At the third IEP Task Force meeting, I followed tradition and gave the following public comment:
This is the 3rd time I have spoken at the IEP Task Force, I’ve spoken in front of the Delaware Department of Education 3 times, I’ve spoken in front of the Capital School District Board 2 times, and last week I spoke in front of the Christina school board. Every single time I have spoken, it has been with the problems of my son at the forefront of my mind. Behind him are the over 18,000 children with disabilities in this state. This task force has been given a great responsibility. In your hands are the abilities to change over 18,000 lives.
Let me say once again: these children have disabilities they neither asked for nor want. They didn’t choose to have them. They weren’t cursed with them. Most of them were born with them. It was locked into their DNA for whatever reason, and this was how their life had to be. As parents or guardians, it is our job to protect them and make sure they have the best life possible. As educators, teachers, counselors of all shapes and colors, providers and administrators, it is your job to educate them. So my question is this: why do so many of you treat their disabilities as something they are intentionally trying to do? Why do so many teachers think that if you yell at a child or speak down to them that this behavior will change? Why do so many of you think you can sit in an IEP meeting and tell parents “Your child may have a disability but I think they know what they are doing” or “Part of it is their age”. These are children with extremely difficult neurological disabilities. Their brains are not wired the same as you or I. So why would you try to rewire them into a shape that just doesn’t fit? The discipline problems these children face in schools can and should be prevented. Placing any child with disabilities in a class of 30? You’re asking for trouble. Inclusion is required, but that does not mean you put them anywhere. The Least Restrictive Environment is required by IDEA law. It means the child is put into the least restrictive place to obtain a proper education. And in Delaware, that doesn’t mean a Chevrolet, it means a Cadillac. Teachers: Please understand, I know the problems you are facing. I know your evaluations, as well as your jobs, are tied to student performance on a once a year test. There are a growing number of regular parents and citizens who recognize and empathize with you. And we are trying to help you as well as our children. But please recognize that we will do anything we can to protect our children, and if that means calling anyone out at a school, teachers included, we will do that.
I think we talk and talk about special education in Delaware, but when it comes time to truly do the right thing for these students, a lot of us drop the ball. It’s not about common core, it’s not about college, it’s not about China, it’s not even about the teachers, or the principals, or even the parents. It’s about them. These precious gifts have been given to us and they have a lot to teach us, but we don’t want to learn. We need to learn to accept them for who they are. Not what we want them to be, but what they are.
In conclusion Lieutenant Governor Denn, if you could please pass the following on to the Delaware Legislature and Governor Markell. We will not accept or allow anyone to change our children into something they are not meant to be. Please tell the Delaware DOE they we don’t want the standards-based IEPs and please ship them back to Arne Duncan at the United States DOE and to leave Delaware’s special needs students alone. It is past time Delaware became its own state and stopped being the education lap dog of the federal government. It is way past time that we stopped letting corporations and education reformers intruding on our children’s lives so they can fill their pockets with profits. There is a lot of that going on and nobody on this task force is talking about that on this task force, and that’s impacting teachers, and how they teach, and how they’re able to deal with these children. That’s a huge aspect and I’m shocked nobody on the task force has brought it up. Thank you.