Around Halloween of 2013 I was contacted by a reporter for the Clarion Ledger newspaper based in Jackson, Mississippi. She stated she was doing an investigative report on special education in the state of Mississippi and asked me if I would like to share my son's story. She told me of the staggering statistics about how many of our special education students were not being set up for success and gave me comparisons for other states. Education is my thing, it's my heart, so are children with disabilities. This was a chance for us to speak up and make a difference. But I was torn, should we do it? Would my son want to?
So,I thought about this.
I decided it was probably not in our best interest to do this interview. I was afraid the story would be told wrong and I worried about how disclosure like that would affect my nearly 16 year old son. I know he is a very private person and would probably decline the chance to talk with someone about his school experiences. There was no way I would do it with out his consent and participation, after all it is HIS story and life.
I pondered on whether to even tell him about the reporter or not. I wasn't exactly sure how to approach it.
He and I were driving back from attending one of his IEP meetings, we were feeling really great about the meeting. I was thinking about how proud I was of him because he was learning how to advocate for himself and becoming an active participant in his meetings. I decided it would be unfair to him not to tell him about this. So I mentioned it.
Me: "You know a reporter for a big newspaper in our state contacted me on Facebook and she wanted to talk to us about your school stuff because she knows there is a problem across the state."
Him: "You should do it"
Me: "Well I thought maybe it wasn't something we should do because I know how private you are, I didn't think you'd want to do it. It would mean everyone would know about the school you go to, your disability and how you are no longer on the high school diploma track. It would be on the internet, that's a lot of people"
Him: "But what if it helps someone understand? What if it keeps it from happening to someone else? We should do it Mom"
Me (fighting back tears): "Okay we will think about it and talk about it some more later."
How could I deny my son the chance to tell his story and make a difference? He wanted to help, he is a budding advocate, how could I stifle that in him?
We did think and talk about it some more and in the end we decided it we would do it.
About a week after our decision we meet with the reporter. She had already gotten his story from me in print but we also did a face to face interview. I was feeling pretty good about it. I thought this was finally his chance to get some justice. We learned we would be naming Moss Point School District in the paper. We both were super excited about that, because we both knew his experience in the school district was not uncommon for many who have differences (whether race, disability, sexual orientation)
As a matter of fact, Southern Poverty Law just filed a lawsuit last month against Moss Point School District and the principal of Magnolia Jr High, Durand Payton for LGBT discrimination that happened at the same time my son was being bullied by this principal. So, I was hoping perhaps there would be a way to get the attention of the Department of Education or SOMEBODY that this school district is hurting our kids and not doing their job. Connecting that issue with our issue somehow, in other words
Today the story we interviewed for came out. I can see how it is aimed at educators and professionals to get them to understand how the system is hurting our kids. But, I had hoped for a little bit more of my son's story to be told, as was done with the other cases covered in the same report. I also feel like the outlook that we may seem to have about his future might be misconstrued, so I wanted to clear that up as well. My mother said it read like he was a victim. My son is not a victim, his future is still bright and I am very hopeful he will reach what ever potential he was meant to reach. There was also some words put in my mouth, and I am upset about that as well.
I have decided will be writing follow up posts to tell his story (with his permission). More to come....
These links have been removed and this post edited to protect my son's privacy.