CLC Network, also known as the Christian Learning Center, has a proud history of pioneering inclusive education in Christian schools. Today, we draw on more than 35 years of special education experience and 28 years of inclusive education to create inclusive communities across North America.
The Christian Learning Center (now doing business as CLC Network) was founded in 1979 in order to fill in for a lack of non-public, religiously affiliated school services in the greater Grand Rapids community for students with disabilities. When the Pine Rest Children’s Retreat closed, a group of passionate advocates and parents formed CLC and launched three self-contained, segregated classrooms on the campus of Seymour Christian School.
Sponsored by the Grand Rapids Christian School Association, CLC brought in students from across West Michigan. In order to better serve them, we created CLC Resource Rooms at a number of Christian schools. These served as foundations for launching some of the country’s first inclusive education programs.
Pioneers for Inclusion
In the late 1980’s, CLC leadership and staff learned about the concept of inclusion, called “mainstreaming” at the time. Pioneering a complete shift in the generally accepted approach to students with intellectual disabilities and/or emotional impairments, the boards of CLC and Zeeland Christian School approved the launch of West Michigan’s first Christian inclusive education program on Zeeland Christian School’s campus. On August 29, 1989, seventeen students with special needs became the first inclusive education students.
By the 1990s, parents that enrolled a child using CLC’s services within a Christian School were paying up to $9,500 more per year in additional tuition fees. It was then that CLC established and advocated the concept of Tuition Equity: each Christian school partnering with CLC no longer charged an additional tuition fee to parents of students with disabilities. Christian schools were able to demonstrate that students with special needs belonged as much as every other student. R.H. “Bear” Berends, executive director from 1981 to 2015, calls this the proudest accomplishment of his career, and we encourage schools to follow this model today.
Growing at a rapid pace, CLC was now providing Reading Recovery services, along with services for Academically Talented students. Oostburg Christian School in Wisconsin joined CLC as the first out-of-region satellite program in 1998.
Led by director of evaluation services Doug Bouman, CLC adopted a neurodevelopmental approach to learning as defined by the national non-profit, Schools Attuned, and Dr. Mel Levine’s groundbreaking book, “A Mind at a Time.” CLC became the only Midwest Regional Training Site certified by Schools Attuned, an honor that remains today.
Today: Passionate Advocates
In 2008, we transitioned from a teacher placement service to a nonprofit consulting firm, an important step to bringing our ministry of reconciliation to communities across the nation. Today, we partner annually with 57 schools in 7 states, sharing our knowledge and supporting their inclusive education programs.
CLC Network’s church services was launched in 2007, when the board of directors and staff members recognized that persons with disabilities were beginning to be welcomed at school, but not always at church.
Since then we have presented to more than 2,000 congregations, responding to a national, cross denominational surge of interest in disability ministry.
By providing services to schools, churches, and also psychological evaluations for persons with disabilities and their families, we can help create inclusive communities and respond to the call to support and welcome all of our brothers and sisters in the Kingdom.