Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bellevue School District Policy Ideas:

These were specific proposals I made in my run for school board last year that I have decided to take from my site (now closed) and import to here. 

POLICY IDEA: Teaching Effective Self-Advocacy:

Self-advocacy is a life-skill needed by all students: these skills will help them navigate school and, importantly, help keep administrators, teachers, and para-educators accountable for when they break the law (such as IDEA) and actively create, support, and/or do nothing to stop oppressive structures in the classroom. After graduation, they are important for the professional world and being an active participant in democracy.

So what is self-advocacy?

Self-advocacy is simply actions a person takes to address a personal issue (“my special education teacher won't allow me to mainstream even though I think I can be”) or a group issue (“systemically, our district disregards the least restrictive environment requirement in IDEA”). Self-advocacy can appear like many things; in fact, you would be hard-pressed to find an action that is not a form of self-advocacy.

Many times, students employ the use of self-advocacy tactics that are either not recognized by school staff, responded with escalation of the disagreement, or is an escalation within itself. It is, then, important to teach more effective strategies and create a common language for students and staff to use for students to communicate their needs, disagreements, and anything else within the realm of self-advocacy.

The fostering and teaching of self-advocacy skills is quite possibly the most important reform/structure I am proposing. It will improve the lives of students and hold the Bellevue School District accountable.

This reform will empower students to:

  • Effectively communicate their needs as a student
  • Use the anti-bullying systems Washington State has put in place
  • Stand up for fellow students and themselves
  • Challenge school/district practices
  • Engage the district politically for issues that matter to them
  • Take responsibility for their school community
  • Currently, students are not taught their rights and do not know the power they have as a group to advocate for their needs. When school staff do not follow the law or do things that students do not feel are correct as in the example above, there are few known avenues to address them—and it is rare for students to feel like they can.
This makes it more difficult for our schools and the district to address the needs of students. For example, at Sammamish High School there was a great deal of discussion last year about mandatory AP classes (AP Human Geography and AP Government/Comparative Government). Many students felt it was inappropriate to be forced to take AP classes and raised serious concerns about its effect on their mental health and general quality of life. Whole classrooms would very suddenly air grievances with this policy.

So why did no one hear about it? Students do not effectively have formal ways of expressing their thoughts to the district since they may not exist, are not empowered to use the ones that do exist, and may not know of the ones that do exist.

Student issues such as
  • Class sizes
  • Student mental health policy
  • Accessible classrooms
  • Electives/student choice
  • Diverse books
  • Content of school lunches
  • Testing
  • Life skills and College/Career Readiness
  • Bullying
  • All-gender restrooms
  • And others, most of which are dependent on the school, will finally be addressed in a way that takes student voice into account.
What would a self-advocacy curriculum look like?

Ideally, it should feature
  • What rights and systems of accountability students have
  • How to use those systems of accountability
  • Past successes of self-advocates (such as People First)
  • Past failures of self-advocates
  • A focus on building school community/student solidarity
Who should teach it?

It should be integrated into the elementary school curriculum and taught in either History, English, or both in secondary school (middle and high school). The exact details should come from a great deal of student, teacher, and parent input.

POLICY IDEA: Improved Advisory Committees

The Bellevue School District utilizes advisory committees for various reasons: to engage the community, better inform decision/policy makers, and to innovate solutions to pressing issues. The Proactive and Preventative Discipline Committee is an important and good example of this as it has been assessing the crisis of disproportionality and working on solutions—and the district has responded. Unfortunately, the current committee structure cannot fully address the challenges we face as a district because it is inaccessible to a broad range of people and implicitly excludes important voices, such as student voice.

