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Why I'm Grateful Cory Booker Spoke Up About IDEA in His Speech

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It’s promising to know there are members of Congress who care about children with disabilities. With the current cabinet pick, it is reassuring that some individuals are still fighting for the rights of those marginalized in society. I was especially grateful for Cory Booker’s speech, the senator from my home state of New Jersey. He urged members of Congress to vote against DeVos. Although Democrats did not get the outcome they desired, his speech still has a lot of merit.

Cory Booker spoke about how the federal government’s Office of Civil Rights helps parents who need to hold school districts accountable to follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). He told the story about a child with a disability who was restrained and held face-down for too long. The parents filed a complaint with the federal government to get justice for their son.

As Senator Booker spoke, I cried tears of joy and sorrow. I cried for joy that someone cared enough about our children with disabilities to fight for them. Sorrowful tears because these atrocities even occur.

Throughout my career as an educator, I have witnessed how children with disabilities can be greatly misunderstood. Some school employees without adequate training or knowledge of autism spectrum disorders take meltdowns personally and feel the child is misbehaving. Once, I saw a boy with autism be harshly reprimanded by the principal of his school because he had a meltdown about going in a certain room. He was told he would have to stand all day if he didn’t go into the library, a place that for some reason was traumatic for him. This same child was made to stay in the room that was traumatic for additional time. He was told the longer he screamed, the longer he was going to have to stay there. My heart truly broke for this child who was so greatly misunderstood.

So, as Senator Booker spoke, I wept for this child and for all children who are treated unfairly. My family has been extremely fortunate to be around educators and administrators who are patient with my son who has autism. He has not had to endure being held down or yelled at during a meltdown. However, this does happen, and there needs to be a law in place to prevent it. My hope is the current administration and Secretary of Education — with the help of Congress — continue to improve the lives of children and all individuals with disabilities.

There are many children that spend their day frustrated and feeling unheard. Thank goodness there are individuals out there who are willing to stand up for them.

Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

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Originally published: February 25, 2017
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