The annual Summer Meltdown Autism Awareness and Social Inclusion concert, staged in late May by students with and without disabilities in the Hart District’s Yes I Can program, is without a venue for the first time.
After eight years at Golden Valley High School’s outdoor amphitheatre, the Wm. S. Hart Union High School District will no longer allow the festival to be staged on district turf this year.
“While the Hart School District supports awareness activities for all our students, including autistic students, Summer Meltdown is not a school or District-sponsored event,” said Gail Pinsker, Hart District Community Liason Officer, in a statement today.
“We had previously allowed the event to take place on a high school campus,” Pinsker said. “However, our understanding of the event this year is that it will be much bigger and promoted throughout Los Angeles and surrounding areas, (and) therefore would not be suitable for any of our campuses.”
Pinsker also cited the district’s financial picture as a factor in the decision to expel the festival from its campuses.
“Due to budget cuts, we do not have the support staff or administration required for security, supervision, monitoring and clean up,” she said.
While Hart District students enrolled in the nonprofit Yes I Can program have staged Summer Meltdown and developed real-world skills as part of their studies in social inclusion since 2004, “students who assist with this event do so voluntarily and not as part of any course curriculum,” according to Pinsker.
Bret Lieberman, the Hart District special education teacher who now serves as the Yes I Can program advisor at Canyon High School after several years at Golden Valley High, is now “working hard to secure a venue within the community” for the festival, Pinsker wrote in a separate email.
Summer Meltdown is the Yes I Can students’ major project of the year, and as they plan and stage the event, participants gain valuable social skills and practical, real-world experience.
In the last eight years, the festival has grown from a small to a major event. Among the nationally known artists who’ve headlined are Fishbone, Trapt, The Dirty Heads, Shwayze featuring Cisco Adler, Iration, Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, P-Nut of 311 and many more. Popular local acts have rounded out the bills each year.
The Yes I Can students stage fundraisers throughout the school year leading up to the festival to help pay for talent and production expenses. In December, the organization participated in the Pepsi Refresh Project, vying for a $50,000 cash grant, but fell just short of the number of votes needed to win. The funds would have enabled the students to book other nationally known artists and attract further attention and support for the Yes I Can program.