Because of this, I am proposing a new committee structure that will better engage the community, bring in more diverse perspectives, and more effectively inform policy makers, and create the solutions our students deserve. They will address both specific policy questions (ex. restraint and seclusion) and larger topics (ex. sexism in schools). They will be maintained until it is no longer relevant which for some will take a longer time than others.
Those involved will be
  • Students directly affected by a policy
  • Parents
  • Teachers and para-educators
  • School Administrators
  • Adult representatives (i.e. people who have been affected by an issue or policy in the BSD or another district who can share personal experience and insight about it. For example, a representative from the NAACP of King County or GLSEN Washington.)
  • Experts on a given topic (ex. The disability/special needs committee might have a Disability Studies professor from the University of Washington.)
  • Board Members and District policy makers
  • Anyone else from the community
To make the committee accessible, the committee will be given a budget for transportation, accessibility tools (such as AAC devices), accessible spaces, and some compensation for committee members' work. These committees will not and should not be treated as all-volunteer because that is inaccessible to a great deal of people—particularly those who we need to hear from the most.

There are four committees that seems especially important now include issues regarding:
  • Disability
  • Racism 
  • LGBT 
  • Sexism 
  • Restraint and Seclusion 
In addition, when a committee is on a broader topic they may choose to either focus on a few specific policy issues related to it or create a sub-committee. In addition, these sub-committees could be made up of people from two separate committees. What would this look like? If a committee on LGBT issues and a committee on sexism, for example, were to find that a specific policy issue affects LGBT girls in a unique way that would needs to be addressed, the two committees would task people from both to advise the district on how to change or better implement their policies.

To those familiar with how Bellevue School District committees work, this probably seems familiar but there are key differences:
  • Stated inclusion of important voices who traditionally are not included
  • Compensation/not all-volunteer
  • Greater transparency
  • A focus on accessibility
  • Its continuation until an issue is solved for 
  • The creation of sub-committees 
It is my hope that along with the other structural changes made to how Bellevue School District engages the public and holds itself accountable, we can create the schools that our students deserve.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Another Isolated Incident: How Washington’s Special Education Reform Movement Failed to Keep Children Safe

This article will explain the history and impact of the actions by Washington State’s special education reform movement on the issue of restraint and isolation.

[I originally had not intended to publish this piece (at least not without the attached policy analysis) but recent data from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has convinced me otherwise. This piece is not meant to be combative; I am simply far too tired and far too frustrated with the current state of affairs.]
Back in December 2014, I attended a legislative forum, a place designed for legislators to understand what ordinary people were concerned about with regards to education, where I learned of the efforts by Special Needs PTAs and Washington Autism Advocacy Alliance to advocate for changes in how restraint and seclusion was regulated in this state. I do not remember who asked about restraint and seclusion first, but when I mentioned it to the legislators there (Representatives Litzow, Hunter, and Senn) they mentioned two things: 1) they did not believe (or know if) it was a state issue but rather a local issue and 2) that they had never heard of it before. Someone, I believe representing WAAA, talked with Senator Litzow later that night and handed him an already drafted bill. It was at this point I felt the fight against restraint and seclusion was at the state level, not the district level, which I believed was a Sisyphean task of endless testimony and wrangling of disparate people community organizing. Come the 2015 legislative session, the battle between the institutions (WSSDA and parent activists had been set up.

Trouble was, neither side was exactly ideal in how it presented the issue. On WSSDAs side, they presented a horrific “reality” where “animalistic” students with disabilities (no doubt they also racialized this)  constantly assaulted teachers and needed to be controlled, almost as if lamenting the requirement for the most bare minimum amount of inclusion defined under Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). On the parent activist side, we encountered a peculiar construction of a helpless white child whose entire existence must be pitied, the poor souls who can’t truly live in our world, but must be tolerated by the saintly teachers who do not outright abuse them. Representing a third way were many disabled students of color opposing the bill because either it did not offer enough protections or they were unaware that it was a reform, if, as it turns out, incredibly small (it was unclear from their testimony but they were condescended to nonetheless) and me—a white, disabled student—who supported the bill with serious reservations and a nihilistic outlook on the entrenched system we were fighting. I do not want to claim that I understood what their analysis was; from what I remember they presented a situation where school staff consistently fail to deescalate stressful situations, resort to restraint and seclusion quickly, and traumatize most especially the restrained student, but the entire classroom as well. For my part, I presented legislators with restraint and seclusion as racial and disability equity issues that reflected poorly on a state that prides itself on diversity. Neither of these views came close to the two predominate narratives of fear and/or pity.

