Update 05/11: I have now spoken to the principal regarding this situation. The principal was 100 percent supportive and genuine, so I believe this was an unfortunate event and a learning experience. As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, we love the school and everyone has been incredibly supportive of both my girls. Yearbooks will be recalled and reprinted to include all children.
Now we need to talk, how do we make sure this doesn’t happen to any child with a disability?
This is not a post I want to write. Mainly, because we have been happy with our school and incredibly thankful for the people who work with my daughter. They are good people. At her last IEP, I paused the meeting for a second because I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for the incredible team who cares for my daughter.
I am writing this post because when I discovered her picture was missing from the yearbook, I posted on Facebook about how devastated we were, and several parents of kids with disabilities responded this had happened to their child, too. These parents asked me to use my platform, to speak truth about the injustices and discrimination our children with disabilities face.
This is not only my fight — it is our fight.
My middle daughter came home from school with her yearbook in hand. The first thing she said was, “Mom, Nichole’s picture is not in the yearbook.”
I flipped to her fourth grade class, and sure enough, her picture was missing.
“Ugh” I said, “They probably have a page for the kids who are in special education.”
We flipped through the pages in the yearbook, but there was no page for the kids from special education. I had a mix of emotions. First, relief that the yearbook was not practicing segregation, but then sadness her picture was left out.
This is when I posted what happened on Facebook. My daughter loves the yearbook. Every year she looks forward to looking at pictures of her friends, telling us stories about them. She shows the yearbook to people who come to our house and makes sure they see her picture. Not this time. This time, she gets to look at her fourth grade class and say, “Where is my picture?” It is absolutely devastating.
I emailed the teacher and principal. The responses I got were versions of “we are so sorry, we are looking into it.” From their responses, it was obvious they were aware not only was my daughter’s picture missing, there were other students who had not been included. This is when I looked for the two friends from her fourth grade class who I also know receive special education, but their pictures were not there. We looked for her friend from a different class — her picture was not there. We looked for the other little boy with Down syndrome at her school — his picture was not there.
The school printed a yearbook that excluded the children with disabilities.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Now, I cannot say if it was intentional or not. I like to believe it was not. But still, how do all the kids with disabilities get left out? What button gets pushed that suddenly erases the pictures of the kids who receive special education services? I don’t know how the yearbook spread happens. I don’t know who made this mistake or who was responsible for the oversight, but honestly, I don’t care. I don’t care about that part. My main concern is not necessarily that the yearbook was printed without my daughter’s picture and her friends’ pictures. My concern is the adults in charge saw it and they said, “Oh that’s too bad they were not included, but let’s go ahead like it’s not a big deal.”
It is a big deal. As a matter of fact, this is a pretty serious situation.
The problem is the school made the choice to distribute the yearbooks rather than taking the time to correct the mistake, whatever it takes.
This is ableism.
If the pictures of all the Hispanic kids had been excluded, would the yearbook have been distributed? I doubt it. This is no different. As soon as it was discovered the kids with disabilities were excluded, you stop distribution. Even if the yearbooks had been passed out to some students before realizing this error, you ask to get them back as soon as the issue is discovered and explain there was a misprint and the yearbooks needs to be fixed.
I don’t know the actions the school would have taken had any other minority been excluded from the yearbook, but I doubt those yearbooks would have been sent home and passed around for signatures. Yet, the kids with disabilities were not treated with the same basic dignity and respect allotted to other kids.
I expected the adults in charge to be responsible and not let this “slide,” however unintentional. It cannot be justified as it happening to a small group of children; a smaller minority.
No kid, regardless or race, sex, religion or disability should ever be discriminated against and have adults stand by and let it happen.
I get this was a mistake and perhaps unintentional, but the delivery and distribution of the yearbooks was intentional; it was a choice made even after the issue had been brought up.
What perhaps began as a mistake became intentional the moment it was decided it was OK to distribute the yearbooks.
To me, this is inexcusable.
Schools, you know better. You have to be better.
Our kids are not disposable, they are not invisible, and they have the same right as every other student to be included in the yearbook.
This is about social justice, because an entire population was discriminated against and deemed unnecessary. The school saw it OK they were not represented.
Our kids with disabilities matter.
And this is a fight I am willing to take on to make things right, not just for my kid, but for the many kids who have faced this negligent form of discrimination at school.