By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
Since May 2009, Mississippi parents of multiples – twins, triplets and so on – have had the option of choosing whether or not their children are placed within the same classroom at school. They have Fulton residents Caryn Gann and Leanne Robinson to thank for that choice.
Now, two years later, House Bill 1191 – more commonly known as the “Twins Law” – has passed its deadline to be repealed, officially becoming permanent law in the state of Mississippi. Robinson and Gann – both teachers and parents of twins – who spearheaded the cause said they can breathe a sigh of relief.
“We felt like we could breathe easy for two years, but wondered what would happen after that,” Gann said.
“We were definitely scared they would repeal the law,” Robinson added. “When [Rep.] Donnie Bell called and said the repealer had been removed, it was a tremendous relief.”
Bell was the representative who wrote and presented the bill to the Mississippi House of Representatives three years ago. Its passing into law made Mississippi the 11th state to adopt such a law. Twenty-one other states currently have active campaigns pushing via petitions and drives for the law to pass. All of these movements are led by concerned parents like Robinson and Gann.
“This shows parental involvement in our schools,” Bell said, commending such efforts. “It shows that parents have an interest in the schools and want the best for their children.”
The Twins Law allows parents of multiples the choice of placing their children together inside a classroom or having them separated. Research shows that twins share a unique bond that can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to break. In many, though not all, cases separating twins can cause a loss of concentration on the part of one or both children. Robinson said this is especially true of the children’s early years.
Likewise, some twins need to be separated in order to help encourage the development of separate personalities or so that they don’t become dependent on one another. Both Gann and Robinson believe parents would best know which situation applies to their children.
“Honestly, when I first started researching this, I wasn’t sure if I should put my twins together or not,” Robinson said. In the end, she decided her boys – Luke and Logan, now entering third grade – should be kept together.
Meanwhile, Gann, whose daughters Elizabeth and Kate were placed together in kindergarten, is considering separating the two next year.
“One of the girls has a stronger personality. So, I’m thinking it might be beneficial for her sister to be on her own,” Gann said.
The bottom line, the two friends said, is that parents should know best.
“Some twins need it; some don’t,” she said. “I think it should be up to the parent to decide.”
The new law does not allow parents to choose with which specific classroom or teacher their children are placed, only whether or not they are separated.
Prior to the law, different school systems had different policies regarding the placement of twins, triplets and the like. Some schools mandated separation while others placed children together without parental input.
A few school districts, like Lee County, allowed parents of twins the option of placing their children in the same classroom prior to the law being passed. Now, that option is available statewide.
But, according to Gann, a lot of parents with multiples don’t realize the law is in place.
“So many people don’t yet realize this is a law now” Gann said. “It doesn’t seem like the word is out that parents of multiples have a choice … And it’s not just parents: I think a lot of administrations don’t even realize the law is there.”
Although Gann, Robinson and Bell said most educators support the law, it wasn’t unanimously accepted. Concerns over taking the final decision of whether or not students should be placed have created some opponents to the law. But Gann and Robinson assure that, should problems arise, the school still has a say in the matter. The law has safeguards in case, if for any reason, placing twins in the same classroom becomes disruptive.
“We’re all educators,” Robinson said. “We didn’t want to force anything on the schools that would hurt them in the long run.”
In the end, the two friends believe the new law will make a real difference in time. And with a steady increase in multiples being born worldwide, Mississippi may actually be on the forefront of a global movement. Whatever’s best for the kids, they said, is what’s most important.
“I just want my children to enjoy school, and when they found out they were going to have to be separated, they didn’t want to go at all,” Gann said. “That’s not the way it should be.”
For more information on the Twins Law, visit twinslaw.com.
Adam Armour can be reached at 862-3141, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting his blog at itawamba360.com.