These narratives shaped the eventual legislation and the immediate backlash it faced from Randy Dorn, Doug Gill, the rest of OSPI, and the old guard. In between passage of SB 1240, a new bill was introduced with WSSDA’s interests at heart that would strip the legislation of even the most basic reforms it was proposing; this one was almost passed out of committee. Before I go into the problems with OSPI, there was something else was amiss, and that context is necessary: the proponents of the bill legitimately thought SB 1240 would completely stamp-out “excessive use.”

The legislation specified that restraint and seclusion could be used only in cases where a student is posing an imminent threat to others, self, and property. Though easily exploited, this did not raise concern for me originally (“why would reform advocates trust a system they are struggling with?” I thought), but it became apparent after talking with legislators that they felt the section ending the planned use of restraint and seclusion would be enough. I should not have to explain how completely ridiculous this assumption; if there is exploitable language that people can use to justify restraint post-hoc, they will. Systemic change does not come from tweaks in language. Consider that children with disabilities and especially disabled children of color are constantly disbelieved and assumed to be inherently violent/”uncontrolled”/etc.: this is an enormous loophole for agents of ableist, racist systems (teachers included) to exploit.

As such, it can only be concluded that by not listening to the concerns of disabled students that there was something very fundamentally wrong with the entire special education system that restraint and seclusion was merely a tool in, advocates and legislators created what I warned to be ineffectual legislation, and that, after many self-congratulating handshakes, photo-ops, and pats on the back, the politicians and advocates would declare the problem solved—if only the students would cooperate, of course. And if these students did not cooperate? Well that would mean they deserved it all along, in the view of the law.

There was yet another problem pre-OSPI legislative efforts: the anti- restraint and seclusion side had unnecessarily ceded ground by framing restraint as sometimes necessary, thus imposing a deserving/undeserving binary from which to exploit. Referenced in the previous paragraph, SB 1240 created a new way of determining who was deserving of restraint and seclusion. In society, for some reason ignored in the universe of SB 1240, all restrained and isolated students are determined to be deserving of it. It does not matter what they did—the fact they are in such a position proves they did something to be in it, right? Perhaps if you have never been told repeatedly that you were in the wrong after being forced to the ground by two or three adults, have your shoes taken off, and forced into a small room closed by door sealed with an electromagnet after being placed into a situation where resistance was the only possible option, this concept may be hard to grasp, but let me be clear: students can be absolutely in the right and still experience violence.

If you create this binary of those who deserve to be restrained and isolated and those who do not, you will find mostly one side of that binary (the deserving side) will be occupied and it will be disproportionately students of color, intellectually disabled students, nonspeaking students, traumatized students, and gender-variant/nonconforming/transgender students. In other words, because the anti- restraint and seclusion movement never challenged the basic assumption that there are some students who “deserve to be restrained,” in the words of Jess Block-Neren of Autism Speaks, all students with disabilities are bound to suffer.

There may be those who view these warnings as something of a “slippery slope” fallacy (indeed, I believe that is what happened), but I contend these people may have too much faith in the law, particularly how it is applied. Laws tend to legislate morality in some way or another. Whether it corresponds to an individual person’s (or groups’) morality does not matter; in some way or another, the law is considered the arbiter of what is “wrong” and what is “right.” Therefore, if someone feels right/just it will feel legal and vice versa. As an unrelated example, take the controversial issue of citizen recording of police activities: police officers (agents of the law) mostly feel this is wrong and treat it as illegal as evidenced by the arrests and harassment of citizen journalists for recording police activities; however, many people feel it is right and therefore legal. In actuality, the law is mostly unclear, except for a few localities and states where they explicitly allow/disallow it. The law does not determine what people feel is the law. Making it explicitly clear that law does not support the use of restraint and isolation is a necessity if they are to stop; this could have come most appropriately in the rules-making process (OSPI’s role), but it did not.

