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Dear Senator: Please Protect My Child With a Disability

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Dear Senator Harris:

My name is Dawn Hamilton and my family and I reside in Los Angeles, California. My husband and I both voted for you, and we want to thank you for the leadership you have shown in support of protecting the civil rights and liberties of all people regardless of difference in race, religion, ability, economic status, sexual orientation, etc.

As the mother of a 6-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy, disability rights and healthcare are particularly important to us. I am writing to respectfully ask that you vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education and Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. I think both would be an extreme detriment to the civil rights of students with disabilities and other marginalized populations who need federal laws and strong advocates protecting them. I’m also asking you to ensure our healthcare coverage won’t be denied due to Emerson’s pre-existing condition and that we won’t have to worry about lifetime maximums.

Our daughter, Emerson, attends a fully inclusive school where she is in a mainstream kindergarten classroom alongside her typically developing peers. She is not segregated; she is learning the standard curriculum and working at grade level thanks to accommodations to support her special needs as outlined in her Individual Education Plan (IEP). She is thriving in this environment and we are thankful for the federal laws like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) protecting her rights to an education just like other school children without disabilities or special needs. Her participation in this classroom is also just as beneficial for her neurotypical peers who are learning empathy and acceptance at a very young age.

Ms. DeVos has no practical experience in education. She has spent the last several years actively opposing public education in her home state of Michigan. She has not attended a public school, has not studied education, been a public school parent, or ever worked in a school. Furthermore, her complete lack of knowledge about the federally mandated special education laws like IDEA and FAPE to protect the rights of students with disabilities, as evidenced in her Senate confirmation hearing, is beyond concerning. I don’t feel she has the best interests of students of all abilities in mind, and will not protect my daughter’s rights.

Additionally, Mr. Sessions has proven time and again he does not have the best interests of all people in mind. His heartless and misguided comments about students with disabilities is even more shocking and unacceptable than Ms. DeVos’. He has demonstrated through both words and actions that not only would he not fight for the rights of disabled students, but considers them a burden on the educational system, would threaten their rights to education and not uphold IDEA and FAPE, claiming that such federal protections “may be the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today.” His comments ignore the views of education advocates in his own state and around the country who say disabled students need the protection of federal regulations and the threat of lawsuits to get fair treatment.

Finally, I’m also asking you to do everything in your power to save our healthcare, whether that’s saving the Affordable Care Act or ensuring a replacement plan is in place before it’s repealed. The replacement plan needs to ensure pre-existing conditions and lifetime maximums won’t allow insurers to deny our family coverage. Because of her disability, Emerson qualifies for a Medi-Cal waiver in California and other government services, but we don’t rely solely on those supports. Through the ACA, we can purchase private insurance despite being self-employed, which gives her much better coverage and options for doctors and therapies. We pay a monthly premium, a yearly deductible and co-pays, and don’t rely solely on the government and taxpayer dollars to carry the weight of her medical care and habilitation.

Without the ACA, especially the provisions for pre-existing conditions and no lifetime maximums, we will no longer be able to obtain private insurance and ultimately the government and taxpayers will bear the full brunt of the cost of Emerson’s care, which is tens of thousands of dollars every single year. Please ensure affordable healthcare is available to all Americans regardless of pre-existing conditions, and for those who don’t work for big companies from which they have access to group plans.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my request.

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: January 30, 2017
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