Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What is "fair"?

I saw this post (reprinted in full below this short intro) over at Attila the Mom's blog Cheaper Than Therapy. And it made me .... want to help.

This week's Asshat goes to Gilbert Unified School District superintendent Dave Allison.

Kevyn Barton is an 18-year-old student who has disabilities in the Gilbert School District. This May, when his peers walk down in their gowns for commencement, Kevyn won't be with them. Why? Because he's in the transitional program for special-needs kids and will receive services until he's 22.

What a crock of doody.

Here's how it works. Although Little Guy "could" have graduated with his peers, the state offers transitional services until he is 21. With those he is learning life skills such as money management and job training. Although he still goes to the high school, he doesn't participate in regular classes any more except for choir (which entailed some extra finagling on our part).

He goes straight to the transitional room and from there either to his apprenticeship job or to the van that takes him into the city to life classes not offered in our particular district. In the transitions room, he is usually working on things like meal planning, balancing his checkbook, navigating the transit system, etc. He has very little interaction with other high school students at all.

They are not his peers.

At any time, we can accept his diploma. When that happens, we are telling the state that their job is done and that Little Guy no longer needs educational services from them. It will be over. Ta-da.

Even though we refused his diploma, as a senior, Little Guy was allowed to participate fully in graduation with his class. The only difference was that the diploma case he received was empty. He got to walk down the aisle with the students and friends he was raised with---the ones he shared birthday parties, school dances and even chicken pox with.

When his name was called, all of these blessed children gave him a screaming standing ovation, sharing their love and recognition as one of their own.

Tomorrow they are going away to college and jobs and their new lives. Graduation night is their very last chance to celebrate as a class.

Gilbert School Superintendent Dave Allison has the discretion to allow Kevyn to participate in this magical rite of passage. But he has refused.

He is "upholding a board policy that exists for consistency's sake and often is enforced with students who, for example, have failed a final exam or a course."

"It wouldn't be fair to say 'yes' to Kevyn and 'no' to the other kids."

So what? What do you think the term "special" in "special needs" means? It means there are extraordinary circumstances.

And who gives two poops about "fair"? Do you think that it was "fair" for Kevyn to be handed these extra challenges in his life that necessitate his participation in a transitional program?

Kevyn will never have another opportunity to experience this rite of passage with his peers.

And yes I say his peers, because these are the kids he has grown up with----not the kids who will be graduating 3-4 years from now. When he is "allowed" to participate in graduation exercises then, who of them will know him? Who will recognize or care about how hard he has worked to get to that day?

Who will be there to give him his ovation?

That's why you, Mr. Allison, are this week's Asshat.

Anyone want to share their feelings with the Gilbert District, you can do so at PJ_Sessoms@gilbert.k12.az.us

I'm going to go kick something now.


So I wrote a letter to Mr. Allison

To: Gilbert Unified School District superintendent Dave Allison

I am writing to you about your decision not to allow Kevyn Barton to graduate with his peers.

Yes, I said his peers. Three to four years from now, when you have decided it will then be permissible to allow Mr. Barton to walk across the stage for his diploma, who in that graduating class will know him? Who will recognize or care about how hard he has worked to get to that day?

The class of 2009, these are the kids he grew up with. The ones he shared birthday parties with, school dances with, and maybe even the chicken pox with. They are the ones who will "Remember the time when Kevyn said ...." or "Remember that time that we decided to..."

I'm asking you to re-think your position and allow Mr. Barton the privilege of walking across that stage to have his achievement recognized by his actual peers, not a group of disinterested strangers. Whether or not he has finished making use of the school's facilities is really not the point.

I understand that you are "upholding a board policy that exists for consistency's sake and often is enforced with students who, for example, have failed a final exam or a course."

"It wouldn't be fair to say 'yes' to Kevyn and 'no' to the other kids."

Do you really put Mr. Barton's challenges on the same level as a student who has failed a final exam or course? Really?

Life isn't fair, and I'm sure Mr. Barton is fully aware of just how unfair life can be.

You have an opportunity to make it just a bit more fair.

Tip the balance in Mr. Barton's favor. Reward his hard work and allow him to celebrate this special day with his peers.

With sincere hope that you will thoughtfully reconsider your decision.


Except that I signed my real name and used my personal email address.

Will it make a difference? I don't know. But not sending it would definitely NOT have made a difference. I'm wondering if you would take a few minutes to drop Mr. Allison a line, if you think Kevyn should have a chance to celebrate his achievements. Copy and paste mine, change it a bit, write your own. Let Mr. Allison know that blanket decisions are not "fair".


evolveintobirds said...

I have to say I'm really surprised by this. Gilbert is next to Phoenix, where I grew up. At my school, he would have walked with us. My cousin, who lived in the neighboring Peoria district and was special needs very similar to this kid, walked with his class.

Of course I can't help but see it as yet another example of how broken the system is.

Attila The Mom said...

Great email---thanks for sending it! And thanks for the shout. :-)

Battery said...

That's a great letter. You're both very kind people. Good work.