Literally Every 5th Grader

I don’t know exactly when the bulletin board went up, but it was probably in January or February. I didn’t have a chance to go in to Jack’s school very often, so I wasn’t aware of it at all until a friend of mine—the mom of one of Jack’s classmates—posted about it on Facebook in March.

See, this was a bulletin board about the “Superstars” of Jack’s school—the class of 2014.

Photo of a bulletin board covered in yellow paper with a border of paper flowers. Letters spelling out "Our Superstars" and "Class of 2014" are stapled to the board along with photos of the school's fifth graders. I've blurred out the photos for privacy reasons.

I took this photo last Friday, months after it was originally put up.

Jack is part of the class of 2014, so I imagine he was excited to be called a superstar. Except…well, except for the fact that this bulletin board—which was posted within 30 feet of his classroom, insuring that he saw it every single day—included photos of all the fifth graders except for the three fifth graders in Jack’s Asperger’s classroom.

Evidently if you are in an autism classroom, you aren’t a superstar at Sligo Creek Elementary School.

My friend, who is the hero of this story, wrote on Facebook about how she saw this bulletin board often, as she visited the class regularly.

“Each visit is the same: I approach the poster with a mixture of dread and anger at what I know I will see, yet again. And then I turn around, go to the office, and politely inform the secretary that the poster that my daughter and her classmates walk past every day *still* does not include them, and maybe this whole thing started out as just an oversight but it’s been weeks now and could someone *please* add our children’s pictures to the poster so they don’t have to be reminded every single day, as they walk to their special education classroom, that their school’s administration has overlooked them and their achievements?”

She did this for weeks. She would see that the poster didn’t include our kids and she would tell the secretary and she would be ignored. When she finally told the secretary that she was going to fix the poster herself by adding a photo of our kids, she was told that she couldn’t do that because it would be defacing school property.

As you might imagine, that didn’t go over well with my friend. She made it clear in no uncertain terms that if the kids from the autism program weren’t added to the poster by the administration, she would do it herself, and if someone had a problem with that, well, that problem would become public fast.

It was early March when my friend’s daughter reported that the principal had come to the classroom to take photos of the three fifth grade students in Jack’s class.

Except…

Except again.

The photos still didn’t go up. It was mid-March when those three fifth grade students attended a birthday party together. My friend put our kids together and took a photo. On March 18th [date corrected from earlier version], she took that photo and four thumbtacks to the school and she DEFACED THAT BULLETIN BOARD.

Photo of Jack and his two 5th-grade classmatess. I've put bright colored circles over their faces, with smiley faces drawn on them because they're not my kids and I don't want to post their photos here.

Their real faces are even cuter.

*standing ovation*

This was nine weeks after she first mentioned this to the secretary. NINE WEEKS.

At some point the school went ahead and posted individual photos of each of the three fifth graders in the autism classroom, but it wasn’t done until my friend had spoken up multiple times over the course of weeks and then posted her own photo.

Photo of Jack stapled to the yellow bulletin board next to a white paper star.

I think this photo adds a lot to the superstar collage.

As far as I know, my friend and her daughter haven’t gotten an apology from the principal. I know that Jack and I sure haven’t.

I really like Jack’s program. He has done really well there. He has gone from being miserable about school and himself to being happy and full of self esteem. He has a safe place to be when school gets too overwhelming, but he spends much of his day in inclusion classes. His teachers are wonderful. His paras have been good to him. His IEP team is delightful. The other kids in his class are phenomenal. I’m very happy that he is in this program. He is very happy that he is in this program.

But damn.

I wish that my school district was able to serve my kid in his home school in an inclusion classroom. But they couldn’t. They couldn’t or wouldn’t give him the support he needed, so we found another option, one that seemed to work. The thing is, segregation of students has limitations. Even though my kid has been well served in his program, he is obviously seen as less than in the eyes of the administration. These kids do not seem to be the principal’s priority.

If you read here, I’m sure you know why it matters that all kids are included in all parts of school life. It seems so obvious to me, yet it is clearly not obvious to the people who kept moving “post photos from the Asperger’s class” to the bottom of their to-do list.

Every child has an intrinsic worth. Every child has a right to belong. Every child has a right to be treated with respect. Every child has a right to be included, not just by peers and teachers, but by the people who lead the school and set the tone for everyone in the building.

I was furious when I heard about this bulletin board from my friend. I am still furious as I write this. It breaks my heart that people who work with students with disabilities day in and day out still forget that they matter and that they have thoughts and feelings and desires and complex inner lives.

If you doubt that, check out this essay that Jack brought home last week about 5th grade photo day. The 5th grade all wore their special “class of 2014″ shirts on the same day and sat for a photo of the whole grade. Jack remembered all by himself what day he was to wear the shirt and excitedly sat for the photo.

Photo of a small section of Jack's essay titled "2014 School Picture." The full text is below.

Jack wrote about the day. Full text is below.

“2014 School Picture: On June 3rd, I was so excited for the 5th grade picture. I couldn’t wait for it. All the 5th grade, LITERALLY ALL OF THEM, were in the picture. It was so awesome, I could not wait for it. I was in the 3rd row closest to the camera, very close to the flash, so it could get a good angle of me. I couldn’t be forgotten in Sligo Creek Elementary pictures with me in one, especially this one and the graduating class of 2014. [Classmate one] and [classmate two] were close to me, and they were good friends. Lots of people I knew were there, some were close to me and some weren’t. Everyone else seemed to be prepared, as I was thoroughly prepared. That was the best day of my life!”

Read that and tell me that it doesn’t matter if Jack’s photo wasn’t on the superstar board. Read that and tell me that putting my kid’s photo up was “defacing” the bulletin board. Read that and tell me that the principal was doing her best by my kid and those in his class. Read that and tell me that Jack doesn’t understand inclusion.

“I couldn’t be forgotten.”

“All the 5th grade, LITERALLY ALL OF THEM, were in the picture.”

“That was the best day of my life!”

In terms of injustice toward disabled people, this is probably not that big a deal. But to my kid and to the kids in his class, it is a huge deal. Remember that. Even the little things matter.

158 thoughts on “Literally Every 5th Grader

  1. Oh my god. I can’t handle all the feelings this is giving me. I just have to say I love Jack and I love you and I am rather fond of your bulletin board defacing friend.

  2. Oh my heart.
    Thank goodness for your friend. The school administration should be ashamed of themselves and apologize to the kids. All of the kids. Because literally everyone matters.

  3. I’m seething and crying at the same time. Your scandalous vandal friend is aces in my book. I hope both of you take this to the school board. Not so much to protest and be vindicated (though it would be nice, eh?) but to help them understand the damage this does to young people. To help them see that our kids see and understand and FEEL so much more than they give them credit for doing.

    • You SHOULD bring this up to the school board, or next year’s ‘Stars of 2015′ or the next classes your children are in will do the same thing. I would also, anonymously, tip off the local media as to the situation at hand……..maybe even ask a politician or two (since this IS an election year) if they would like to weigh in on the subject at hand.

  4. Yes! it is exactly this attitude of exclusion and forgetfulness that is causing us, after years of trying to convince our district to INCLUDE our child as a part of the community of the school, forgotten as he was in a small self-contained classroom, that we are leaving to enroll him in a small autism school where he will be a valued member of the entire school. It breaks my heart that typical educators still don’t understand the importance of true inclusion.

    • Isn’t that the horrible thing? That we work so hard to make it work, but we can’t so we have to leave. Because we can’t sacrifice our kids to an ideal, right? It’s such a hard place to be. I hope your son finds joy and open arms at his new school.

  5. I adore your friend and I have never met her. To have “forgotten” for over 9 weeks to take 3 photos and then put them on a board is so sad. My heart hurts for each of the times those 3 students walked past that bulletin board before their pictures were up.

