Pearlsky v. Board of Education (apologies to Brown, Plessy, Ferguson, et alia)

From Wikipedia: “Separate but equal was a legal doctrine in United States Constitutional law that justified systems of segregation. Under this doctrine, services, facilities and public accommodations were allowed to be separated by race, on the condition that the quality of each group’s public facilities were (supposedly) to remain equal. The phrase was derived from a Louisiana law of 1890.” And if you grew up in the US and don’t understand the title of this post, go back and smack your high school social studies teacher. Hard.

I have been thinking about separate but equal and how it relates to our kids, spurred on by the very special and not currently blogging “Keeper.” And today, well, I reached my limit. Have I told you how I hate idiots?

The concept of “separate but equal” was finally killed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (President Lyndon Johnson was so much cooler than most people know); ten years earlier “Brown v. Board of Education” had a hand in it. But this all refers to racial segregation, black vs. white. It has nothing to do with the retarded vs. retarded cripples disabled vs. the severely disabled. My kids are in a different category all together from the disabled who can walk and / or communicate, adhd, autism, etc. They just are. How do I know? They are treated differently. Separate but not equal.

Why is it that they try to fit my kids into activities instead of starting with activities that are appropriate for them and fitting the others in?

As I have been thinking of this, I wrote an email to the gentleman running the summer program at the High School. Note that Pearlsky has been at the school for three years now, the aides and this guy know her, her aide is with her (and has been for over 10 years), the physical therapist has worked with her for over 10 years, they are in the same room she is in all year. They canceled her physical therapy and occupational therapy … why? No one seems to know. The OT and PT who both cancelled it are out for the summer.

On Mondays, almost the entire group goes to a large pond on a field trip. “Almost,” since Pearlsky and one other girl do not go. What do they do? Last Monday, Pearlsky went on a stroll to a grocery store, and then just sat around the classroom with her aide.

Before the inevitable emails, a photo of Pearlsky, sailboarding. Yes, no kidding. Pearlsky. Sailboard. Fun.


So, here is an email I sent yesterday to the leader of the summer program:

As you probably know, the Assistant Superintendent agrees that it is an error that Pearlsky’s therapies had been cancelled and is actively engaged in getting them started as soon as possible. Please inform me as soon as they start.

There are other aspects of the program that are problematic and I am wondering about them. It seems that, as in life in general, the events and activities were designed for the most able and then the least able, Pearlsky (and, potentially J) are shoe-horned in. The best example is the Monday trip.

The camp Pearlsky went to last year was totally inappropriate except for one thing, the water sports. Pearlsky absolutely loves to be in and around the water. She swam often and went to the waterfront, including riding a sailboard, yes, a sailboard (I have pictures!). In your program, the only waterfront activities that were chosen are deemed off limits for the more physically disabled in the group. Her substitute activity last week was a walk to the grocery. This is far from “separate but equal.” Pearlsky is being denied the activities she would enjoy most purely based on her disability, when in fact, she probably could participate.

For what it’s worth, she loves the zoo, the aquarium, the arboretum, any waterfront, boats, outdoor community events, malls, movies, symphony … all accessible.

Specifically, what activities on the schedule were designed with Pearlsky (and J) specifically in mind and then worked out so the others could participate?

I thought that was nice. I give examples of things they can do. His response:

thanks [sic] for following up about Pearlsky’s therapies, I will definitely keep you informed when they start.

Regarding the Monday field trips, accessible kayaking was specifically chosen to accommodate Pearlsky and J. Special Adventures, an accessible kayaking company, has an excellent record of creating adaptive experiences for people of all abilities. This seemed like an ideal choice during the planning stage, but medical and staffing concerns related to the pond setting make this a difficult option for Pearlsky and J.

We make a great effort to integrate Pearlsky and J into our group schedule, including activities such as arts and crafts, cooperative games, community outings and cooking activities. For instance, today we were rollerblading and using adaptive scooters, with Pearlsky and J right in the middle having a great time. It is good to know that water-based activities are such a strength.

Please call me anytime to discuss our summer activities and how best to support Pearlsky. Thanks,

Lots of words, but let’s look at these, the words that set me off …

Regarding the Monday field trips, accessible kayaking was specifically chosen to accommodate Pearlsky …

This is the ONLY thing dealing with water, the ONLY activity that Pearlsky really enjoys. She swims weekly during the regular school year, but not during the summer. So I conclude with …

It is truly unfortunate that the field trips that Pearlsky would most enjoy, one “specifically chosen to accommodate Pearlsky,” and happens weekly, is the one that she is not allowed to participate in.

Am I supposed to understand this? Maybe Pearlsky would have better luck in the future if you try not to accommodate her? I realize my degrees are in engineering and not logic, but this baffles me.

I am happy with many of the other activities.

I am sorry. Have I told you that I hate idiots?

What is the issue? So far, the summer program has eliminated what she vitally needs, physical therapy, and has eliminated what she tremendously enjoys, watersports.

Treat Pearlsky the way she deserves to be treated. And, yes, I get to determine what that means because you’re an idiot.


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