Monday, November 28, 2005

Discrimination at the most elementary levels

Unsettling meeting with the educational advocate today--she's also an attorney. The first thing she suggested was that, if feasible, we consider moving to Howard County. Howard County, I guess, really makes a huge effort to provide real inclusion for disabled students, bending over backwards to do so. While it may seem appealing in some ways to move out to the countryside, I just don't think we could do this. We've both been down here, inside the Beltway, for almost 20 years. All of our friends are here. Moving to Howard County would be the same as moving to Iowa. Roger's commute would be impossible--there are no commuter trains that link the northern counties to DC.

We'll see how it goes as we approach the school system, but it seems as though Montgomery County has a tendency to discriminate against physically handicapped students. It's just plain, ugly bias and prejudice. And that certainly seems to be what we're starting to run into at Bethesda Elementary. As long as Robert behaves like a school mascot, happy to be wheeled out for display purposes, they're happy to have him. But when it comes to educating them, they've equated his physical disabilities with cognitive disabilities, which is simply discriminatory. He had some behavioral problems in kindergarten because of a medication he was taking at the time, but his academic performance picked up in the second half of first grade and continued to strengthen through second grade. That is, until he learned he could jerk people around by not cooperating. Easy to do, since they've failed to integrate any communication device other than primitive hand signals into his classroom experience.

When he started showing he was at grade level with math in second grade, I thought that, surely, they would take us out of school-community based and let him be on an academic track. But no, they wouldn't even let him go to an academic-based extended school year program. They said he would need an aide and they didn't have those resources, and, furthermore, that the academic classes were not designed for 'kids like Robert'. I asked how he would be able to maintain his academic skills, and my response was basically a shrug. When I pointed out that Robert had learned to do 2 digit addition in his head, without the help of manipulatives and scratch paper that the other kids were using, and that that was an indicator that he was actually smarter and more capable than the other kids, I was told that, no, the teachers had showed him manipulatives and written out stuff on scratch paper for him (of course, he didn't have the benefit of actually being able to do this himself). So that wasn't really an accomplishment, or so I was told.

And now the conservatives are starting their annual seasonal whine about the gross discrimination being directed against them because no one (who on earth are they talking about?) will let them say, "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." Buncha white people who don't know discrimination from a hole in the wall.

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