The world is unfair. These words have been said to me several times since I was a child, and demanded justice and/or retribution for misdeeds done. As I’ve gotten older, the cries for justice have revolved around those things in ‘my world’. In kindergarten it was to have the ‘good’ Barbie when playing with friends. In high school it was to have an extended curfew. In college it was to obtain a higher grade on a term paper.
Today, most of my cries for equality and justice happen at the behest of my child. My 6th grader, my daughter, my child with special needs.
I attend the IEP meetings, where I have diligently fought for the rights of my child to obtain a fair education. More often than not, what I’m fighting for is justice. For the educators who spend an average of 6.5 hours with her per day/5 days a week, to see her potential. To see past her different-abilities and see her.
This has been a rough fight. A long, ongoing and arduous journey for ‘justice’. There is a reason why parents tirelessly prep for IEP meetings. We research, consult with lawyers and other advocates, chug coffee so that our brains will adequately produce the words we need to speak in order for our children to obtain what is their right. The right to a fair education.
The scary thing isn’t really the IEP itself. No in fact, the scary part of this meeting is the attempt to convince those at the helm, the decision makers, that a student with different-abilities, with special needs, deserves just as much of a right to an education as their typical peers. The scary thing, is that these decision makers, don’t listen and worse…they don’t seem to care.
Take for instance, today’s trending education story. National Education Association (NEA) President, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, recently made a speech at an awards gala. The event was meant to be a celebration of those ‘progressive champions’ who are making notable change for America’s future. Ms. Eskelsen Garcia recieved her award because of her ‘rousing defense of teachers and public education‘.
What’s making the news is what Eskelsen Garcia said during her speech;
“We diversify our curriculum instruction to meet the personal individual needs of all of our students: the blind, the hearing impaired, the physically challenged, the gifted and talented, the chronically tarded and the medically annoying.“
Now, I have 100% certainty that the President of the National Education Association knows better than to make heartless and brash comments regarding any medically-fragile or differently-abled students. And while she has apologized on her Twitter account for her remarks, stating that she would never make such disparaging remarks to intentionally mock students with special needs, her apology doesn’t sit well with this Mama.
As a leader in the educational arena, the President of the NEA has a responsibility and a distinct opportunity to be a beacon of change for education in this country. Not only do her careless remarks put a ding in her reputation, but it sets an example for every single teacher, principal, school official, and other such educators within the public school system. It provides an all too convenient scapegoat for the mistreatment of our students, giving educators the opportunity to simply brush any vile words said regarding a medical condition or special need off as a ‘simple joke’.
Being an advocate for a child is no laughing matter. Stressing over how to obtain a proper and FAIR education for my child, simply because of the label she is forced to wear is not something I find humorous.
I find it incredibly hard to believe that this speech was one that she didn’t practice, and understand.
Those words, the chronically tarded and the medically annoying, were meant to give the audience a laugh. And from what I’ve read, laughs were given. To me, that spells out a deplorable nature, a flaw in the human nature, and a horrifying revelation for children such as mine, who are seen as someone to be publicly mocked.
As a public official, and one who is the gatekeeper for the fair educational rights for ALL children, don’t you feel you should show respect for ALL children.
Furthermore, if I made public remarks at the expense of a client, I would no longer have a job.
Or tweet her here, as I have:
Lily_NEA I’m sure that you understand the impact of your words on the attitudes and actions of school leaders. It’s difficult enough to obtain fair and equal education for our special needs children. As a parent of one such child, I’ve witnessed first hand the unfairness that comes when leaders and educators take liberty with both words and actions. be the leader that ALL of our children need. Make change happen for all children, so that ALL children are treated to a fair and just education.