[This is picture of one such photo-op. I later took this chance to tell Governor Inslee to veto Joel’s Law. He had signed it, without press coverage, a few days earlier. The description given is “Governor Jay Inslee signing legislation ending the planned use of isolation and restraint resulting from the dedicated work by [sic] advocates for children.”]

The OSPI hearings were an enormous challenge. First, OSPI came out with rules directly contradicting the limited regulations presented in SB 1240, including a pseudo-AIP that made it into the eventual rules. (A detailed analysis of the current restraint and isolation law is being made.) Advocates, including Representative Pollet, responded with a kind of disbelief-fury. Perhaps it was my continued depression “negative outlook”, but this outcome I had more or less expected. At OSPI, we had a leadership with a deep contempt for disabled students, IDEA, and parent activists (and no doubt the rest of kyriarchy).

In August, there was a hearing on the new rules. I did not come prepared, having already scripted my anti- restraint and isolation position as of now and more than a bit of executive dysfunction (remember, I’m still disabled!). What eventually did get said is more or less the argument presented above, complete with a hypothetical situation grounded in personal experience: that unless specific protocols/procedures were made to regulate what teachers can do with regards to restraint and isolation, more and more students would be put into the “deserving” part of the binary. Others presented just how much what OSPI proposed disregarded the law, but it was mostly ignored.

After receiving this pushback, they announced another hearing. Still, OSPI refused to use their rule-making powers to help put an end to restraint and isolation.  Meanwhile, the fight against safe schools, led by principals and school districts, sadly enough, gained more traction. Then in November with more or less the same rules but armed with testimony from ableist speakers representing schools/school districts. Parent activists alleged that Doug Gill had told certain members to come support his rules, but, in my opinion, it did not make a difference. At this hearing, a group that would later form Students Against Abusive Schools (in the process of developing new campaigns) decided to hold a silent protest and a small rally with chants after.

Come January, the final rules were adopted and I was sent a physical copy of the rules along with some screenshots of emails that they could have emailed me. The law was left truly unchanged, but the Governor sure looks nice in that photo.

The special education reform movement failed and it failed tremendously. Now, I more than anyone know just how difficult advocacy, particularly reform­-based advocacy, is and I do not want to diminish the work of tireless advocates fighting for justice. I do want to question strategy, however. For what reason did we cede ground? For what reason did we reify racism and ableism rather than try to undermine it? What reason did we have to put so much faith in a system we already knew was abusing (and killing) children? Why did we not make coalitions with anti-racist, anti-ableist, and LGBTQ rights groups?

 Restraint and isolation is a multi-group issue, as data from the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education has shown: it primarily targets students with disabilities and Black, Indigenous, and/or Latinx students. Not only that, but Black, Indigenous, and/or Latinx students with disabilities are restrained and isolated at an even higher rate. Because of this, advocacy surrounding restraint and isolation requires an approach that centers an intersectional analysis. In addition, the fact that the movement has emerged is mostly nondisabled parents need to be addressed by meaningfully including the voices of those who have experienced restraint and seclusion not by phone call (or rather not only by phone call), but in the seclusion rooms themselves—disabled self-advocates and disability justice activists.

For anti- restraint and isolation advocacy to accomplish anything, it must acknowledge the realities of the school-to-prison pipeline; criminalization/pathologization of Black, Indigenous, and/or Latinx youth; the violence of/as a result of ascribing different psychiatric labels (ex. Oppostional Defiance Disorder/ODD) and its intersection with the pathologization/criminalization of Black, Indigenous, and/or Latinx youth—and it needs to act accordingly. Otherwise, we will continue to fail. Another year of children being shoved and locked into small rooms. Another year of trauma for students with disabilities. Another year of restraint and isolation being used to violently uphold systemic racism and ableism. And then another year. And another year. I, myself, have waited for over a decade for these practices to finally stop and I am not keen to wait another. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

