I am writing regarding an incident that occurred at the Okmulgee special school board meeting on January 13, 2015. During a report on Special Education services, school board member, Marcus Jeffrey, asked Ms. Beamis if each site did similar testing to see if the kids "were retarded." He unfortunately was not corrected by Ms. Beamis. He did later say that he used the wrong word. I personally confronted him after the meeting and let him know that I have a child on an IEP and and that child is not retarded. I told him that his ignorance of use of the word was very offensive and that he owes every child with special needs in Okmulgee schools an apology. He stated that he misspoke and that no one else would know that he had said it unless I "let it slip." I made him aware that he "let it slip" not me. He let it slip in a recorded meeting that is open to the public. He then told me not to put it on Facebook and I told him I would put it there and in a letter to the editor.
My frustration here is that Marcus's ignorance is what we continually deal with. It is a fight to get your child tested, to get teachers to comply with accommodations, and a fight to have the child's individual needs addressed. Most parents just accept whatever the school tells them. However the ones who are knowledgeable advocate for what is right. Children who are on IEP's have different challenges. There are physical challenges like being in a wheelchair, visual impairment and even having diabetes. There are cognitive challenges like having a developmental delay or being on the autism spectrum. There are also behavioral challenges that range from ADHD to severe emotional trauma. All of these challenges can affect a persons ability to learn and requires individualized services. I define these challenges to show the vast array of needs for which a young person may have an IEP.
For me the "R" word is just like the "N" word. People who use the "N" word usually have a set of preconceived, negative ideas about the person they are referring to. Sometimes, they let the "N" word "slip." If that person were to say "I misspoke" would that make it okay with the person who was offended? I don't think so. I find the "N" word extremely offensive also. I think people who use it are ignorant also. I use this example since I know that Marcus is a strong advocate for equal rights of the African American or black community. He and I both know what an awful word the "N" word is. I hope that this example will help him and others to understand and be able to empathize with my feelings about the "R" word.
I came home from that meeting and shared what happened with my husband. He's really laid back and doesn't get upset about anything. He was angry. So, I knew that I wasn't over reacting. After that, I cried about the situation. It hurts me that Marcus was once someone who I loved. Someone I wanted my children to know because I loved his father, Pastor CJ Jeffrey Jr. However, now he is just another person who doesn't care how many children or families his ignorant beliefs and words have hurt. He's another person in the school system who I will have to "battle" to make sure that children with special needs are treated equally. He's someone I will never vote for again. He's someone I will pray for.
I encourage any readers who struggle with Okmulgee Public Schools regarding special education issues to contact the Oklahoma Parent Center at 405-379-2108. They can answer questions and provide advocates. Additionally, formal complaints can be made by contacting the State Department of Education at 405-521-4863.