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