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To the Teacher Who Couldn't Handle My Disability

To my former teacher,

There is a one in a million chance you will ever read this. However, that isn’t the point. I want other people to know how you mistreated me, so this doesn’t happen to another student. I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). EDS is a connective tissues disorder with symptoms ranging from frequent dislocations and easy bruising, to chronic pain and fainting spells.

From the middle of September to the end of December, I required the use of my wheelchair. You were my science teacher. You are a very intelligent person. You have a PhD, but your PhD is in geology, not chronic illnesses or pain. You decided you knew what was best for me and my well-being. You decided I would be required to make up an assignment that I physically could not do with no help whatsoever from you or my support staff. You required I write pages at a time when I couldn’t hold a pencil without pain, even though my IEP clearly stated I was to be allowed to type at times like those.

When I told you I could not do those things, you gave me a detention. I was told to come to your class every afternoon until I could get the work done. After the third time this happened, I felt broken. In your presence, I felt small and helpless.

This final time, I began to cry and tried to hide it, but when you noticed, what you did was grab my wheelchair and put me in another room. (Which by the way, touching my assistive device without permission is a completely different issue.) After five minutes, you came to get me, assuming that the damage would be undone. When you saw that I was still upset, you dismissed me for the day. My boyfriend helped me get in the car and we drove to my house with me sobbing uncontrollably the entire way. He carried me into the house and held me while I asked him through my tears to explain what had happened to my parents, because I simply couldn’t get out the words. My parents were furious. They hadn’t known about any of this up until now, because I knew they would be extremely upset. They immediately sprung into action, and had an appointment scheduled with my support staff scheduled for the next day.

My parents walked into that room with a fury in their eyes I had never seen before. My Dad went into a long rant, saying, “People should not be treated like that and you had no right to hurt my daughter or make her do things she physically could not do.” My Mom, true to her character, calmly said that as a family, we were frustrated and I would need to be removed from your class immediately. And so I was. I never had to set foot in your classroom again.

However, this is not as awesome as it sounds, because I now have to take an additional science class in order to graduate — simply because you could not function as a person with human emotions and be understanding.

You had a big impact on my personal life in a very negative way. You inhibited my education and broke me down inside. I could still be upset. I have every right to be, because nothing you did was either ADA-compliant or at all sensitive to my needs and feelings. Still, I’ve chosen to be “over it.” I’m over it because this was not the first time I’ve had an experience like this and sadly, I know it won’t be the last. Luckily, I was able to turn my experience with you into a lesson. People are going to do hurtful things. Sometimes life won’t go as expected, but things happen, and life goes on. You get to decide if you move on with it or if you get stuck. I have chosen to move on. I hope the next student you teach with disabilities doesn’t have to struggle like I did. I hope you have learned your lesson.

Your former student

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Getty Images photo via Voyagerix