The Letter vs. The Spirit of The Law

Over the course of two years our family engaged many resources in our State to assist us in encouraging our District to do a better job with regard to inclusion for Thorin. One resource in particular was sympathetic. That said they were not actually helpful. I think this was because they are truly over-burdened. Recently, I sent an email to a staff member there with the link to my post on NYTimes Motherlode parenting blog. I did get a lovely response that included an offer of assistance if we ever wanted to return to school. My first thought was: If you couldn’t help us before how could you help us in the future?

I didn’t email back that response though because I believe this person wants to help. There are enough real enemies in the world I do not have to create them as well. I did respond though and in doing so I realized at this point I do not overall have hope for us returning to school. I do, however, have great hope in what we are doing at home.

Many schools need to forget about parsing what makes them compliant vs. defining their philosophy with regard to students with disabilities. In other words: Do they believe students with disabilities belong in their regular classrooms?

Below is my response for what it’s worth.

Dear __________,

I appreciate the offer.

We decided we could use savings we put aside for Thorin thus far to retain a lawyer or to live on one income and home school. We choose home schooling because he needs to learn more than anything else. And– I can guarantee he will learn because I believe he can.

There is a civil rights law that is not enforced in this country. There is no standard by which we agree what it means to “include” someone. Compliance with that law is subjective. I would argue inclusion is most certainly not throwing someone in a regular education classroom and saying, “Sink or swim”.*

This civil right is addressed piecemeal by organizations such as your own that bang away case by most egregious case. That will never bring about sustainable change. I am not criticizing you or _______. I think you are doing the best you can with what you have. It’s not enough though.

The alternative is individual family’s working in isolation with costly legal assistance through a rigged system called “due process”. Until the Department of Justice — specifically the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) comes to believe this is truly a civil rights issue worth enforcing nothing substantive will ever happen.

I do know your intentions are good and just. Best, Kari

* for an excellent reference on inclusion practices: The Paraprofessional’s Handbook for Effective Support in Inclusive Classrooms

6 thoughts on “The Letter vs. The Spirit of The Law

  1. I’m saddened to read about school districts that don’t expend the resources to help include a child in a regular classroom. I believe much comes down to economics. I was told outright in an IEP meeting that my daughter was an expensive child to educate. So, what did the school district do? They hired an outside consultant who said my daughter was severely cognitively impaired and couldn’t learn. Why spend valuable resources to train staff, buy special equipment, and bring in specialists for a child who can’t learn? We hired an attorney and won the legal battles, but getting the school to take action was another matter. We moved 3,000 miles to get my daughter an education. Oh, and the girl who couldn’t learn went on to take college classes and did very well. Keep on doing what you’re doing.

    • Harriet You are bringing up a crucial matter you can win a legal battle but you can’t make people do the right thing. You moved 3,000 miles, we home school. When will the schools that don’t compile be held accountable? Hearing we should do what we are doing from you makes me feel secure. Thank you.

  2. Too many times I came up against the choice you mention in your post — I could fight legal battles (against school districts and against insurance companies) or take care of my kid. What was the best use of my time, energy and resources? These legal battles are hard to win. Many do have not favorable outcomes for the child. Occasionally, parents join together to file complaints or start their own schools, but that doesn’t happen often. Ultimately, you have to do what’s best for your child. I have great admiration for what you’re doing.

    • Thanks! I have the same admiration for you. Someone explained to me the 90:10 rule which means 90% of your time should be for your child and 10% for changing the way people like your child are treated. My priorities got a bit skewed — now I am on track I hope:)

  3. Thank you for sharing this. We plan to homeschool/unschool our children and we already live on one income so I’m hoping it works out for us. Our son who has Trisomy 21 is three now. We started doing a neurodevelopmental program with him at home at age one and have found great success with it. We meet with the neurodevelopmentalist three times a year for an evaluation and new program. The state provided therapists and the school district all pushed for pre-school and hours of daily therapy in-home but my husband and I have much higher expectations than the teachers and therapists and he’s meeting most of them already and forcing us to think even bigger. I love this part of parenting! Every success confirms that we have made the right choice. I wish Thorin and your family great success in this adventure!

    • Matushka I wish we had been as smart as you when we started. We saw in pre-school how low the bar was and we kept pushing. I really want my energy and life to go to our son not educating educators. I love this part of parenting too:) Best wishes for your family.

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