#BLOCKTHEBUNKER Is a Disability Issue

Oppressions interlock—a policy/project that is racist is almost always ableist and vice versa. The new North Seattle Precinct proposal is no different. A brief rundown of the proposed police bunker:
  • Located at Aurora and 130th
  • Bomb- and ballistics-proof
  • Extends three stories underground where training with armored vehicles like those seen to break up protests in Ferguson, Missouri and more recently in Baton Rouge, Louisiana will take place
  • Contains a gun range (also underground)
  • Has a huge parking garage that will have three parking spaces for every single officer
  • Includes a planned above-ground “community space” (likely to be cut in any more cost-saving measures)
  • Contains plenty of storage room for military-style riot gear
The total price tag? One hundred and forty-nine million dollars ($149,000,000), down from one hundred and sixty million (160,000,000) as of last week. Suggesting corruption and/or poor planning, this is about sixty million over the original budget made for the project last year.

“So it’s needlessly expensive but how is it ableist?” you might ask; the answer lies in three separate issues which I will expand upon more after listing them:
1.  It takes away money from services disabled people use, such as mass transit
2.  The Seattle Police Department itself is ableist and the function of the police bunker will be ableist
3.  It is part of a development/gentrification plan that will displace disabled people, especially disabled people of color

1: It takes away money from services disabled people use, such as mass-transit

While these funds are somewhat separate from King County Metro’s pool of funding, the money is a lot more fungible/interchangeable than one might think. Seattle’s Proposition 1, whichpassed overwhelmingly in 2014, authorized the City of Seattle to moderately raise taxes in order to pay for bus service themselves after cuts from King County Metro.

Disabled people, whether from a specific impairment, poverty, or any other combination of reasons use public transit more than non-disabled people. In addition, para-transit is unreliable and not even compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Fare increases, lack of service, and lack of funding for metro has led to extremely negative outcomes for disabled people living in the City of Seattle. More information on the metro situation can be found at

[image description: picture of the Access Now rally on July 24th outside King County Metro’s headquarters on S. Jackson and 2nd Avenue. It was put on by the Boston School Bus Drivers, Seattle’s Disability Liberation Front, and Stop Veolia Seattle. In the picture is a multiracial, multigenerational group of 8 people. We are carrying signs reading “Metro—Stop Attacks on the Disabled!” “Metro—Full Transportation Rights for the Disabled!” “Metro—Respect Disabled Peoples Rights!” and “Stop Passing Chair Users." (photo via)]   

In addition, #BlockTheBunker activists have pointed out that this money can and should be used for affordable housing—another issue disproportionately impacting people with disabilities. Other programs like the King County’s Sexual Assault Resource Center and the anti-trafficking, restorative justice group API Chaya could also use this money to help countless people with disabilities—who are more likely to be abused than nondisabled people. The list of things the city could be prioritizing over a police bunker that would help dismantle systemic barriers for people with disabilities is exhaustive.

2: The Seattle Police Department itself is ableist and the function of the police bunker will be ableist

Nationally, disabled people represent fifty-percent (50%) ofthose killed by police.This violence, it should be reminded, is also highly, highly racialized. The Seattle Police Department is no different. In a very high-profile case, the Seattle Police Department shot and killed a man named John T. Williams, a Deaf, Indigenous woodcarver because he did not respond to verbal commands to drop his knife while he was working. Recently, Pasco (a city just outside of the Seattle Metropolitan Area) police shot and killed Antonio Zambrano-Montes, a Deaf, Latinx man for throwing dirt clods at a police car in order to get their attention and not hearing verbal commands to stop his so-called “attack.”

Police also attack both physically disabled and neurodivergent homeless people because, in the tradition of Ugly Law, the presence of a homeless disabled person (particularly a homeless disabled person of color) in public space is understood as a “threat” to society.  

Following the murder of John T. Williams, the Seattle Police Department was put under a consent decree by the Department of Justice for excessive use of force. Though the Department of Justice paints a rosy picturein this recent op-ed in Crosscut (to be expected from an organization that wants to keep its funding as failed projects do not attract dollars), the changeshave been anything but promising.

