As many of you are already aware of Elliott was barred from attending his school this year because he is a spectrum child. Elliott needs no special services and would also not need an IEP. However, the school is refusing to allow him to attend simply because Autism is attached to him. The real kicker is that he attended all last year and did very well. His teachers all loved him and he had tons of friends. Elliott is not socially awkward or does he have any real behavioral issues that would interfere with class.
So why refuse to allow him to come back this year? This is the question that really has me frustrated. Elliott had Aspergers all last year and no one had a problem with it. The other question I have is why would a school accept the Autism Scholarship and then not accept kids with Autism? Is it just me of does this seem counter intuitive?
I will say that this is a private, Catholic based school and so they are able to pick and choose their students. However, simply because they can legally do something, doesn’t mean they are ethically or morally in the right. Granted, not every school is equipped to handle every special needs child and honestly, we can’t expect them to. With that said, refusing to educate a child simply and solely because they fall onto the Autism Spectrum, to me, is discrimination.
I grew up in the Catholic church and had a Catholic education all the way through college. I was taught morals and ethics that, while not shaping my life, did serve as a guide. That guide is telling me just how wrong this is.
I’m simply taken aback by the fact that a Catholic school that is built around the same morals and ethics that I was taught when I was a kid would do this. However, not only did they do this but they aren’t even trying to hide what they are doing. This is excerpt of the email we received. That’s right we didn’t even value Elliott enough to make a simple phone call or tell us in person.
I have removed any identifying information from the following excerpt. I’m not sure of the direction I’m going to go in with this so I keeping the identity confidential for now. I’m being very careful to only share my first hand account here. There are many other disturbing pasts to this story but I have not personally witnessed some of them. I’m well within my rights to share my personal experience here and if I decide to take a more aggressive approach I will release more information.
“Hi Lizzie and Rob,
I received you email today, and appeciate the communication. @#*$&%^$* will be talking with you further. As we professionally examined the needs of Elliot, as we did another potential student with a high functional ability on the spectrum , we believe that we are not able to provide for the needs of these gifted students. While I would love to have more students, the ethical integrity of accepting a student that we cannot serve leaves us with very few options and compromises the integrity of the school. As I look to the future I intend to address the special needs of our potential students, however at this time we are not prepared to say to you with integrity that we could properly serve Elliot.
I know that this decision is not what you had hoped for, but it is one that we believe as an educational institution, and as the pastoral arm of the church , that to do otherwise is to compromise the integrity of both.
This letter makes no sense because Elliott DOES NOT need any special considerations. What he does need is normalcy and typical peers. Sure Elliott doesn’t like certain textures of foods and has his favorite numbers but what harm would that be? It wasn’t a problem last year at all. So why now? Not only why now but why wait until the week before school starts to tell us? I mean they actually sent us the welcome packet with the supply list and everything.
We have yet to receive a returned phone call from the principle either. That was supposed to occur this past Thursday.
To be completely honest, I don’t think they would have even told us if we hadn’t kept trying to follow up. You know, the more I think about what they have done to Elliott the angrier I get. Elliott misses his friends and can’t wait to see them again. How am I supposed to deal with that?
Lizze and I have talked about it and have decided that even if they were to allow him to attend, we no longer want him in a school that not only stereotypes and arguably discriminates against children with Autism but also turns their backs on them as well. What kind of message are they sending to the children they do allow to attend? The message they are sending is one that says “those that are different need not apply”.
What am I supposed to tell Elliott? I can’t tell him that the school he loves won’t allow him to come back this year because he’s different.
The question I have is, what now? Do I allow this to go unaddressed or to I take a stand? Even if Elliott never attends this school, what they are doing is not right. This kind of ignorance is something that cannot be allowed to grow. I have made every attempt to educate the educators about Autism and how every child is different. I have explained that not every child with Autism needs special services and Elliott is the poster child for this statement. However, my attempts have fallen on deaf ears. The school is more concerned about their appearance then they are about the mission they have been charged with.
I have been contacted by a few Autistic adults and they share my frustration. I have also heard from many special needs parents as well as other educators that share the same feelings. Should I let this go? Should I simply “turn the other cheek” and allow this to happen to another family? It’s not like my plate isn’t already full as it is. However, my son was dealt a great injustice and every single ounce of who I am wants to pick this battle and shine the light on what they are doing and how they are doing it. The other part of me doesn’t want Elliott to ever feel like there is something wrong with him and so walking away might be the best approach.
I am asking for advice and guidance here. This is something that really effects everyone in the Autism community. We have to counter this type of prejudice and help people to understand exactly what spectrum means.
Thanks for helping me out with this. I’m extremely angry and I want to do the right thing. However, the right thing to do is not entirely clear. Not to sound to cheeky but as one of my reader friends pointed out, “What would Jesus do? ”
UPDATE: My other thought is that this is related to money. I can’t cover the outrageous tuition and the school was working with us and for that I’m very grateful. However, when I met with the person in charge in July, I was assured that tuition was not a concern and neither was our ability to actively participate in the parish. I specifically asked this because these were big concerns of mine. We would love to be able to do more but with all we have going on, our ability is somewhat limited.
I was told that these were considered separate issues and have no bearing on Elliott’s ability to attend the school. They would love to have us be more active but they would never turn a child away for financial reasons.
If money was an issue, I would certainly understand. If that ended up being an obstacle then that would have been my fault. I would have understood that. However, they have clearly stated that money is not an issue. I only have their word to go on and they say money is not a problem.