30 December, 2007

They're in Our Schools--Everybody PANIC!

The only thing that bothers me more than a crappily-written news item focusing on a person with a disability is when the comments to said news item are so full of vitriol and outright hatred.

A quick sampling of some of the reader responses--unfortunately, copied verbatim from the website, errors and all:

God bless this family.... reminds me that any of my struggles are really nothing in the scheme of things!


Just why are they shipping her off to school? I'd want to spend the final time with her. They risk not being there when she dies, and having the poor childs last moments be in a school nurses office. I sympathize with the parents, but disagree with their actions of shipping the kid off to school!!

How dare the SELFISH parents send this child to school KNOWING full well she is putting the school staff, classmates and the entire school in a position of standing idly by and watching a child die without providing any help. This can traumatize the entire school body in the event she dies there. How dare the parents subject the other children, teachers, staff and people at the school to this form of child abuse. The parents need to keep the child AT HOME instead of subjecting others to their SELFISH intents.

So why are they sending this child to school? I don't get it! I'm sure their lives are painful, but what is the point of sending a child that is this handicapped to school, risking that her classmates, teachers, and staff may have to stand around and watch her die. If they want her to have human contact, there are other ways. One of my sister's classmates died in the classroom on the first day of school. 30 years later, it still bothers her. Think of the other children and how this affects them.

If the parents truly cared about children they would keep her at home and keep this as a private family matter instead of making it a public issue and forcing the public school system into fulfilling their barbaric desires at the expense of other children.

There are commenters who are actually tactful and have some knowledge about the issues brought up in the article, but the majority do not.

Speaking as a disabled individual with mild cerebral palsy as one of the things with which I share my body, the reactions on the Tribune website are just more proof that if you think you know about what life with a disability is like, or about people with disabilities, or about the decisions that the families of disabled individuals sometimes must make, even though you do not have a disability yourself, it's more than likely that you have no goddamn idea what you're talking about. (Particularly over the internet, but that's a whole other post!)

Education is a RIGHT in this country. Everyone, no matter what sort of medical issues they may be dealing with, has a right to public education. Perhaps the parents of this child cannot afford in-home care, private tutoring, or other luxuries. Maybe the parents don't want to keep their child isolated from other children--certainly, she *may* die while at school, but what about maintaining some semblance of a life that is not full of doctors, hospitals, and specialists? If young Katie enjoys school, there is no reason that she should not be there--even if it is at the "expense" of the other children.

I'm so tired of hearing about how the mere PRESENCE of disabled individuals--especially children--affects other, presumably "normal" individuals. I heard this reasoning throughout my childhood (in much cruder language, of course; and my CP-afflicted, limping left foot, in addition to my quietness, was often the cause of much commentary from fellow students), and that caused more "damage" than most "normal" people seem to be aware of. My experiences don't bring up as many outright political/right-to-life issues as those of Katie and her family, but the sanctimonious, handwringing over the "well-being" of the other kids, Helen Lovejoy (of "Won't someone PLEASE think of the children!?!" fame) crap makes me incredibly angry, especially as a disabled person who has faced the ignorant attitudes of people who are not disabled.

Newsflash, folks: We exist, and we have as much right to be on this planet (and in your schools) as you do.

BrownFemiPower, CripChick, and BintAlshamsa have some more perspective on all of this, unlike a fair number of the commenters on the Tribune piece.


Book Girl said...

"Newsflash, folks: We exist, and we have as much right to be on this planet (and in your schools) as you do."

Yes. Well said.

Lindsay said...

It's incredibly easy to have a strong opinion on something that has no impact on your daily life.

Some people got no home training, i swear.

cripchick said...

glad to come across your blog. right on with the post.

vesta44 said...

Some people just have no compassion for anyone. Do those people think that they can shield their children from all the disturbing facets of life? Life happens, in all its variety, and not all of it is good. While it may not be easy for those kids to deal with, disabilities (and death) exist, and we all need to be a little more understanding, whether it directly affects us or not. Everyone has a right to exist, no matter their ability, and everyone has something to contribute to life (and ability isn't a prerequisite for that contribution either).

bint alshamsa said...

You know what? This article and those commenters are still bothering me inside. As the child of an educator, part of me just wants to believe that if we could only explain to them exactly what having disabilities mean, then they wouldn't act this way. However, it's just like racism. Even though most people have been shown incontrovertible proof that people of color are basically biologically indistinguishable from whites, it hasn't decreased the amount of racism in this country.

People just don't care about the facts. They already do know enough not to be able to claim it's simple ignorance when they make these comments. It's hatred and it's very, very hard for me not to hate them in return sometimes.

If it weren't for the fact that I know the line between "disabled" and "non-disabled" is just an illusion, I might seriously consider separatism.

bint alshamsa said...

P.S. I added you to my blogroll. You have a voice that more people should be hearing.

Ignatius J. Reilly said...

Right on, Anna.

I don't know if you remember the Ryan White sage? He was kid in Florida who in the early 1980's contracted HIV through a blood transfusion (so the media felt it wasn't "his fault").

He was banned, for a time, from coming to school, even though he really wanted to. One day when he managed to get the courts to let him attend, half of the study population stayed home.