In addition, the North Seattle Precinct will be a state-of-the-art training ground for the Seattle Police Department to control newly-displaced people from the city’s development plan. That means instead of solving the issue of homelessness by building affordable housing, the city just plans to have police harass, abuse, and kill victims of gentrification.

That leads us into point three.

3: It is part of a development/gentrification plan that will displace disabled people
The North Seattle Precinct will be built using a Real-Estate ExciseTax (REET). REETs are essentially a tax on development/developers. If you work under the assumption that developers are a necessary part of a healthy housing economy and ultimately are in the best interests of all people, ideally a REET should be used to subsidize affordable housing to accommodate people in danger of being priced out (read: displaced) from their neighborhoods.
The current plan for 20,000 new affordable housing units defines “affordable” well above a monthly SSI payment. Further, raising the rents in the name of "expanding economic opportunities" for low-income earners is not unprecedented given the history of the Seattle Housing Authorities failed "Stepping Forward" plan that was only defeated after considerable organizing by the Seattle Housing Authority Tenant Union. Using the REET to fund a police bunker instead of further subsidizing affordable housing will hugely impact people with disabilities. It is systemic ableism.

There are more issues, and this piece did not get into all the complexities of the interlocking moving parts of policing, gentrification, federal disability policies, and education/transition systems. This article is already more than a thousand words long.

For more information on Block the Bunker, visit the facebook page at 


If you are a member of a disability rights/justice organization—contact them about making a statement against the North Seattle Precinct. As noted, it is far past time the disability community to get on boardwith the liberation of disabled people of color. 

Two more things you can do to help Block the Bunker: 

Call or email:

  • 206-684-8803 (
  • 206-684-8804 (
  • 206-684-8016 (
  • 206-684-8808 (
  • 206-684-8805 (
  • 206-684-8800 (
  • 206-684-8801 (
  • 206-684-8806 (
  • 206-684-8802 (

Friday, August 12, 2016

SEATTLE: #BlockTheBunker

Although city council meetings on the North Seattle Precinct (better known as a "police bunker” to local activists, given its design) have been packed larger than any other meeting I have been to—surpassed only by the final vote on the fifteen (15) dollar an hour bill in 2014—not much news coverage up until recently has been given to the one-hundred-and-forty-nine million (149,000,000) dollar project, which was eighty-eight million (88,000,000) as of last year.

A photo of the city council meeting I took on my phone right as it was about to start. About 10-15 more people made their way in later. The seats were all filled and people were all along the wall by the time most people were speaking.

So here is a bit of information about the most expensive precinct on the continent. The North Seattle Precinct will
  • Be located at Aurora and 130th
  • Be bomb- and ballistics-proof
  • Extend three stories underground where training with armored vehicles like those seen to break up protests in Ferguson, Missouri and more recently in Baton Rouge, Louisiana will take place
  • Contain a gun range (also underground)
  • Have a huge parking garage that will have three parking spaces for every single officer
  • An above-ground “community space”
  • Contain plenty of storage room for military-style riot gear

The Seattle Police Department, simply put, does not need this money to do the job it does now. In addition, there is an issue of giving any agency under federal scrutiny for racist bias and excessive use of force, such as the Seattle Police Department, more funding.

Furthermore, from the murder of Deaf, Indigenous woodcarver John T. Williams in 2010, to the murder of Che Taylor by Seattle police officers this year, there is reason to be suspicious that police are effective at keeping communities (particularly communities of color and disabled communities) safer. Other communities known to be targeted include the LGBTQ communities, particularly the 30-40% of homeless youth in Seattle who identify as LGBTQ and most especially homeless queer, trans youth of color.

It is blatantly obvious that the city should not throw money it says it does not have for public services at an organization not doing the intended job—particularly if they are resistant towards doing their intended job, as exemplified by the recent fallout in the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) contract negotiations. (That is, if we are to take an optimistic view of what the role of policing is.)