  6. Your friend?! Insert slow 80′s teen movie clap. She’s the best ever..

    Our kids in segregated classrooms deserve to be on the bulletin board. Their stars shine no less brightly than anyone else’s. It should not take NINE weeks to correct something as easily remedied as this oversight. An apology is definitely in order.

  7. So happy that Jack and all his classmates are included in the class photo.

    So, is he going to middle school? That’s a big transition. As you know.

    I do wonder whether it was an oversight or something about the bulletin board; however it definitely sounds as if it wasn’t. Argh.

    • Even if it was an oversight at the beginning (which is heartbreaking enough), once my friend brought it to their attention, that should have been fixed ASAP.

  8. Your friend is totally awesome and ever so much kinder and patient than I would have been. I think after a week or two I would have been in a lot of people’s faces (pleasantly at first of course). I’m glad that Jack at least felt included!

  9. My husband is a civil rights attorney who specializes in employment discrimination. The people he represents have suffered terribly–even fatally–for being nonwhite. Or women. Or non-Christian. Or LBGT. Or physically or mentally disabled. In the 15 years I’ve spent observing his caseload, I’ve been astonished at the pointless cruelties, both casual and vicious, that people are capable of exacting on their fellow human beings.

    I’ve often asked him whether his work ever makes him feel despair–whether it makes him stop believing in the fundamental decency of people.

    His response? “No, it isn’t fair that any of my clients have to fight these battles. It isn’t right that they struggle for the same rights that others enjoy without lifting a finger. It isn’t right that they suffer. And it isn’t fair that sometimes they deserve to win, but lose anyway. But if they have to fight, then I will do my best to help them, and every victory–even the partial ones–will add to the good that will change the world for the better.”

    So, I follow his advice. I tell my daughter that it isn’t fair or right that she has to fight, but she should never, ever hesitate to do it. That she should use her voice loudly and often to make sure that her needs are met and her rights respected, and that I will stand behind her every time she speaks up on her own behalf. And when those acts of guerrilla inclusion need to happen, you can be sure that she will be the one pushing the thumbtacks into the bulletin board. She will be adding to the good that changes the world, one photo at a time. And Jack, who wrote that incredible essay about his 5th grade picture? He’s already begun.

    • I’m kind of obsessed with To Kill a Mockingbird at the moment, and can I just say your husband reminds me of Atticus?

    • I hate to say this, but in many parts of the country white people, those that are Christian or are straight are the ones that are discriminated against. Unfortunately no one stands up for us when this happens.

      I have literally been flat out told that I was the wrong race or religion for various things, such as government assistance when I lost my job. That if I wasn’t Christian or was a minority they would have helped me with all other circumstances being the same. Similar for a couple of jobs I applied for.

      Yet, even though I could prove it at the time it was considered to not be a case because I was white and Christian.

      Now I am not looking to do anything now, but I am trying to make a point that discrimination lawyers need to recognize that everyone can be discriminated against and that all discrimination is illegal and wrong.

  10. WoW! VERY WELL SAID. I very much hope that someone who works in that school office sits down over breakfast, opens Stimeyland and starts to read THIS. And that it makes them stop what they are doing and that it makes them cry, like it does for all of us with children who have experienced first hand the sort of exclusion you describe. Big changes happen, as the wonderful last commenter says, in small ways, but those ways matter.
    Jack is a phenomenal young man. I wish our two boys could express themselves as brilliantly as he does. What an essay. I hope this whole post gets to travel round all the teacher’s at the school, so they all understand. Good on you for posting it Jean, and good on your friend for posting the photo of those three fantastic young people. Most certainly they are Superstars of the class of 2014.

  11. I have children at that school and know several of the kids in that program. Every one of them is super nice and wonderful to be around. I can’t imagine the negative impact of exclusion from the superstar list. A parent should not have to do more than mention the oversight.

  12. Thank you for closing the loop on this story, Stimey. Jack’s essay is so touching! I’m really going to miss you guys (and your “friend”) next year!

  13. I love that you have a friend that took matters into her own hands by defacing the school bulletin board because hell yes– Jack deserves to be up there. Shame on Sligo Creek and the fact that his photo wouldn’t have made it up there if it hadn’t been for her. And his essay? Perfection. He’s a great kid and you’re an awesome parent!

  14. Pingback: They Belong | Between Hope and a Hard Place

  15. Going rogue on the bulletin board! I love it. Hate that it had to happen, but love that your friend never backed down.

  16. The school secretary needs to look up the definition of the word “deface,” which means to spoil the surface of something by writing or drawing on it; to disfigure or mar; to vandalize.
    Secretary sounds like she was talking out of her butt, as officious flunkies who revel in their little bit of authority without knowing jack shit frequently like to do.
    Your friend might have been accused of tampering with the bulletin board, which I understand is a class 1 felony, tampering with bulletin boards being a serious threat to the safety and security of our great nation. (Just kidding! It’s only a class 3 felony! No, I’m kidding again, although it might be a misdemeanor of some kind. Who knows these days, when seemingly everything is against the law.)
    Anyway, the school sucked in not including those kids from the start.

  17. The little things ARE the big things. Thank goodness for your friend’s persistence. And Jack’s essay is fantastic!!

  18. Isn’t this the most basic and easy thing an administrator could do to foster inclusion at his/her school?? Putting EVERYONE in a group photo or on a bulletin board?! It isn’t even an inclusion thing.. it’s a no brainer thing. You have a bulletin for 5th graders? Well it stands to reason all 5th graders should go on it. Jeez Louise, people, this is NOT that difficult!

  19. I was with you until this … “In terms of injustice toward disabled people, this is probably not that big a deal.” I totally disagree. This is a big deal, imo. Injustice is rooted in the attitudes of individual people. Every attitude contributes to its success. No matter the size of the offense – every offense that hurts one, hurts all. All. What a great word. My favorite phrase in Jack’s essay is “all of them” … with no “but”! Thanks – great blog post – and thanks to your friend for sticking up for all.

  20. This breaks my heart. I mean, I’m elated that the right thing happened, but the right thing should always happen in elementary school, or else our job to teach children has failed.

    I wonder if the PTA knew. If that was my school, as a PTA president, that would have stood for exactly 1 hour before I kicked someone’s ass and fixed it. I hope that your schools PTA is the same.

    His letter is beautiful. I hope everyone who’s never had the privilege of knowing a child like yours reads it, and learns something about the hearts of children – - and how delicate and precious they are.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • I wonder that too. I have to guess that they probably didn’t, as most of the parents I’ve met at the school are wonderful.

  21. So, this story upset me. So I googled the school name and called the office. I identified myself and gave my phone number. I asked about this bulletin board and I very carefully expressed that the author of this account clearly loves the school and the teachers and the work that is being done, but that there is a concern about three children being excluded from a public bulletin board for 2 months. I said that I obviously don’t know anyone in the story, but that this parent and child’s experience concerns me and I think at least a listening conversation should take place about what occurred. Thanks for sharing the story.

      • I received a call back from the principal and had a long conversation with her. I like her. I think she told me the truth.
        I do not know the full story of what happened here, but I hope that the you and the other parent will ask to have a meeting with the principal, which it doesn’t seem clear ever happened. It seems that until a friend and I called from Texas, no one at the school knew that anyone was upset, –that the parents had even been in the school the day before and not mentioned this. I hope you will all talk and listen to each other.

        • I’m glad she called you back. We were at the school for our kids’ 5th grade graduation. It was certainly not the time to bring up an incident that had ended in March. She should have known in March that my friend was upset, based on the messages the secretary said she was passing along. I wrote the post when I did because of the essay my son had written that came home last week. I’m not in the habit of alerting the school every time I write a post.

