Susan's Blog

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Supreme Injustice, Part II

The following is the text from my Commentary that aired on NPR’s WBUR this morning. I feel it is necessary to restate my position that, despite what many are already saying, this ruling will have an impact on families, make no mistake: a psychological impact, if not an actual, legal one. Parents will feel a lot less sanguine about their chances in court knowing the burden of proof lies with them, knowing that the highest court in the land ruled basically in favor of school districts. School districts, however much they struggle with limited budgets, have the lion’s share of resources when compared with parents. And parents of special needs children already have a lot on their plates just living their lives. How many of them will be able to marshal the resources to challenge their districts and then be able to prove in a court of law that the services are not adequate? Far easier for the school district to maintain its innocence, given that they have in-house educators and legal teams at their full disposal.

“This week we are celebrating my son Nat’s sixteenth birthday, a milestone. My husband and I baked a chocolate cake that we decorated with loads of blue frosting to look like a swimming pool, along with Lego men swimmers. Because of Nat’s autism, it is difficult for us to know what he likes; he keeps a lot of things to himself. We know how he likes his cakes, though. And we know that he loves to swim but much like everything else he has learned to do, getting him to that point was years in the making, and it took tireless coaches, dauntless parents, and withstanding tantrums.

This week I also learned of another milestone, the Supreme Court decision, ruling against families. I thought about this ruling, as I dribbled blue coloring into the white icing and slathered it onto Nat’s cake. I was remembering when things were not as happy for us as today, how five years ago Nat had been expelled from a school program because he had become increasingly aggressive, and how he had to stay at home with me for months until a new placement became available somewhere else. Those days, I was scared of him, and scared for him, not knowing how to reach him. Our lawyer told us that we could sue the school, that the law – at the time – was on our side. Even with the law on our side, Nat was at home without a school program, getting worse by the day and I couldn’t get any of the school people to do anything for us. For weeks we struggled over whether to fight for Nat’s right to go to that school, ultimately deciding that we didn’t want him to be anywhere he wasn’t wanted. “This is not that sort of program,” the director of the school had told us when we had asked him to put in more supports for Nat. In other words, take it or leave it. Sink or swim.

The Supreme Court’s decision now would make a difficult situation like that even worse. Families like mine sweat and panic to figure out their children. Every milestone is a struggle, every small achievement a cause for celebration. If we don’t push, our kids may not make it. Our kids may end up at home forever, or worse — on the street, in prison. And no one, not the parents, nor society, can afford to be sending kids out into this world unprepared that way. Sink or swim should be for Lego men on birthday cakes, not for complicated human beings.”

No comments

No comments yet.