If they approve a precinct that costs $60 million more than its originally proposed cost, councilmembers would be prioritizing showy design over other needs in the city, particularly in the north end.In that area, some children must walk to school in the street or tiptoe along the edge of ditches because the city has long said it cannot afford sidewalks. The 2015 Move Seattle levy funds only a portion of this overdue work.

That is why we need to keep up the pressure to #BlockTheBunker. If you have contacts within or are part of an LGBTQ, Disability, anti-racist, Feminist, Labor, etc. organization—contact them about making a statement against the North Seattle Precinct.  Please also call and email city councilmembers, stating your opposition—make sure to include any connections you have to local organizations/communities, this signals to staffers you represent votes and money that could be swayed against their boss.

Contact the city council NOW, especially councilmembers Gonzalez, Harrell, Herbold, and Johnson and demand that:
1.   Black lives, and lives of people of color generally, actually begin to matter in Seattle when it comes to city policies and projects.
2.   They either vote against the resolution being pushed in favor of allocating 149 million dollars to the police bunker and/or call to postpone voting on the resolution until Councilmember Sawant returns from India.
3.   They access and USE the Racial Equity Toolkit (, before any further action is taken in favor of the bunker. There is a process the council is NOT following at this time.
4.   They not make any money allocations at this time. The community is forced to wait until September-October of each year to present any funding requests, often much smaller in scale. The SPD should NEVER have priority over the community.
5.   They defund this bunker project completely. There are viable public safety alternatives that cost far less in taxpayer dollars and Black lives.







Update: A few more things you can do

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What I Want Everyone to Think About on Disability Day of Mourning

This was a facebook post I made last year on Disability Day of Mourning that has been shared many times. After some consideration, I decided to add it here as well. It is relatively short.

[Content Warning: mentions of filicide, "assisted" suicide, murder, murder apologia (in the form of a quote), K. Stapleton, ableism.]
Since it is National Day of Mourning for disabled people murdered by their parents or caretakers, I want all of us, but especially my non-disabled friends to think critically about the ways in which disabled lives are devalued, dehumanized, and stigmatized.

I want you to think about the ways the lives of disabled people are thought of as not worth living. Think critically about this, because when you start to, you begin to notice it in your actions, your speech, and your implicit assumptions about disabled people.

I want you to think critically about what it means to say it is understandable that Vincent Phan's mother killed him because, in the words of one commentator on the news report of his death, "live with a severely autistic child for that long with no support and see how desperate and helpless YOU feel! you know nothing." What does it mean when this has been on the site for more than 7 months?

I want you to think critically about how K. Stapleton was given a national platform on which to justify attempting to kill her daughter with carbon monoxide poisoning. What does it mean when she is assumed to be a loving, caring mother--even when she attempts to kill her daughter.

What does it mean when disabled lives are defined by services?

What does it mean when parents who kill their disabled children often don't even get prosecuted?

But more than that.

I want you to think about why they are given these assumptions. Murdering disabled children and getting away with it has a horrifically long history. What in your public and private institutions which you interact with devalue disabled people?

What does it mean that 70% of American polling stations are physically inaccessible to a variety of disabled people?

What does it mean that when someone is pregnant, you wish for their future child to not have disabilities?

What does it mean when nondisabled people set up a hierarchy of disability by who is most "useful?"

What does it mean when your most common insult is a slur for I/DD people?

What does it means when anti-suicide advocates don't fight against the coercive tools in which disabled people are "assisted" in ending their life in the medical system, except when it can "send the wrong message" to "normal" people.

What does it mean when you use the term "special needs" instead of "disabled?" After all, what's special about human needs?

What does it mean when our school systems track disabled students (most disabled students of color) into the school-to-prison pipeline? What does it mean when we segregate disabled students and subject them to abuse by their teachers/paraeducators in the name of "education" and/or "treatment."

I want you to think about ableism and the flavors it comes in; the multitudes of ways disabled people are not thought of as full humans, because when you do so, the entire world starts making more sense and you realize that maybe your allies, your comrades, and/or your friends aren't really there for disabled people.

And I want you to think about how that needs to change—now.