          • To those of you who want to silence Stimey–you don’t understand that the current Civil Rights battles are in the disability trenches.
            And our children cannot speak for themselves…they knew their pictures were not on the board, but they don’t have the skills (yet) to know who to tell, or how to tell what they are feeling. The essay was her son’s way of telling how he felt for being left out. I will leave you with quotes from the greatest Civil Rights leader of our country.
            And I applaud Stimey–stay strong and don’t let the passive ‘don’t make waves’ crowd get you down. We need more parents speaking out and not accepting second, third or fourth best.

            Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
            Martin Luther King, Jr

            Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
            Martin Luther King, Jr

            He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.
            Martin Luther King, Jr

            The Negro’s great stumbling block in the drive toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice.
            Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jai

            • Hi Sandra,
              I do not know if you are including me by saying “those of you who want to silence Stimey”. I hope not, as I do not want to silence anyone.

              I did want to hear from the people in the story before I shared the story.

              I did want to hear from Stimey’s friend, who I have now read a post from her, based on what I can gather.

              My thoughts on this post have changed as I have gone along. I called the principal and spoke to her even though I don’t have anything to do with this other than being a fellow human being who cares deeply about all people.

              I would love to call the blogger and the parent and speak to them directly, but they are not public figures and I don’t have a phone number to call. Besides, I am just a random person on the internet.

              It is my hope that whatever happens here, there will be truth, reconciliation, and progress, and apologies where needed and forgiveness.

              I am very sad that people, especially children, have been hurt.

              But I still do believe in kindness.
              Susan

          • Thank you, Stimey.
            I understand what you are saying.
            I have read your friend’s post about what happened with the bus transportation in 2nd grade and I can understand how that would have changed the way she might proceed.
            I am sorry all of this happened and is happening.
            I hope this post you made will be a means for things to get better.

  22. You are correct, the small things do matter. Especially to young kids. I am intrigued by the ignorance and lack of compassion by the school administration. I live in Georgia, hardly a state applauded for its accommodations for people with disabilities, but that scenario is crazy!

    Every child longs to belong. Adding the photo of the kids was amazing! I hate that it was necessary to do so but that also shows the problems/issues affecting our kids within the system that is supposed to help develop them into all they can be.
    Wounding these kids self-esteem, and apparently deliberately so, is a whole ‘nother kind of ugly.

  23. I actually contacted the school to ask the principal why these children are being marginalized and why the parent attempting to correct the situation was treated in such a hostile manner. I expect a call back sometime today. I will follow up if I don’t receive a return phone call, & I will document the phone call in an email to the principal copying the superintendent of the district.

  24. This makes me weepy for several reasons that I’m not going to articulate because I’m sure I’m not the only one. But, Jack’s essay! You should share that and your comments after it with the Principal of the school.

  25. Seething with feelings, wishing that every damn day wasn’t a fight for our kids’ right to belong. Love your friend for doing something about it, love posters who placed phone calls to the school. Love you and Jack.

  26. Admittedly, it is sometimes hard to include our kids in a mainstream class. They often must come with aides and have trouble for time to time. But, is is EASY to put three pictures on a bulletin board. EASY!!! Funny that the easy stuff gets lost. We too have felt a sense that somehow we are not fully considered part of SCES even though we live around the corner. Little stuff, here and there, that hurts. And it hurts because you know that for every time you notice something, there are ten others incidents that only your kid knows about. And if your son is like mine, he takes in far more than we often realize.

    Thanks for sharing. You’ve inspired us to get organized so this stuff doesn’t happen next year.

    Rob

    • Yes, that is exactly it: We only see a few things. Our kids see and experience so much more. My kiddo doesn’t tell me much of what happens during his day, so I know I don’t hear about everything. But he sees everything. He’s always paying attention. I also felt little things for the two years Jack has been at the school that made me feel like we weren’t really a part of the school community, but I do take comfort in the fact that the program itself has been really wonderful for my kid. I hope at the very least that this is the case for yours as well.

  27. I think you nailed it that sometimes these people hurtfully forget that special needs kids have feelings and complex inner lives (just like the rest of us….duh!) Jack articulated it beautifully, but even if he couldn’t speak, STILL it would have mattered to him, to his friends, to the other kids in that 5th grade class (what are we teaching them?)

  28. You should setup a meeting with the principle and have him read that essay. And politely explain to him that it had matted to your son that he’d had not originally been included in the bulletin board. And suggest that they do better to continue to include their ASD students whom they obviously work very hard to teach, they should be proud of them too.

    • The program is a county run program, not a school run program. Hard to explain, but this is an issue that contributes to the lack of an inclusive culture. The principal houses the kids and they attend her mainstream classes, but the teachers work for the centralized program. Any supports beyond those controlled directly by the program must be negotiated with the school.

  29. Hey! I’m at work and a friend just shared this with me, so word is getting out. I didn’t get sad reading this, I just got mad (well, other than reading Jack’s letter, which is pure awesome). The school’s lack of response and insensitivity is shocking. I mean, it would have been awful for any kids to get left out of the photo collage but for kids who need as many social props as possible, it’s like a CRIME. More power to your friend! I would have done the same. And then I would have stuck a photo of the kids ON THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE DOOR. xo

  30. This exact same thing happened to my son over and over all thru elementary school. Not included in the class photo, because he mainstreamed only part time, not under the class teacher in the yearbook and included with his classmates, never ever pictured in a casual picture of his year group even tho he attended every event, joined several clubs and even tried choir. Once, he didn’t even get a photo taken. I am glad that you pushed the issue, it is important that people know our kids are there!

  31. My son was excluded from his first grade class photo. It hurt him so much, there was never an opportunity for a retake. It matters. It hurts. Kids know, they are not oblivious.

    I am so sorry this happened, please if you are discussing this with Jack in the future, let him know that sadly he is by no means alone.

  32. When I hear these stories of kiddo’s with disabilities being treated as any less than their typical developing peers, it makes me cringe. I am a special educator working at a special Ed charter school in DC and have been working with kids with disabilities, especially autism, for over 20 years. It breaks my heart to hear of any child being treated as less than others. ALL kids love to see their picture up on the wall, the bulletin board, hear their name over the loudspeaker, be recognized in the school newsletter…ALL kids deserve this recognition. I’m sorry Jack went through that- I am sorry YOU went through that because I am sure all your feels were magnified because he’s your kiddo.
    I would deface any bulletin board to put that smiling face up…
    Just tell me when… I’ll be there!

  33. I am really sorry this happened. The initial oversight doesn’t surprise me but the lack of response really does. I also plan to contact the principal, vice principal and PTA chair. As you know, I feel very strongly that this kind of things matters not only for the kids in the autism program but for the kids in the regular mainstream program too. The school is shaping THEIR attitudes towards individual difference and to disabilities, their beliefs about who “counts”, who is a superstar and deserves recognition. The school has a huge opportunity to educate ALL of the kids about these things and they are missing it.

    • also, I relayed this story to my 10 year old, who used to attend this school in the regular academy program, and I only got through “they posted pictures of all of the 5th graders except the three kids in the autism program” and he was outraged and gasping. Why so hard for the school administration to understand?

      • I wonder if this issue was ever REALLY communicated to anyone? This seems like a very simple fix and this must have been a misunderstanding. As politically correct are things now a days, I doubt that anyone would ever intentionally do anything to make someone else upset. I have to view this with some skepticism at best. Hopefully others can do the same before jumping to conclusions

        • It makes sense how you can not believe that this ACTUALLY happened- that it must’ve been a miscommunication or misunderstanding. That the people involved must be over exaggerating the story because how CRAZY, right? How crazy that the kids with autism would be excluded!
          But it happens. Unfortunately, it happens. I would like to say that it must be CRAZY that a teacher gave her autistic student a “most gullible” award in a school award ceremony. But that happened.
          I am glad, actually, that you are in disbelief a child with a disability was excluded from a school activity because it should be seen in that way.

