When a new parent calls and wants my assistance with advocacy I say the following; “if you are looking for Ghandi you are in the wrong neighborhood. If you are looking for Dr. Martin Luther King you are knocking on the right door.
Dr. King believed that anger was necessary when channeled appropriately. We are not an innocent bystander when we are silent to the injustice done to students with disabilities or anyone else. We become an accomplice. I meet many teachers, administrators and clinicians.
Some make me wonder why they go into teaching. I wonder how they sleep at night. Then there are the intrinsically decent people/teachers that don’t realize they are an accomplice to the loss of educational benefit, physical, mental and emotional abuse because they stand idly by while children with special needs are losing their educational lives. Anyone that stands silent when a child with special needs is being wronged in our public schools is not an innocent bystander…you and they are an accomplice to injustice and to the low bar of expectations for 7 million students with disabilities.
The time has come for parent advocates and parents to fight unapologetically for children with special needs. Inaction is not an option; the silence isn’t working. If you have never read Dr. King’s “letter from the Alabama jail,” take a few minutes and read this haunting piece of writing. Our voice and pen are our greatest obligation and greatest opportunity.
Our right to vote for our elected officials is our greatest obligation and opportunity. When you are silent with thoughts and opinions screaming for release, give yourself permission and encouragement to use your voice and to be a voice for children with special needs. Frankly, I have no desire to live to be ninety but I desperately want my days and my time on this planet and in the United States to be worth something. I want my tombstone to say, “at least she tried”.
Dr. King is never far from my thoughts and there is a piece of him in my actions. Children with special needs deserve urgency, intensity and anger. Dr. King did not live to see a day when “all children are valued and educated to reach their maximum potential”.
Will we live to see that day? Not until each and every one of us uses our voices as one and as a collective we, and we fight for every child’s civil right to a free appropriate public education. An education that restores America’s stature as a nation that offers a globally enviable public education to “every” child.