I was born a “child” advocate. I was born an “advocate and activist” for all that I believe to be wrong with our state, nation and the world. I used to get teased by my father for “being on that soapbox again…” and today I carry my soapbox with pride. I was raised in a family with generations of rampant psychiatric illness. I too would bear the heredity and suffer from depression. By the age of ten I decided that not one child asks to be born and had some higher power asked me if I wanted to be born into a generational mix and almost a century of ADHD, learning disabilities, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders…and that I would be born with treatment resistent depression and anorexia, I would have said, “thank you for asking but I will pass.”
No child asks to be born. No child chooses to be born with a disability, to poverty, illiteracy, homelessness, crime and a perpetuation of poverty. No child would choose to be born given those choices. That is why I fight unapologetically hard for children. I fight for ALL children but especially those described above. Why do I share this now and on this day? The answer is because Steve Camron, a highly regarded professor at Eastern Michigan University had a profound impact on my life and today he “liked” my Special Education Wall of Shame. I have no idea if he knnows this page is my brainchild or that it originated due to the vile and ignorant comments made by a guy who ran an unsuccessful campaign for a seat in the Alaskan state legislature. This man’s comments led to the discussion and decision to call out legislators working to deny children with disabilities with a meaningful free appropriate public education.
So how do I know Steve Camron? Professor Camron was the local hearing officer for my son’s due process administrative hearing in 2006. A due process that I never envisioned myself in and yet it became undeniably necessary due to the Birmingham Public Schools and their blatant disregard for my son’s right to a public education. So while I have been a child and parent advocate virtually my entire life, I had not been a parent advocate for “strangers” until my son’s due process. My son’s due process showed me the dark and ugly side of special education and public education. People I had entrusted my son to had violated my trust and went so far as to be dishonest while being examined and cross examined by our attorney and Birmingham’s attorney. My take away from due process was that intrinsically decent people do bad things to kids in toxic special education environments. My take away from an entire year of battling for Andrew’s right to a free and appropriate public education? I saw the worst of people and the worst of public education…and we prevailed on behalf of Andrew.
We did not prevail at the local level through Professor Camron’s ruling. We and Birmingham sort of split on the allegations and that sent us to the State Review under former ALJ Lauren Harkness and on July 28, 2006 and my birthday no less (a day I never asked for), we received ALJ Harkness’s ruling and we had prevailed. I also filed several complaints against the Birmingham Public Schools that threw me into a spotlight that I never asked for,nor would I have known had my husband and I not had to take the BPS to due process. “I will do no less than I have asked of Andrew if you force us to take you to due process,” I said to BPS administrators not knowing what “personal best” would truly mean. Today there are those that think I walk on water and those that would like to see me drown. I fight hard for children with special needs and I will not stop until I am six feet underground or cremated with my ashes tossed around the most peaceful place of my existence, that being in attendance at a show on Broadway. Where am I going with this? I will tell you.
I am honored to have Steve Camron “like” the Special Education Wall of Shame. I hope he will visit the Michigan Alliance for Special Education and “like” that Facebook page, as well. I have heard that every once in a while he mentions me by name and uses our due process in his college classes. I always hope it is in a positive light and recognizes that my husband and I never expected to find ourselves in due process. We are both passionate about public education and have spent our lives surrounded by public educators. I fight for what I refer to as nationally and globally-enviable public education in the U.S. I fight for equal educational opportunities and an overhaul to our federal special education law that has never been written or signed into law to actually educate almost 6 million students with disabilities.
I fight for children in poverty because poverty may be the greatest disability of all for children. I fight for Michigan and am more depressed than I have been in years over a state that will be unrecognizable by February 2013 because too many Michiganders fell for a “Nerd” and did not read his ten points of cyber-nonsense or recognize that he would govern as a garden-variety Republican with a leaning to the left in order to manage a devastatingly right wing Republican legsilature and big money from Dick DeVos and the Koch Brothers. I am watching and witnessing the destruction of Michigan public education but I will not be quieted and am reassured and invigorated to know that people like Steve Camron are listening.