  34. A friend posted this on FB. My heart hurts so bad for you and your friends kids. I so hope the school changes its attitude towards this.

  35. Often times posting something aggressive and ridiculous gets a lot of attention on the internet. Come on people! You can’t believe everything you read on here. The more outrageous the post, the more people that share it and the more people that read this crap. This is merely one point of view that hoping to get attention. Whatever to addressing someone you have an issue with in a straight forward manner? When I was growing up you had people that would get in fist fights to settle things and it was done. Now people want to settle situations with guns. Makes no sense to me.

    • Mike W: the author of this blog is a personal friend and a professionally educated journalist. If she says it happened, it happened. And as a special needs lawyer who has represented another family at that school, I have no doubt that the situation unfolded as Stimey says it did. Unfortunately things like this happen in our local public school system all too often.

      • Lyda

        I wonder if you being a personal friend of the author prevents you from seeing an objective point of view. By the author’s own admission, all of this story is through a third party and not her direct experience. Isn’t it possible that all of this is complete fiction? Again posting something of the Internet doesn’t make any of it true. As an attorney I would think you would look at the facts and not just support your friend because its your friend. Have an open mind and you might be surprised as to what you find but it sounds like you are ready to be judge and jury too. Look at something the other comments supporting the principal to balance your viewpoint.

        Also it looks like the author accomplished her goal of people reading this based on the comments. I wonder if anyone will ever read this again?

    • Hi Mike. I understand skepticism on the internet. I do. You should know that my friend is a trusted source. She had attempted to address the issue with the people in charge in a straight forward manner. It didn’t help. My point in writing this post is not to vilify anyone, but to point out how important it is to make every student know that they are truly included.

    • Who said ANYTHING about guns? This is a story about the importance of advocacy and tenacity to ensure that all of our children are included at school, regardless of whatever challenges they face.

      Even if it were a fictional anecdote, which I don’t believe it to be, it highlights how subtle disability discrimination can be, and how so many parents face uphill battles with the authority figures at their children’s schools when it comes to ensuring their kids get the same quality of appropriate education as their peers.

      If you haven’t already read it, I suggest checking out the text of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

      • Hi Christina,
        I think when Mike wrote, “Whatever to addressing someone you have an issue with in a straight forward manner? When I was growing up you had people that would get in fist fights to settle things and it was done. Now people want to settle situations with guns. Makes no sense to me.”
        He was not saying that guns were talked about in the post. He was just illustrating how stories can get escalated. I think he was saying that an alternative would have been to go directly to the people involved. I think he was saying that some parts of the reported events raised questions and that we who weren’t there and do not know all the facts might be wise to be cautious in our approach.

    • Not seeing the aggression, ridiculousness, and ‘crap’ that you see.
      Please explain your perspective.
      And, you’re seeing some references to fist fights or guns? That seems like a bit of a reach.

  36. As a mother of a special needs kid…BRAVO fellow warrior mother!!! LOVE to you! People without special needs kids have NOOOOO clue!!

  37. I am struck that no one spoke with the administrator about the missing pictures. When the administrator was told the pictures were missing she took pictures of each of the children and posted them. The principal of the school has a 36 year old daughter who has had cerebral palsy since birth. Since birth. Her daughter can not feed herself, she cannot walk, she can not transfer herself from her wheelchair to her bed, she cannot bathe herself, she cannot toilet herself. To suggest that the principal is not deeply concerned with children with disabilities is simply wrong. The oversight is hurtful, but again, when the principal knew, she did something about it. Had either parent said anything directly to the principal at any time, the pictures would have been taken and posted. This is not a principal who does not care about children with disabilities.

    • You are probably 100% correct that this is not a principal that doesn’t care about kids with disabilities. But as the principal it IS her job to be aware. It should have been noticed by those most familiar with the school and corrected. It was an oversight that shouldn’t have been. As the Principal, she is responsible- bottom line. I am an Assistant Principal and I would be responsible- and have taken responsibility- when a parent raises a concern about their child at school. Because it is my job. Doesn’t mean I don’t care about whatever the concern is, but in most cases things could have been done to prevent the concern from occuring in the first place. No judging her personally- but it is her job.

    • My friend was told that the messages were being passed to the principal. I don’t know anything about the principal or her private life. I do know that it took a month and a half before she took the photos and then another two or three weeks before she posted them.

      • Why didn’t your friend speak with the principal? Surely after the first inquiry with the secretary, and no result she might have though the principal or person in charge of the photos would need to be told directly that some pictures were missing. Why assume that the principal knew all along and just didn’t care?

        • Her friend went through the appropriate chain of command. She had no reason to believe the messages weren’t getting passed along. This is also not the point. The point is the kids were excluded in the first place.

  38. This is horrible. Our kids are not school age yet, but will probably go to Sligo. I’ve shared this with a local school board candidate and a local delegate. Hopefully the school district can learn from this incident and there can be some needed culture change. Thanks for sharing this story.

      • I have to agree with Otto here. It sounds like a journalist came to a judgment without knowing all the facts and is sensationalizing this issue. She never talked to the principal and makes a lot of assumptions. Clearly someone that has a disabled daughter understands inclusiveness and someone writing this article has an agenda to push.

        • My agenda is just to put out into the world the message that all people matter. The way we treat them matters. The point I want you to get from this post and to carry with you is that we should strive for inclusion of all people. That is all. I have no interest in vilifying this principal. I just want her and any other people who read this post to understand how much these seemingly little things matter.

          • Jean,
            At risk of annoying someone… I felt your blog post was rather neutral and informative, and not intended to provoke the apparent [extreme] ire of some of the commenters on this thread.
            Anyway, that’s my impression.

  39. This is absolutely heart wrenching, and I could not agree more. Shame, shame on that principal and everyone else involved. Especially intrigued by this story since I am at the start of my own dealings with special education in MCPS (we must live close).

    • Good luck. I have had some wonderful experiences and some really hard experiences—sometimes with the same people. I hope that your journey goes well.

  40. As a mother with a child in this school, I am shocked by this article. I know our school to be a wonderful place where students are inspired to ‘have a great day on purpose!’ It saddens me to discover that your first thoughts aren’t about the great location of the HFA classrooms, strategically located in the heart of the school, closest to the gym, the library and the computer lab, while still quiet. I am in the school multiple times a week volunteering and often pass the HFA classrooms and this bulletin board. I have a typically developing child farther down the hall who is no less ‘special’ and when I felt I needed more from the school I reached out. I reached out to teachers and felt they were immediately responsive. I have reached out to the the school counselor and she responded the next day. I have spoken to the nurse, the recess monitors, the PE teacher…honestly I can’t think of someone who hasn’t gotten and email or a quick chat from me regarding my special little person. Our first week of school 2013-2014, I was having issues picking up my four children in four different schools and the principal arranged a bus stop that I had been unable to arrange on my own. I am sorry that you feel that this public criticism and bullying of our principal is the best way to communicate. It seems that someone who really wanted resolution, and certainly someone who has the expressive language to have a blog, would have been able to advocate and resolve this issue in a more effective way. I wonder why anyone would reach out so many times in a way that was ineffective the first two times. I wonder why you wouldn’t have just called or emailed the principal directly and said ‘I noticed that my child and some of his classmates are missing from your bulletin board. Would you like a photo?’ Or if that was too intimidating you could have emailed the PTA president or vice president. Email addresses are on the school PTA website. The school also has a ‘special needs’ chairperson who, it seems, would have been a perfect contact. It’s interesting, with all my time at the school I don’t recognize your face. As a very busy mother of four, one of whom is also not typically developing, I find it far more upsetting that you have the time to write one way, nasty notes on the internet but not the time to resolve the issue productively or volunteer in the school. At the last school wide fundraiser there wasn’t a parent in the HFA classroom who volunteered to bring the class down, as there was for nearly every other class in the school. I don’t remember you from the PTA meetings or the T-shirt distribution. If you are feeling excluded from the school community then join in. If you have an issue with the principal than take the time…maybe the time it took you to write this blog and respond to all the comments, and talk to her. I think you’d discover that she isn’t the wicked witch. You would discover a fellow mother of a special needs child who just made a mistake. Have you ever made a mistake?

