When I learned that the Eastern Carver County School District’s Attendance Area Task Force included in their recommendation a proposal that would move my son to another school, it was like the district had punched me in the gut. Pain, shock, and the force of the blow left me gasping. It has taken nearly two weeks of meetings, emails and review of the available information to even begin catching my breath.
My son has a disability, and as a result has a greater than average need for accommodation to assure him an education. Because of that, and the inability of the closest elementary school (a five-minute walk from our home) to support him, my wife and I reluctantly agreed to enroll our son eight miles away at Carver Elementary in their AIM program.
It may seem convenient to say, more than two years after we made this compromise, that the task force’s proposal related to AIM represents, to me, a total validation of every fear and misgiving we had at the time, but the fact remains that it does.
First, based on the available information, my opinion is that this process was fundamentally flawed, at least as it relates to the AIM program, in that it failed to solicit the appropriate input, context and direct stakeholder context needed to make a sound recommendation.
However, the most compelling reason for me to raise my voice now is that, intentionally or not, this recommendation sends the clear message that students with disabilities are inherently separate from, and not equal to, the general student body attending our schools. As a result, students with disabilities can be moved around at the discretion of the district.
Let me first clarify something. My son is not an AIM program student. He is a Carver Elementary student enrolled in the AIM program. This recommendation completely ignores this and treats him and his 17 classmates as students in a school physically located within, but separate from, Carver Elementary.
What is more, the AIM program is being viewed as a school that the district can dispose of at will without first engaging affected students and families.
I do not and will not agree to or accept these assumptions, nor will I stay silent. This recommendation, in my opinion, is inherently discriminatory and validates every concern and misgiving I have ever had about the district and its intentions when it comes to serving and accommodating its students.
Time frames, process and bottom-line financial considerations are not sufficient justification, and neither is the uncertainty that ensued following the loss at the polls of the 2019 referendum.
For these reasons, I publicly call for the removal of the proposed AIM program move from the task force’s final recommendation to the school board. We can and must do better for our children, our community, and ourselves, and this is a first step.