While 20,000 students in Ohio are using a state voucher to attend the private school of their choice, many students are shut out because they do not meet the narrow eligibility guidelines of the current voucher programs. In this ongoing series, we share stories from just a few of the families who wish that they, too, had a choice.
As a parent, I always see beyond my children’s disability to their potential. I expect their educators to do the same. Giving up on our most vulnerable is never an option. It is my children’s hopes, goals and dreams that will motivate them to live a long, healthy life. It is my responsibility to ensure they obtain the tools they need to help them reach these goals to the very best of their abilities. Furthermore, I know that doing whatever necessary today to maintain their health and to keep them out of harm’s way will secure the promise of their tomorrows.
Our district’s attitude towards my children’s education is best summed up by the words of one of their own principals. This is what he said to me after I confronted him about my concerns regarding the safety of the buildings as they relate to my children; concerns which, as I said, were shared by several of their own staff members: “Ms. Dawson, I don’t know quite how to say this, but it doesn’t seem to matter what kind of accommodations we make for your kids, their outcome will still be the same and I’m sure you’ve thought about that.” In other words, the district believes that it’s a waste of their time and energy to provide an education that my children will not be able to use since they are going to die anyway.
The education provided by this district is inadequate and the environment is both emotionally and physically toxic. I believe that placing my children in the hands of individuals who believe that they are a waste of time, space and energy is neglectful and irresponsible and it’s simply not an option. If any of their healthcare providers behaved as their educators have I would have run out the door and never looked back. It simply isn’t right that I am not afforded that option when it comes to their education. I shouldn’t have to fight this hard to protect my children from these horrors and it certainly should not cost us 4 years of our life.
It is clearly time to hold our districts accountable for their role in our children’s futures. Giving parents a freedom to choose what’s best for their children is the first step to bringing that accountability. I’m thankful today that many of you are finally listening to the desperate cries of our exceptional children and their families. And I’m hopeful that all of you will support this much-needed bill and the special education scholarship.