    • You need to realize that your experience with a neurotypical child at that school may not be the same experience a parent of a child with special needs will have had at that school. As a personal friend of Jean I can assure you that NO ONE is a better advocate for their children than she is. She’s incredibly involved with her children and extremely in tune with what they need and what they are doing. When you write about how you’ve had no problem getting any problrm solved you discount her sharing the very real rejection her child experienced. It’s a great thing your child has never had to experience that but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real problem that needed to be addressed.

      • The problem is your friend isn’t relating first hand knowledge but relying on the story from a third person without ever having contacted the school herself. She never called the school or tried to talk to anyone. She should have at least verified things before leveling such a serious accusation on the internet.

    • Another mom,

      You say, ” It saddens me to discover that your first thoughts aren’t about the great location of the HFA classrooms, strategically located in the heart of the school, closest to the gym, the library and the computer lab, while still quiet.”

      I would venture to say that those were exactly Stimey’s first thoughts about the school, until the school, in the most visible way possible, made her son and his classmates invisible.

      Even though she was hurt, she wrote about how great the program has been .. “I really like Jack’s program. He has done really well there. He has gone from being miserable about school and himself to being happy and full of self esteem. He has a safe place to be when school gets too overwhelming, but he spends much of his day in inclusion classes. His teachers are wonderful. His paras have been good to him. His IEP team is delightful. The other kids in his class are phenomenal. I’m very happy that he is in this program. He is very happy that he is in this program.”

      You ask if she’s ever made a mistake. I’ll answer for her – she’s made mistakes. (I never speak for others, but I feel like I can say that because I’m her friend and because I know that she not only makes mistakes but actually writes whole posts about them that are hilariously self-depricating. You should read them; they’re hilarious.) So yes, she gets that people make mistakes; we all do. But this is the kind of mistake that, when brought to the attention of the school, should have been met with an urgent response of “Oh my God, this sends an awful message to these kids and I can only imagine how this oversight makes them feel every single day as they pass a board which screams to them that they are not seen, are not valid, are not PART OF THEIR COMMUNITY so someone get down to that classroom with a camera and have this fixed by the end of the day!”

      NOT repeated requests, threats and nine weeks of inaction later.

      I guarantee that Stimey’s first thoughts about the program were positive – until the school did nothing to right a wrong that may have started as an innocent (if optically appaling) oversight but which, over the course of over two months became a glaring symbol of exclusion.

      As for judging how Stimey uses her time, well, perhaps we could do a little exercise in perspective taking. With three kids with a variety of different needs in three different schools that are geographically all over the map, it’s not as easy as “Just show up and you’ll be part of the community.” But moreover, a parent’s participation in the PTA or anything else in the school should never, EVER be a prerequisite for a child being represented as part of the student body of the school he attends. If that were the case, we’d have to agree that parents of single working moms or deployed dads or two working parents or any number of other real-life families simply couldn’t expect to be on their school posters. Clearly that’s an absurd rationale.

      Not as her friend but as an advocate for societal inclusion, I beg you to try to allow yourself to hear WHY Stimey wrote this. And to really think about it – not from her perspective, but from Jack’s. And please, think about how your comment serves not you, not the principal, not Stimey, but the kids. Think about yourself in fifth grade, already segregated in so many ways from the school community. How would you FEEL?

    • Whether or not you recognize me has no bearing on what is right. All children should have been included on that board. Yours, mine, everyone’s. Regardless of whether I ever set foot in that school or not, my child should be included.

      My purpose in writing this post isn’t to make people think the principal is a “wicked witch.” It is to make a point about how much it matters to include all children in school-wide things.

  41. Things these children WERE included in this school year:

    All 5th field trips
    The Green Squad
    The Geo Bowl
    The Salamander Stride
    Field Day
    Chorus concerts
    Green squad field trip
    Orf ensemble
    After school clubs
    Mainstream class parties
    5th grade promotions ceremony
    5th grade end of year party
    5th grade picture

    The comment above this speaks to the real issue here. Picking one small unintentional perceived slight that was quickly rectified and vilifying people over the internet while taking zero responsibility for being involved at school is not only unfair but unkind as well. This is a horrible lesson to teach any child!

    • 9 weeks is not quickly and the attitude of the above postings gets at the heart of the problem – special needs children shouldn’t have to feel grateful to be included or accommodated. It didn’t happen and it should have happened. It may be a great school in many other ways, but the ball was dropped here in a visible and hurtful way and an apology should be made.

    • Here is a list of the things that ‘these children’ should have been included in this year:

      EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED AS PART OF THE LIFE OF THE SCHOOL.

      They are students in the school. Posting a list of things in which they participated in that school as though that somehow makes up for them being excluded from a poster of the student body is as absurd as it is insulting.

      As for “one small unintentional perceived slight,” setting aside the fact that your choice to trivialize how important being included is to these kids, I’d ask that you read what i wrote to “another mom” above ..

      Yes, mistakes happen. Regularly.

      But this is the kind of mistake that, when brought to the attention of the school, should have been met with an urgent response of “Oh my God, this sends an awful message to these kids and I can only imagine how this oversight makes them feel every single day as they pass a board which screams to them that they are not seen, are not valid, are not PART OF THEIR COMMUNITY so someone get down to that classroom with a camera and have this fixed by the end of the day!”

      NOT repeated requests, threats and nine weeks of inaction later.

      I guarantee that Stimey’s first thoughts about the program were positive – until the school did nothing to right a wrong that may have started as an innocent (if optically appaling) oversight but which, over the course of over two months became a glaring symbol of exclusion.

      As for “taking zero responsibility for being involved at school”, well, I once again direct you to my comment above ..

      With three kids with a variety of different needs in three different schools that are geographically all over the map, it’s not as easy as “Just show up and you’ll be part of the community.” But moreover, a parent’s participation in the PTA or anything else in the school should never, EVER be a prerequisite for a child being represented as part of the student body of the school he attends. If that were the case, we’d have to agree that parents of single working moms or deployed dads or two working parents or any number of other real-life families simply couldn’t expect to be on their school posters. Clearly that’s an absurd rationale.

      This may seem trivial to you. It’s not to a fifth grader who looks for himself every day in his own student body and sees that he doesn’t exist. It matters. A lot. If it were your kid, I’m guessing you wouldn’t be making a list of things he was included in to mollify that hurt.

      • My 4 year old is a typically developing preschooler. Last year, each student in the class were able to have a poster of their favorite things in the front lobby. My girl was WAY excited when her “assigned” week arrived. I, however, ran a bit late and left the poster at home, but brought it in the next day. However, another student poster was up instead of hers. I asked admin why and they said, “well your daughter brought hers late”. Ok- 1) she was 3 at the time and clearly it was ME that was late. 2) if it was her ASSIGNED week, why would someone else get her spot?
        They FINALLY put it up 3 days later- 3 days of my girl walking by every day asking, “why is my poster not up yet, mommy?” And the kicker? the 3rd day she said, “I don’t think they like me” well within earshot of the front desk receptionist. I look at the receptionist and said, “think that poster can go up now?” and that afternoon there it was.
        Kids know when they are left out, intentionally or not. It shouldn’t have taken an extra 3 days for my girls poster to go up- it shouldn’t have taken an extra 8 weeks for Jack’s and his 2 other classmates photo to go up.
        Don’t demean them further by listing everything they were, seemingly to the people writing the list, privileged to be a part of. There is not a single activity or event they SHOULD NOT be a part of. Making a list implies that there are.

