Congratulations to Tatem for winning the US Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon. It’s great to have an awarded school in town, but reading the details of the award brings pain to us as special need parents. The school application for this prestigious award mentions, “Here at Tatem, we are truly delivering the best education to all students” and the application touts a model of inclusion that allows students to be fully immersed in the general education setting.
Yet for our child, we see segregation. He’s in a room isolated from regular classroom peers for most of the day and he’s not being given the same opportunities as other kids, such as lining up with peers in the morning, which was mentioned in the press release as something special Tatem Tigers do. Our son has been sent home for a lack of resources (a teacher) and we’ve been told no further disability awareness training, specific to our son, needs to be offered to staff.
One of our challenges has been when someone hears that you are in Haddonfield, you don’t need to worry about your child, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Our fear is that with this award those comments will hold even more weight with those that seek to nullify concerns. Let’s take time to celebrate the award but let’s also be reminded of the district’s motto which is “Growing in excellence,” and to remember there is always room to grow.
If you want to help some ideas include: attend an upcoming SEPAG meeting, talk to your families about disabilities, encourage your child to make meaningful connections with others who are different, read books and watch shows/movies which represent diversity, celebrate differences, recognize that disability issues are civil rights issues and part of the diversity equation.
-Tom and Ellen Woodcock