I read it. I have mixed feelings about it. Very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I feel bad for the parents. On the other, I only know the parents’ story and it is possible that very good reasons were given (as in not having properly trained staff) for why they were turned away. Personally, I can say with 100% certainty that if you cannot meet my child’s needs or you show any reluctance, I don’t want you as my child’s educators. That’s autism or not. (For the record, the one time we were “kicked out” of a program was a program that was for only children with autism. They could not “meet Shelby’s level of need.” Oh the irony…)
But that’s not the line I’m talking about. The line I am talking about is bringing my story to the press. Even without my child’s name included, it is easy enough to find out who someone’s child is in this internet age and cause problems for her and me. When Shelby was in kindergarten there was an incident at her school with another child with autism. A lot of rumors flew around and so did a lot of misinformation. I kept myself very neutral, or as neutral as I could when only 10 children were in her classroom and many of the parents were busy-bodies. But one parent, not the parent of the child involved in this incident, had a vendetta. She was angry with the school system and took the story to the local media. It was picked up only by the local newspaper but made it front page. She embellished facts and a mis-attributed quote was placed in the article. And she flat out lied about the most crucial part of the incident. The family involved’s name wasn’t used but it’s such a small community that word got out. And quick. The errors were corrected (lawyers were involved). The mis-attributed quote was removed entirely. But a lot of damage was done. The parents at the center of this are now divorced and the children involved have suffered greatly. And that right there led me to believe that going to the media and making my child a target was wrong. When you lob the ball into the court of public opinion, you better be ready to suffer at the hands of it to. The “great injustice” done to you may not be so obvious to someone else. Anyone else. And in the case of my children, it puts a target on their backs that they cannot protect or defend themselves from.
The most common thing I’ve heard in response to my concerns with going to the press is, “well, what if there was a criminal investigation or law suit and they came to you?” My answer to the press, “no comment.” I’m not interested in making a global statement for an individual issue right now and I do not want my children to be unwillingly thrust into the maelstrom. Period.
The family in the article feels wronged, so they sued. I have no problem with that, but I hope they understand that making all this public, going to the media will have long lasting repercussions both good and bad. And that they may not be able to protect their child from all of them.
Be very careful what fights you bring into the court of public opinion, especially in the internet age because the impression you leave there, could haunt you for a long, long time.