      • The were not only included in EVERYTHING but also included in some activities that not all 5th graders were able to participate in. The staff has always been vigilant that the HFA students have as full a school experience as every other child.

  42. I know for a fact those 3 children’s pictures have been on the bulletin board long before March. An apology is owed to all of the people at that school who work so diligently every day to include not only these 3 children but all children in every activity. Maybe if the parents were more involved they would have seen this for themselves.

    • again with the idea that parent involvement is somehow relevant in their child’s inclusion in the fabric of his or her own school. Please see my comment above ..

      With three kids with a variety of different needs in three different schools that are geographically all over the map, it’s not as easy as “Just show up and you’ll be part of the community.” But moreover, a parent’s participation in the PTA or anything else in the school should never, EVER be a prerequisite for a child being represented as part of the student body of the school he attends. If that were the case, we’d have to agree that parents of single working moms or deployed dads or two working parents or any number of other real-life families simply couldn’t expect to be on their school posters. Clearly that’s an absurd rationale.

      • That was not my point at all. Every post on here has twisted the truth to fit their viewpoint and refused to read the real story. These children were not left out of anything intentionally. The situation was corrected quickly (not weeks or months later) and the parent who wrote this is not the one who was contacting the school she is only relaying info she was told which is hearsay. Its sad that she would post such vile accusations on the internet without verifying them first.

        • Either it’s not that big of a deal that they were left off the poster (for what you think was a short time) or saying someone left them off the poster is a vile accusation to make about someone. You can’t have it both ways. Either it wasn’t a big deal and the actual event and discussing it not a big issue or it is.

  43. I can’t believe how this went on for so long. The administration should be ashamed of themselves. It is things like this that lead to those awful school shootings. I’m not saying that your children will resort to violence but when they are even being put down by the administration it sends a message to the whole student body that they don’t matter. They then may get bullied and feelings of anger can start to build up. The entire system is failing these kids. Don’t get me started on the whole “picking teams” thing. There should be a law against it.

  44. This may be the most cynical thing I have ever said on the Internet, but I was born in Silver Spring, so humor me: rest assured that this county does not discriminate in fundamental ways, and would demand tax dollars from these three children regardless of their Asperger’s diagnosis. So. Get their freaking picture up RIGHT NOW.

    I’m glad it finally happened, disgusted by this story. The good and most important news, however, is that Jack will be awesome, regardless, wherever he goes forever. Sad that all human beings cannot be so.

  45. That principal needs to be fired. The school board and superintendent need to know. It is simply not acceptable. Ever.

    • Really Diane?! Just because you read something on someone’s personal blog doesn’t make it true. Of course inclusion is important, but one thing is clear in this account of what happened, the ‘friend’ never went straight to the principal. Please think before you post something outrageous.

    • “I really like Jack’s program. He has done really well there. He has gone from being miserable about school and himself to being happy and full of self esteem. He has a safe place to be when school gets too overwhelming, but he spends much of his day in inclusion classes. His teachers are wonderful. His paras have been good to him. His IEP team is delightful. The other kids in his class are phenomenal. I’m very happy that he is in this program. He is very happy that he is in this program.”

      If your son is succeeding in this school’s setting and is having a positive experience, why are you attempting to completely overthrow the structure which he is thriving in? There appears to have been MISCOMMUNICATION because you (sorry your friend) did not call or email the principal DIRECTLY. Principals have a lot on their table—if you have an issue, you reach out to them directly so they hear the issue from your mouth (or written via email) and then can subsequently address it.

      To be quite frank, the whole story seems to be sensationalized. I highly doubt the accuracy of there being nine weeks before action was taken. Then again, if somebody is trying to stir up controversy for more attention for themselves, then anything goes in the current message board/blog culture we live in. It is a shame because your son is having a good experience and the school has helped create an environment in which your son is happy. The fact that you can overlook this and encourage people to call for the firing of those people who are helping your son says a lot about YOU, not the school.

      But hey, at least you got some web hits and comments.

      • First, I’m not calling for anyone to be fired.

        Second, I blog. I’m a blogger. It’s what I do. I wrote this to tell my son’s story and to get out the message that including all kids matters and that even the small things make a difference.

        Third, just because something is good doesn’t mean that that you can’t try to improve it and to fix injustices.

        • If you look above, when somebody insinuated that the principal should be fired, you did not say “I do not think anybody should be fired”… you actually just responded to the fact that the secretary said the messages were sent to the principal.

          “Injustice” or “Miscommunication”? Hyperbole much? Having worked in a school system and having seen parents approach/email/call principals I think your friend could have addressed the issue head-on with the principal like anybody who was truly worried about their child’s happiness in this scenario. That would have been the more responsible approach and would have led to a more prompt resolution, benefitting all parties, and most importantly, your friend’s son.

          • I haven’t responded to everything in the comments, not do I endorse everything in the comments. For example, your comments. But I’m giving people space to speak their minds.

            My friend was specifically told that the principal was getting these messages. She was following the chain of command. And, trust me, she has tackled issues head-on with the principal before. She is tireless in putting her child’s needs before her comfort.

      • Sharise – do you have a disabled child ? Probably not based on your comments. The here point is that the kids were left off the board – it seemed no biggie to anyone else but all these little things add up to constantly needing to advocate, fight and battle for our kids rights. Probably the friend thought that it would be an easy fix and given how busy Principles are that she wouldn’t bother them with this matter. That she did not address the issue to the head of the food chain – DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT IS OK THAT THOSE KIDS GOT LEFT OFF ! That you think that this was written to sensationalise makes me shake my head.

  46. I was absolutely sickened but your story and heartbroken for Jack. My son is dyslexic, and while we’ve never faced this kind of overt discrimination, I have found that people can be cruel in innumerable other, subtle ways. I am so sorry for you and Jack and so proud of both you and the mother who marched into the office all those times demanding a change be made. Good for both of you that you bucked the system and stood up for your kids. I’ve shared your post on my Facebook. I have more than one vocal friend who is equally as enraged by the unfairness of all of this. We are doing our little part in Peoria, IL to help your post go viral. :)

  47. I’m mostly curious about this whole thing. But first let me say KUDOS to the smile faces you put on the photos…Thank you for protecting the privacy of children (most adults don’t even think about privacy and online postings of photos…but that’s a whole other can of worms). And please, I mean no disrespect to anyone, just asking questions…..Just looking back at the responses back and forth to Lydia and Otto:Mike W: the author of this blog is a personal friend and a professionally educated journalist. If she says it happened, it happened. …….So, the question is if Mike W, is such a professionally educated journalist, then why on earth would she not approach the principal? Wouldn’t an educated journalist know that if the door is shut the first time, to approach the person with the most power, and to do so ‘in writing’?? Any why wasn’t the teacher of the students (with the missing photo) approached? One does have to question, not the validity of the story, but the validity of all of the events presented as facts, as well as what hasn’t been said……..And how do we take all of the information and still come up with misinformation? We have Mike’s friend, who gave us the info……but we haven’t heard from the original source or his blog where the story has been posted…..we have the person who writes about the principal’s personal family, and we have the person who ‘testifies with his/her words that the photos were indeed displayed’…..

    .So…where is the truth in this story? Perhaps it isn’t about whether or not we have to make a choice which side to take……maybe it is more about …while it didn’t happen exactly as I have explained, it does happen everyday to kids in schools …all across our great nation. Perhaps this is a subtle way of helping to open everyone’s eyes.

