Is New Orleans a cursed city?  The Katrina Report suggested there is still a deep and lingering discrimination against the ultimate revival of that important, Southern, American, core.  Now we have reports from the field that disabled children are being discriminated against within the urban seawall.

The Southern Poverty Law Center have stepped forward to fight for the disabled children of New Orleans:

In the years following Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans public school system has been transformed, resulting in 47 charter schools operating in the city as independent school districts, 23 schools operated by the state under the Recovery School District (RSD) and 16 schools operated by the Orleans Parish School Board. The complaint describes how the state education department’s failure to fulfill its obligations has resulted in systemic violations documented in more than 30 of these schools, including 17 charter schools.

Students at these schools have been either completely denied enrollment as a result of their disability or forced to attend schools ill-equipped or entirely lacking the resources necessary to serve them. These are both clear violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal law intended to ensure that all children with disabilities are provided a free and appropriate education.

The human specifics of the discrimination are heart-rendering:

Leskisher Luckett, whose third-grade son was repeatedly locked in a school closet as a means of punishment, described the effect this discrimination has had on her son. “After being treated like a lost cause for years, Darren has come to believe that about himself. My son, my 9-year old son, is too young to give up on his education.”

Robyn Flanery’s daughter began suffering from profound emotional troubles upon entering the seventh grade. But, rather than receive any type of services to address this affliction, she was repeatedly punished for minor infractions until she was finally expelled from the school she had attended since kindergarten, leading to even greater emotional trauma.

“After years of being the ideal student, my daughter became seriously depressed almost overnight,” Flanery said. “But, instead of helping us and helping her, our family was abandoned by the school community we had been a part of for so long.”

When we treat the most vulnerable among us like animals — we should expect the development of the animal and not the human.

It is out duty to be watchdogs for each other.  We need to help the lame walk.  We need to feed the hungry.  We are required to teach every child how to become greater than their finest weakness.

On November 24, 2009, I wrote an article called — “The First Withering in a Failing Economy” — arguing that the disabled are always the first to feel the fall of the budget axe against their throats in the devolution of their basic rights vs. “greater societal economic need,” and that splintering of the human from the bottom line always results in an irrevocable failure of understanding by abridging access to appropriate communication:

In the winnowing of State and Federal budgets, a silent move is afoot to defraud the rights of the Deaf in spite of the ADA — the Americans with Disabilities Act — by providing interpreters that are not certified, or even basically qualified, in order to save money, but to still be technically “in compliance” with, the tenets of the ADA.

Uncertified interpreters cost a third as much per hour as a certified interpreter and there’s a reason for that:  No formal training, no evaluation of skills, no Code of Ethics mandate and so on… that means anyone who signs — or thinks they can sign — can label themselves an “interpreter” and get hired because there are no prerequisites or conditions.

My fear and dismay are grounded every day in the realism of how many times I have been linking that Withering article over the last few months as we, together, continue our slippery sliding backward into the darker moments of a crueler — and more misbegotten — national history of legally punishing the ugly and meting the disabled.


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