Recently, I made a trip to my local big box hardware store.  The service was terrible.  The help anything but helpful.  As I stood at checkout I was voicing my thoughts to the woman cashier.  She quickly changed the conversation to the paint I was purchasing, telling me that the blue and the orange represented the colors of her son’s school.  Really? I asked, my son too.  Maybe our sons know each other she says.  Her son, she tells me, is a football player.  My son, I say, has autism and is in a special education classroom.

As we continue to chat, she tells me what a heart her son has for people with special needs.  She is proud of him.  This is all wonderful from my perspective.  I have loved people with special needs long before I had my son.  To hear of a teenage boy with this in his heart brought me joy.  What she said to me next made me angry and sick all at the same time.  She told me that her son had learned about people with special needs from what happened to his cousin, her nephew.   It seems that the young man (the nephew) had done something deemed a punishable offense in our local high school, during the last year before it split into two schools.  One of his teachers thought the appropriate “punishment” was for this young man to eat lunch for two weeks with the special education students.

My legs began to shake with anger, and my mouth – which usually has no trouble spitting out words – was suddenly silent.  What do you say in response to that?  Dumbfounded, I asked her to repeat what she had just said to me.  Unfortunately, I heard her right the first time.

What is it with people?  Why do so many of us fear and despise that which is different from us?  Or that which we don’t understand?  In the instance of people with disabilities, it seems especially heartless to me.  Maybe that’s because of my son.  I don’t know.  I have been around people with special needs most of my life.  The first special needs person I remember interacting with was a girl my age named Linda, when I was in second grade.  Linda had Downs Syndrome and was severely affected.  When I was finished with my classwork, I was allowed to go down to her classroom.  I guess it was a sort of “buddy system” and I think we both benefited from our time together.

Different is not bad.  It should be welcomed and encouraged.  Whether it be intellectual ability, race, religion, whatever.  Why would any school system continue to employ a so called “teacher” who would see the above behavior as appropriate?  Ah, I guess for the same reason they continue to employ a teacher known for having sex with students.  We wonder why society has the flaws it has and where our morals have gone.  What can we expect when this is the type of example we have as role models in our schools?  What can we expect when administrators know and refuse to do anything about it?  And let’s not forget the parents.  Shame on them for knowing what goes on in these schools and not doing anything about it.  If more people would speak up and come forward with what they know and have seen, change would be forced.

I do not know the name of the teacher who issued the above “punishment.”  But  I do believe in karma.  I do believe that when we choose to victimize others that comes back on us with incredible tenacity.  To the credit of the young man who was forced to sit with the special ed kids, he chose to remain with them.  I am told that for the rest of the year he ate his lunch with them.  Hopefully he continues to share his experience in a positive light.

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