    • THIS is a well thought out, coherent and honest questioning of what happened, and I do agree that I’d like to hear the answers to a few of these questions. It would seem, however, that if the mom did push weekly at the very least, maybe daily, for the addition of the photos that the secretary would eventually take it to the principal if for not other reason than to get this woman off her back. Why would they ignore her multiple requests and not just do it (for the love of Pete, I can imagine them saying!) just to get her to go away? That, to me, makes it feel like a purposeful exclusion but why?

    • I think the point should be WHY WERE THEY NOT INCLUDED IN THE FIRST PLACE – not how many weeks or days were they left off – or why the complainer did not take it to the Principle – the point is being missed – THOSE KIDS ARE IN 5TH GRADE AND YET THEY WERE NOT INCLUDED ON THE BOARD – WHY DID THE BOARD GO UP WITHOUT THEM ?

    • And be sure you share before you talk with any of the other people involved so you can share one side of the story. There would be no point in finding out all of the facts before you share.

      • Okay, I’m asking. What are the other facts, “Otto?” Clue us in on how leaving children’s photos off a bulletin board – all three of which just HAPPEN to be in a special need’s class – for NINE WEEKS after numerous requests to add them (and no reply or explanation from the school as to why they were left off in the first place, even an unacceptable answer) – is “missing” some vital piece of the puzzle? I’m waiting? What is it? You seem to have some info we don’t, so fill us in?

        • I don’t have all of the facts which is precisely why posting and sharing with other people serves no purpose because the only people who need to be working this through are the principal and the author of this blog.

  48. As a mom of a special needs child with multiple diagnoses, I relate. It doesn’t matter to me if this post is “sensationalized”. It matters that I hear the heart of her writing and I identify with the author because of the battles I also face on behalf of my beautiful child who is not a typical student.

    That said, yes I believe it. (I have nothing to lose in belief and nothing to gain in disbelief.) My heart hurts for these children. Feel free to tell Jack I loved his letter.

  49. It is really hard to read these comments, particularly those accusing parents of not being involved enough. If we are collectively not involved as HFA parents, maybe there is an issue with feeling welcome. Maybe we don’t like the fact that our kids are segregated on the first floor. My son would LOVE to be on the same floor of those in his grade. But, he isn’t. I have my own very personal examples of how the school has not considered the needs of HFA kids or unintentionally excluded us. Most of these I’ve worked through without any problems. But, I’ve never been asked by the Principal for this feedback. I’m not really interested in debating this here, but the lack of a culture of inclusion is a real issue and I just don’t think parents of typical kids know. They are probably angry at the accusation directed to leadership that they like, but really, you can;t put yourself in our shoes. You just can’t. Just as a quick example, field day is an unstructured, crazy event that does not work for kids like mine. He just wandered around and did nothing. At my other kids school, it is structured and kids go from station to station. That would work much better for HFA kids. Inclusion is really hard and I’m sure the principal would like it to work. But she needs to work on this and reach out to parents. And we are scattered and overcommitted and overwhelmed by our kids issues, so we might be slow to respond. But, I promise we really care and want to be constructive.

  50. Great article! Shame on the school staff for excluding anyone from a group bulletin board. They really ought to know better.

    Also, I spotted a grammatical error on your bulletin board. You have “insuring that he saw it every single day” in the third paragraph (just after the first photo), where it should be “ensuring that he saw it every single day”, with an “e”.

  51. This story made me cry tears of anger and frustration. That principal and those administrators should be deeply ashamed of themselves, and their lack of empathy for those kids (and their parents, because we feel every slight and insult to our children so keenly) is unconscionable. My 19-year-old daughter, who just completed her freshman year of college, went through the county’s GTLD program. We struggled for years to make sure she got the educational experience she was entitled to, but some memories are still so painful to recall. The good news is these kids are GREAT–the world is truly a better place with them in it–and their parents are amazing too.

    • Congratulations to your daughter! I agree, the world really is better with these kiddos and adults in it. Thank you so much for this comment.

    • Why would you assume the principal had a lack of empathy for those kids? She and her daughter, with cerebral palsy, had to a advocate so she could be mainstreamed at her neighborhood high school. This was back in the 1990′s. The daughter graduated from the high school and went on to attend the University of Maryland and graduate. To suggest the principal is lacking in empathy for students with special needs is simply untrue.

  52. I’m glad you didn’t give up, but you and your friend didn’t go far enough. Speaking to the secretary isn’t the same as speaking to the principal or their special education teacher, guidance counselor, or staffing specialist. Any one of these people would have greater influence than the petty, small-minded, snooty secretary. I might have gone as far as the School Board. Where I teach, one of the members of the School Board has a child with special needs who has been mainstreamed and I assure you he wouldn’t have stood for this. Of course, neither would any of the teachers in our school. I hope that you don’t let this issue end with your child’s inclusion in a photo of the entire class. Even though he was happy, if you let this go nothing really will have changed the attitudes of the people who were so willing to dismiss his (and other children like him) need to be counted and special.

  53. You’re utterly right that “even the little things matter.” In the end, EVERYTHING is “little things,” and sometimes the littlest things of all matter the VERY most. Good for you and for your friend and shame on that school and everyone in it who knew about this and didn’t do anything about it. (What a bonus that this story blew up on FB and now they WILL be publicly shamed for this!!) Hugs to you and to your delightful son. :)

    • the only people being publicly shamed are the ones posting and spreading these lies without checking and getting the true story

  54. I am a major advocate for eliminating bullying in schools, and one of the biggest problems with anti-bullying is the school’s failure to intervene and help those being bullied. Yet, this reminds me that sometimes it is actually the schools themselves that are the bullies. Shame on this school for such blatant disregard and bullying – yes BULLYING – of these three students, and thank God for moms who stand up to them.

  55. Amen sister!!!
    Please take 2 minutes and complete my Inclusive Education Access Survey. Inclusion is evidence-based–it’s the law and I’m claiming ZERO Tolerance for districts who refuse to practice it. The link to the survey is on my website at http://www.whostheslowlearner.com
    And please spread the word –I want at least 1000 respondents before I go to DC this fall.

  56. This is unacceptable and very upsetting. Is anyone calling the school or forwarding this post to the individuals responsible so that they understand that their shameful actions have not gone unnoticed?

    • Yes. The school is very aware of this. I spoke to the principal today and will write about it this evening. All of the district people are aware of it as well.

      • Not only is the school and the district aware but everyone on facebook and the internet. That is very unfortunate since you wrote this BEFORE speaking to anyone at the school. Rumors, innuendo and second hand information have now tarnished the reputations of the very people who helped create what you said was a good school environment and positive experience for your son. Have you asked yourself why, If all 3 of the children’s pictures were added to the bulletin board, was it necessary to “deface” the board by adding another picture of them? Did you ever ask your friend what her real motives were? Why she wanted YOU to be the one to make this public, why she never spoke to anyone other than the secretary directly. It is really sad how reactionary you and many people commenting on here are when you have no first hand evidence of any of this happening. There are so many ways you could advocate for your children that do not involve what amounts to gossiping on the internet.

        • My son is in a county-run program housed in this elementary school. I love the program. I have had some issues with the inclusion part of the school.

          My friend’s motives were to stand up for her daughter. She says she added that photo before the other three were put up and I believe her.

      • I just learned about this post today, from a friend. My name is Julie Reiley, and I am a parent and a co-chair on the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) for Montgomery County (and a member of the MCCPTA special education committee). SEAC is here to support parents of special needs students. Here is the website page – which also contains the co-chairs names and email addresses – so parents can contact any of us with their concerns. http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/special-education/seac/ For all parents – please make use of SEAC. We meet monthly, and we are here to help with issues related to special education, inclusion, and giving our kids the best experience possible.

