Listening to the Department of Education’s Appointee, Betsy De Vos respond to the Special Education inquires with the “sensitivity” card, makes me reflect once more on how incredibly low the expectations are for students with special needs.
“It’s not about sensitivity, although that helps,” Ms. Hassan countered. “It’s about being willing to enforce the law to make sure that my child and every child has the same access to public education, high-quality public education.”
Ms. Hassan’s (Senator for New Hampshire) response was brilliant and it drove me to this reflection:
If they can beat their limitations despite their disability, why is so hard for the rest of us to do the same?
How could someone who’s supposed to take on such a big responsibility dare to manifest such a short but demeaning line? How could she make such a statement that identifies our children as second class citizens who depend on pity and sensitivity, because people don’t even know their rights to education are protected under federal law.
I know too that as a community, trying to be sensitive of people’s ignorance, many of us repeatedly assume the pacifist position of understanding others’ positions and opinions over the needs and rights of our own children.
But, dear parents, if we don’t demand our children’s rights to be recognized and instead we decide to play the “sensitivity” card, then forever our children will be treated from a place of pity instead of respect.
I witness every day how my children, despite all the prejudice and ignorance out there, do their best and exhausta their abilities to overcome their challenges. I have seen them grow trying to adapt to a society that many times judges them without giving them a chance.
I have experienced too that intensely inappropriate pity masked under the name of “sensitivity” that serves to justify the lack of free, appropriate public education. It comes with the same trite comments of, “He’s not learning much but he’s having so much fun and the other students just love him.” Is this the real expectation we want for our children? Do they deserve this?
If people with no disabilities place themselves on a path toward high-achievement, then why is it so hard for them to at least try to do the same thing our children do every day to overcome limitations? Why can they not do their best and exhaust their abilities to research, adapt and accommodate students with disabilities based on federal law, which means, with high standards and expectations placed on learning.
As Ms. Hassan expressed, sensitivity is okay but it’s not about that, it’s about following the rules for which we have fought so hard and so much over the last few decades.
As parents, let’s take the lead on this and let’s do our job to read the law and understand its implications in the lives of our children and their futures. Otherwise, lacking this information, we will settle for less by thinking that “sensitivity” is the key.
In reality, sensitivity is the manifestation of lack of awareness of the law and leads to less opportunities for our children to learn, grow and thrive as individual people.
Do we have to be this tough when it comes to expecting qualified people to lead education and to educate our children? If we want our children to be successful and treated with respect, I must say, YES, we do!