Letter to the Editor: Every Child Has a Right to Basic Education in a Safe, Nondiscriminatory School


Discrimination hurts everyone. We should encourage, not discourage efforts to promote empathic communities. 

“Don’t tread on me” is not a caring motto, but sums up columnist Brian Mittge’s description of SB 5237, SB 5441, SB 5462 and SB 5257. These bills ensure all students get a standards-based, quality education in a safe, nondiscriminatory environment. How would he feel about these bills if his child was kept in a cage at school in Seattle in 2019?

The May 11, 2021 Washington Post headline read: “School that kept second-grader in ‘cage’ discriminated against him because of race and disability, lawsuit says.”

“The boy has attention-deficit hyperactive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. He also has a sensory, mental or physical disability. He, his mom and other siblings had been experiencing homelessness around the time he started being guarded by the former principal and staff members …His behavior, which included having tantrums, throwing things, threatening people and running around the school, was also commonplace .... the boy would be locked … ‘like an animal in the zoo.’ … He would often eat lunch alone in the enclosure, seated on the cold pavement because no table or desk was provided … Jacquelyn Flaherty, a kindergarten teacher and the only Black instructor at the school, complained directly to Roos but faced retaliatory action ... She was deeply disturbed to see one of the few Black students in the mostly white, affluent area being treated the way the boy was.”

The promise of public school is not “the promise of local control,” but the promise to educate and elevate the neediest and most difficult student. What other recourse is there for a homeless mother and survivor of domestic violence? Kids who throw chairs have special needs. Thank goodness for special ed teachers who have training, patience and dedication.

Vilifying special needs, minority and LGBTQ+ students sets the stage for bullying. Don’t cultivate fear, cultivate compassion. Watch

“The Bully Movie,” chronicling the lives of five families affected by bullying during a school year, can be viewed online at https://www.thebullyproject.com/about_film

Follow advice from the Bullying Prevention Initiative:

“Developing a caring community is not just about caring for our friends. It’s about being mindful of everyone in the community … Almost all parents think they’re good role models for their kids. But often … we are very focused on our own children, and we don’t model concern for other people’s children. Many parents … want children with behavior problems or special needs removed from a classroom because those children are interfering with their children’s learning. Our children are not likely to develop respect and concern for others who are struggling if we don’t model this concern.”

Every child has a right to a basic education in a safe, nondiscriminatory school. The four bills introduced in the Legislature aim to make sure what happened in Seattle never happens again, and that school districts and boards have procedures in place to comply with state law and to equitably and responsibly receive, catalog and respond to parent complaints. Please read and support these common sense bills.


Ceci Hauer