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Dear Florida Department of Education, You Need to Respond to This Viral Story

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It’s me again…

Yes, I will continue to share my thoughts and repeat the ideas I’ve been presenting for two years to the school system.

As I read the news about the Florida Statue University football player/student who sat down to have lunch with a student with autism, I reaffirm my position: the Florida Department of Education (FL DoE) and its districts are not doing their jobs.


FL DoE and its districts ought to be ashamed of the fact the media is highlighting another student is allowed to sit alone in a cafeteria. It took a visitor to the school to notice and approach him.

It is unacceptable that the leadership of that school and district (as it happens in every single district in this state and the country) permitted this young man to sit alone.

The FSU player must get all the attention. I respect him because he knows what our kids need, yet the system created to educate and socialize our kids in an academic setting does not.

Suggestion: FL DoE should be creating an action plan and submitting some kind of press release to every media outlet announcing — finally — the introduction of buddy programs in every school. By the way, there is no cost involved in creating such programs and the multiple benefits for all students have been researched and confirmed.

For the past two years I’ve been requesting the same. 

The answer: nothing. I correct myself — for a couple of weeks the attempt was made to have a fifth grader interact with my daughter. The project was stopped because there was no plan of action, no commitment, no interest, no acceptance, no support, no compliance, no least restrictive environment (LRE).

Our reality: after the last incident and my letter/request, my daughter is finally having lunch with her peers. 

I look forward to great stories from her about this experience.

In the meantime, many students with disabilities continue to sit by themselves in the cafeteria, without involvement, interaction, exposure to the rest of the student body. The responsibility lies in the principal, the ESE director, the superintendent of every district in Florida, the FL DoE ESE Bureau Chief and the Commissioner.

A least restrictive environment is the goal. FL DoE and its districts are not in compliance. The time to correct this is yesterday.

Thank you for your consideration.

Author’s note: I urge Florida State University personnel to consider the creation of a FSU buddy program. There is so much that can be done! A win-win for all.

Image via Facebook.

Originally published: September 1, 2016
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