In his last few weeks of school, my son decided to write an open letter to his teachers. He kept it at school, squirreled away in the back of one of his notebooks, and worked on it whenever he had free time. He did get to talk to the teachers about some of his concerns, but the letter came home with him yesterday, his last day of public school. (We will begin homeschooling on Monday.) This is a pretty cool letter. He outlines his frustrations with the program in clear terms. Sometimes he doesn’t have all the information necessary to understand the bigger picture, but he consistently understands that disabled kids (and all kids!) need much more compassion, understanding, and patience.
He has given me permission (nay! his enthusiastic encouragement!) to share the letter here. (Note: I did not edit this aside from redacting names, but in some places, we’ve added additional information as necessary. He’s sitting with me as I type this.)
“We need to talk. First off, I’m writing this, and I hate writing, so I’m really giving my all. ACHIEVE [the school program] is horrible. It’s bad for disabled kids because of the following reasons:
- Most disabled kids need laughs. When you say “stop laughing,” you’re leaving it to them to make their own laughs later, getting them in trouble for doing what they need every day. [Comment from Mom: he clarified that this means he needs things to keep his brain busy, and other kids do, too.]
- Sometimes when you make me mad or upset, it makes me not hungry, and I need a good amount of food everyday to eat. You also don’t let people eat lunch until the end of the day. Taking away Recess I understand, but that’s just cruel! [Comment from Mom: no, no it’s not ok to take away recess, EVER. None of this is ok. As I’m typing this, he tells me he hasn’t had outdoor recess for 2 weeks, not because the weather has been bad, but because he has consistently lost recess “privilege.”]
- You make kids go into the hall for vouching for themselves or other kids. (I’m vouching for myself and other kids right now.) [Comment from Mom: he clarifies that this means advocating for yourself and others.] Yesterday I was asking Mrs. [name redacted] if she could turn the lights off (my eyes hurt) a couple of times and then she said “I’ve had enough!” and sent me out into the hall. My eyes were freaking hurting!
- I’m just gonna throw this out there: back when [student’s name redacted] incident happened, my mom reported it, and apparently Mr. [Principal] didn’t know! In your face, Mr. [bus monitor]! [Comment from Mom: here he’s referring to an incident that happened about 6 weeks ago, in which another student managed to escape out the back of a school bus and a chase ensued. Once the student was caught, he was in so much distress that he broke two windows in the school bus. The bus monitor and driver did not report this incident, but the principal resolved the situation once I reported it. This entire incident left a big impression on my son.]
- When they [names of fellow students] get physical, you get them in the utility room, and I get why they’re in trouble, but you do it by getting (drumroll) physical. [Comment from Mom: He has been working through this irony for weeks: the teachers have zero tolerance for physical outbursts from students, yet the teachers themselves use physical restraint to remove students from a room. We have not been able to talk to the teachers about what “restraint” actually means in this context, and the teachers, by my son’s admission, never restrained him.]
- Why do you assume how my mind works. it makes me feel broken. Have you heard the saying “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.” I don’t want to be an ass! I don’t think you want to be either.
My point is that there are quite a few bad points of ACHIEVE that you need to know about.”
This is the longest document my son has written voluntarily in…ever. He hates writing. But he was motivated. And again, as I’ve written before, the teachers in the program are not horrible people. But his days of being on the losing end of body and emotion policing are done. And we’ll have Recess EVERY DAY.