Dear Board Members,
This is my son, Ethan. He is 11 and attends the ISC at Whitford Middle School. We specifically chose Whitford at the recommendation of Ethan’s wonderful elementary teacher, Serena Meek, because the ISC teacher there was considered among the best.
When we started school we were informed that this teacher had been laid off and replaced by another teacher who, while having a special education credential, did not specifically have ISC experience at this grade level.
Since the beginning of the school year, it was obvious that the class was struggling. The teacher was trying to meet the needs of each student while establishing a new class, staff and schedule, and lesson plans. My son came home agitated every day. Ethan has difficulty speaking but he reacts to stress and loud environments.
Finally, 5 weeks into the school year, I received a letter from the teacher informing me that she was stepping down from her position. Her excuse was missing her family in another state. But I was a teacher, married to a teacher, and I know that quitting a contracted position in the middle of the year without extenuating circumstances is the professional kiss of death to a teacher. It was obvious that this teacher, this qualified and capable teacher, was placed into a position which she had little experience in, with little time to prepare. Despite supports brought in from other specialists and the district, she felt she had little other choice but to quit.
District choices ended up effecting my son’s education, his routine and his personality. A good teacher’s reputation is tarnished. School officials, specialists, even the principal, have been working diligently to make up for the damage that has occurred by helping in his classroom. I consider myself lucky that those in daily contact with the students in this class have taken it personally upon themselves to try to right the wrongs that have occurred here. A credential in special education isn’t a one size fits all qualification. There are many different areas. To simply plug one person in because they have the right degree can produce disastrous results in a classroom and children like my son are the ones that end up paying for someone else’s strict interpretation of the rules.
But it doesn’t stop there. I recently also found out that my son’s class doesn’t get music anymore either. When I inquired why, I was informed that staff reductions had resulted in only one music teacher, a part time band instructor. He doesn’t have the time in his schedule to accommodate teaching music to an ISC class. My son couldn’t handle the sensory overload of band. My son is being denied access to the arts due to his disabilities.
I would like to quote your own policies to you:
“It is the policy of the Beaverton School District that there will be no discrimination or harassment of individuals or groups based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, marital status, age, veterans’ status, genetic information or disability in any educational programs, activities or employment.”
With this statement in mind, I must wonder why it is that the students of Whitford’s ISC are not being given equitable access to activities such as music or art. This would appear to go against your own policy of inclusion.
If my son could talk he would tell you many things. But he can’t talk well enough to talk to you. So it’s up to me to be his voice. To remind you that these students, children like Ethan, deserve the same consideration and access to enriching curriculum and activities as every other student. No, I would go so far as to say that they deserve MORE access to these programs. They work hard enough in their everyday lives.
Mother of Ethan, 6th grade student at Whitford Middle School