. Twins have a bond that the ‘singleton’ population can’t understand. Separating them too soon can be traumatic and cause issues such as learning difficulties, bed wetting, anxiety and stress. Parents of multiples should trust their gut. They know their kids better than anyone (except maybe their twin).
“Personally, I'm thrilled that the Twins Bill passed here. My twins are starting school next year and I prefer that they be together for now. I'm relieved that I'll have the ability to fully participate in my children's placement.”
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“Luckily, my children's school is very open to parental opinions when it comes to placement of multiples. I have always kept them together and aM doing so next year as well. It is reassuring to know that this will never be an issue for me now that the Twins Law will be in effect!”
Shannon Vitale of Bellingham
Wendy Bulawa Agudelo of North Andover is a freelance writer and mom of a three-year-old daughter and set of 22-month-old twin boys.
By Wendy Bulawa Agudelo
Wicked Local Parents
Mon, 06/29/2009 - 8:41am