Thursday, February 21, 2013

FAPE, Segregation, and Brown v Board of Education

“All warfare is based on deception.” 
― Sun TzuThe Art of War 

"In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right that must be made available on equal terms."
- Chief Justice Earl Warren, Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

If you are an autism parent advocate, and you think any voucher system that locks your child away from peers is giving you educational choices and keeping your child safe, you are being deceived. 

Sometimes in the name of doing something right for our children, and with the best intentions, we parent advocates use our power indiscriminately and the consequences are devastating. Take Ohio's autism scholarship program for example. It sounds great doesn't it? Until a parent really understands the fine print. Things like: 

1. Parents are required to waive their child's right to a free and appropriate education (FAPE). 
2. The scholarship is less than the value of the funding provided for special education services in a public school setting 
3.  If the value of the scholarship is less than the services provided in a nonpublic placement, the parents must pay the difference
4. Parents of special needs children become part of the systemic segregation of school populations by degree of impairment, race and class
5. Parents inadvertently increase the defunding of already underfunded schools. 

So what parents are being asked to do is give up their child's right to be included in their community school, take less than what would be spent to educate and provide services for their autistic child in public school, and segregate their autistic child in a nonpublic school that may or may not be in their neighborhood, then pay the difference for that private segregated school.  What this law does is make ableism part of the system by implying to the children and school districts in Ohio that autistic children are not wanted in their own communites. They are not good enough to attend their own neighborhood schools. Like black children before Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, KS, autistic children are being hidden away from society and their parents are being bribed and deceived into helping segregate their own children.

Parents are signing away their children's right to a free and public education in the name of a safe school environment, or in the mistaken perception that nonpublic services are better. Being a student in a nonpublic school does not protect one from abuse and neglect.

 What other rights will we remove from our own children in the name of protecting them? 

Let me speak truth here. I was the black girl who integrated my 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade classes in our school. Our family was the first black family to move to the upper middle class neighborhood in that rural area. It was not fun. It was not easy. But it made school staff and my classmates better able to tell their communities that black children were just children and deserved the same education in the same classrooms as white children. Our children should not be viewed as vulnerable creatures who if allowed to go out into our communities will be victimized. It is their right to go and exercise their right to be included as citizens of our towns and our nation. It is their Constitutional right. Disabled activists and parents fought and sacrificed for this right. If we are to advocate for our children we must understand they are people and not less than us. They aren't angels; they aren't babies. They are growing up. And it is our job to ask ourselves now what quality of life we want them to have as adults, and how we want our communities to receive them. Only then should we advocate and drive policy accordingly.

When parents sign away their autistic child's right to anything, they are doing them harm. When parents decide, for example, that because ABA works for their child that it should be the unilateral therapy method for all autistic children and work to drive policy to mandate funding for this one therapy method, they are defunding other peer reviewed therapeutic methodologies from reaching other children who need them. Children who might flourish under TEACCH, the Miller Method, DiR Floortime, and behavioral therapies like Collaborative Problem Solving.  I can't stress this enough. We need to review our priorities throroughly before using our power and privilege to make policy changes as parent advocates.

 We have no right to harm others to gain some expediency for our own children. This type of emotion driven policy advocacy comes from a mentality that I see in some parents. It permeates special education in particular. The first thing parents are told is to look out for their own child and let other parents look out for theirs. This is WRONG. Parental  rights in the IEP process are very limited. The only power parents have to leverage in this process is the power that comes from working together to improve outcomes and quality of services for all our children. The every parent for their own child mentality also enables the system of child abuse that is pervasive in both nonpublic and public schools charged with educating our children. Because it eliminates responsibility for reporting when witnessing harm to other special needs children. Parents don't feel they are stakeholders in the school system, so they don't report what they see if it is not their child. We need to accept that this is the case, and act today to make it stop. Making it stop will end the flood of homeschooling families and make our neighborhood schools a safe place for our children. 

Please read "A Different Kind of Choice: Educational inequality and the continuing significance of racial segregation" by clicking here to know more about why this concerns me so greatly.

The population of autism families I serve is disproportionately nonwhite, and depends on the minimal services provided in their public schools.

It had been my plan to keep my son from public school and continue to homeschool him. Because of these trends in parent advocacy, and the terrible harm this type of legislation does the populations of autism families that depend on FAPE, I have spent the last year preparing my own son to transition back to public school. I will fight for inclusion despite his degree of disability  Am I frightened for my son? Yes. But I am more afraid of what will happen to him if he is not allowed to live a life with the same civil rights others died for us to have. I fought for my right to be accepted as an equal in this society. My son must be allowed the same opportunity. Only his presence will educate them. His absence will erase him.

Any variety of vouchering is a systemic method of eliminating our right to a free public education. When you lose a civil right, it is nearly impossible to get it back. I am literate and educated because of a Supreme Court decision that allowed this to happen. Read the paragraph below. Then replace the word Negro with Autistic.  Hopefully then you will all understand what the fuss is about.


347 U.S. 483

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka


No. 1. Argued: Argued December 9, 1952Reargued December 8, 1953 --- Decided: Decided May 17, 1954

Segregation of white and Negro children in the public schools of a State solely on the basis of race, pursuant to state laws permitting or requiring such segregation, denies to Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment -- even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors of white and Negro schools may be equal. Pp. 486-496.(a) The history of the Fourteenth Amendment is inconclusive as to its intended effect on public education. Pp. 489-490.(b) The question presented in these cases must be determined not on the basis of conditions existing when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, but in the light of the full development of public education and its present place in American life throughout the Nation. Pp. 492-493.(c) Where a State has undertaken to provide an opportunity for an education in its public schools, such an opportunity is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms. P. 493.(d) Segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprives children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal. Pp. 493-494.(e) The "separate but equal" doctrine adopted in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, has no place in the field of public education. P. 495.(f) The cases are restored to the docket for further argument on specified questions relating to the forms of the decrees. Pp. 495-496.

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