Thursday, May 19, 2011

Once You Know the Truth, Can You Walk Away?

I had happy hour with two friends from my former fellowship tonight. It was great seeing them and catching up on old times, sharing tales, and discussing education policy. **News flash** I love talking about educational policy. I live and breathe urban education. I love reading about it and I even more thoroughly enjoy having someone to talk to about it.

The only people that get it are the people who work in it. I guess in that sense, it's like any job. The ones who work in this field are the only ones who understand or care about what I do. It was the same when I served tables or worked for a law firm.

So, here I am writing about happy hour when I should be sociable to the guest that's visiting my new apartment. But I can't help it, I'm obsessed. Still obsessed, what is my problem?

Tonight, we talked, among other things, about DCPS's decision to close down Shadd and Hamilton and send severely, emotionally disturbed students back to their neighborhood schools (Ballou & Prospect, respectfully). Granted, the students will be in self-contained units, but the change in placement is significant.

DCPS just cleared up the Blackman-Jones suit and now, it feels like they've taken a step back in special education. Someone at the top made a seemingly harmless decision (based on the budget) for the students down at the bottom. Who suffers? The kids of course. What is going to happen to these students who continue to be ignored and treated like bastard stepchildren? My guess is another class action lawsuit based on discrimination, if the students are lucky.

Knowing that poor, black students in the DC area are continuing to be discriminated against based on their race and disability, the question I ask myself is this: "Can you walk away? You know the truth now, can you just abandon them?" Even as I write that question, tears start to form in my eyes as I think of the many students I have come into contact with over the last three years. Can I walk away from them? Knowing all the discrimination, pain, abuse, and suffering they have endured?

I contemplate this as I examine whether I can teach special ed students in DC for a fourth year. I feel as though I need to be in a different role, but what is that role? I haven't decided, but (much to the chagrin of my husband and loved ones) I don't think I can just leave it for some lousy desk job.

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