  57. It is truly a shame when our kids are left out. My son’s school was having a field day earlier this week and, in his planner, it was noted that he should wear a t-shirt for field day that is his team’s color. The note in the planner did not state what color that was — and, guess what?, my son did not remember. How hard would it have been for the person who wrote the note in his planner to specify the color? Instead, he chose to wear a multi-colored tie-dye shirt, so that, in his words, “I can go with any team!” It mattered more to me than to him. He was happy.

  58. Wow, what a firestorm.

    I have to say I have never seen any of the HFA children treated badly or excluded from activities and I have never seen the office staff be rude as described here. It seems likely that there was a breakdown somewhere in communication or follow through.

    One of the problems MCPS needs to recognize is the negativity that people have and the anger often come from real experiences. I have had cases in the school where I immediately got a response. I have also had cases in the same school where important requests for meetings and conversations are unanswered even after reminders. As a parent then when you have made your request clear, repeatedly, you are left with a choice to continue remind or to just accept that your issue isn’t going to be dealt with. This is the kind of experience that angers people and I know of many people who have experienced similar issues with response and follow through at that school.
    I think it would be helpful for MCPS to have some kind of issue tracker so that there are ways to keep an issue active to be resolved. Whether the school staff like it or not, when there is no action in response to a request then it just seems like nobody cares.

  59. I have met Jean twice, and I don’t have children in the schools her children attend.
    And, I find the apparent rancor in some of the comments to this blog post, to be rather distressing. Honestly don’t understand what is prompting those negative comments; however everyone is entitled to an opinion.
    Other comments seem very supportive.
    OK, that’s all I have to say.

  60. At this point it’s not clear what the principal knows because the secretary was talked to — likely the lowest ranked person at the school in terms of authority to make decisions. A janitor has more authority than a secretary.

    Step 1. Make an appointment with the principal.

    Step 2. Find out exactly what the situation is.

  61. Pingback: Superstars | Stimeyland

  62. When my autistic daughter was in second grade at Sligo Creek, she climbed off her special education bus one afternoon, walked past me without saying a word, and silently curled up in a fetal position on the sidewalk.

    As she cowered there, the bus aide (a manager acting as a substitute for the day) climbed off the bus and began yelling at me, telling me that my daughter was “rude” because she spent the entire bus ride “singing bad songs too loudly” with her friend, and that I was a terrible mother who needed to fix my parenting and set her straight. Then she stormed back onto the bus and drove off. My normally chatty, happy girl was completely nonverbal for the rest of the day. It took a long time before I could coax her out of her fetal ball and off the sidewalk. To this day I have no idea exactly what happened on the bus; my daughter still won’t tell me.

    I called the transportation depot that afternoon and asked to speak to the manager, which MCPS regulations say is exactly what a parent is supposed to do when one has an issue with bus services. I wasn’t enraged. I stayed level and calm, which is exactly what special needs parents learn *very quickly* is necessary to make any headway with the school system, no matter how angry or terrified you are.

    The next day, the principal contacted me and asked me to come to school to “discuss” the incident. I arrived to a room stacked with 10 or so Transportation personnel, including the manager, acting bus aide, and the principal. Most of these people didn’t speak–that wasn’t why they were there. Packing the room with people is a strategy many special needs parents are familiar with; it’s meant to intimidate and silence. Organizations do it when they are afraid they are going to be sued.

    What followed was one of the most traumatic days of my parenting life–and I have held my infant daughter in my hands, covered with IV lines and tubes, wondering whether she would survive the night. The principal told me that I broke the rules when I contacted Transportation directly. (Completely untrue, and she knew it.) They told me flat out that I was lying. That my daughter hadn’t collapsed into a traumatized, nonverbal ball on the sidewalk. That no one on the bus ever touched her. That she was being loud, obnoxious, and rude to the aide and the driver (complaints that had *never* been raised before against my daughter, either in school or on the bus). That autism is not an excuse for “bad parenting.” I was then sent away without an apology, an offer to investigate, or even a behavior plan to help fix the purported bad behavior.

    The next day is when the retaliation started. The bus driver began writing up disciplinary notes for my daughter every single day. These notes are recorded at school, and if she gets enough of them, the school system can deny her transportation to school.

    I fought back because I had to. I cited the law and worked my way up the chain. A camera was put on the bus to record what was happening and a senior Transportation official rode the bus with my daughter–both proving that the accusations of misbehavior were totally unfounded. I had to make a FERPA demand to the principal to ensure that the disciplinary notes were finally wiped from all school records. Neither my daughter nor I ever received an apology from anyone–not the principal, not Transportation. I have kept silent about this episode for nearly four years. But I still have every single email to prove that it really happened.

    Most of you without special needs children never need to question whether your child deserves his or her placement in school. I do. Every year I must attend an IEP meeting, where we spend a couple of hours poring exhaustively over my daughter’s academic, social, and behavioral records, and every year I must prove to school officials why she needs to remain in her current school placement with her current level of services. The principal is a central member of the IEP team and wields enormous influence over the outcome. Even if the principal doesn’t always attend the IEP meeting–our principal usually didn’t–we all understand well that if a school principal doesn’t want you in their school, they will find a way to remove you. And more than anything else, I needed my daughter to get the support and services she had to have to make school possible for her. That meant making sure she stayed at Sligo Creek, no matter what. And sometimes that means keeping your head low even while your heart aches. I acted on the bulletin board because my daughter noticed that she wasn’t there. I spoke to the front office because I was told that they were the ones directly responsible for the board–who would think that the school’s principal maintained the bulletin boards? In the beginning, I never thought of it as a big deal; just an oversight, like the many casual oversights Stimey relates here, that would be quickly rectified.

    For those of you who have had nothing but good experiences with the principal, I am genuinely happy for you. But please don’t assume that your experiences are universal or that raising a concern with the principal is a simple matter for all.

    Stimey: You are wonderful. Thank you for giving a voice to so many here, even when it brought you grief. Your and your post are part of the good that will change the world. :)

    • Gayle, I am so sorry those things happened to you and your child. But there is strength in numbers. If anything close to either of those incidents happens in middle school, you have lots of autism moms who can help back you up. Just let Stimey know (she knows how to get ahold of me). Hang in there.

    • Thank you for telling more of the story, as painful as that may be to tell.
      I am sorry that happened. That adds another layer of context to this very sad series of events. I hope there will be a way forward to reconciliation and that all children will be unharmed.

  63. To those of you who want to silence Stimey–you don’t understand that the current Civil Rights battles are in the disability trenches.
    And our children cannot speak for themselves…they knew their pictures were not on the board, but they don’t have the skills (yet) to know who to tell, or how to tell what they are feeling. The essay was her son’s way of telling how he felt for being left out. I will leave you with quotes from the greatest Civil Rights leader of our country.
    And I applaud Stimey–stay strong and don’t let the passive ‘don’t make waves’ crowd get you down. We need more parents speaking out and not accepting second, third or fourth best.

    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
    Martin Luther King, Jr

    Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
    Martin Luther King, Jr

    He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.
    Martin Luther King, Jr

    The Negro’s great stumbling block in the drive toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice.
    Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

  64. I can’t help observing that the person who knows for a fact that the pictures were up before nine weeks is “anonymous.” That does lessen your credibility, you realize.

  65. I’m confused about something: Why didn’t the parents go right to the kids’ teacher? The teacher should be the first contact person regarding anything to do with the kids, because they spend the most time with the kids. It sounds like the teacher walked past that bulletin board as often as the kids did, and more often than the parents did. So why didn’t the teacher do something about it? Someone important has been left out of this equation.

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