In fairness, the vast majority of parents begin a school year with the best intentions of working with school staff to provide a positive school experience for their child. They trust their educators to care about their child and do their best. They believe the school will put their child's best interests first, until they are given reason to believe otherwise.
The teachers of Steel Valley, Pennsylvania at Park Elementary School have certainly given the parents reason to believe otherwise. A grievance was filed in February by the teacher's union on behalf of 18 instructors at the school, including 2 special education teachers, complaining that their contract was being violated because the administration was allowing a student with mobility issues to use the staff restroom. The facilities in question were the only accessible bathrooms on the first level of a building that had no elevator. To comply with the law, the school had to have a restroom available on the floor where the child was attending class. At the same time, there were other staff restrooms in other parts of the building.*
When teachers behave in this way, it is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT for parents to believe they are putting the kids' best interests first. In fact, this behavior, by its very nature, is totally and completely self-centered.
On the other hand, a parent is more likely to correlate stories like this with the facts in Disability Scoop's article, "Disability-Related Education Complaints Trending Up." It's easy for a parent to make the leap thinking, Of course complaints are up with teachers that would even deny a child with a disability simple use of a staff restroom. If an educator would deny a child the most basic of human rights, what would make that same educator a cooperative team member in formulating and executing an IEP or 504 Plan for a child? How could a parent feel confident that "professionals" like this are truly looking out for the well-being of their child? Why wouldn't parents approach school staff aggressively, making discourteous demands, with guns-a-blazin' when they see unions behaving in this way?
Hear me when I once again reiterate that not every educator is of this same mindset. However, a shocking number have lost sight of what made them fall in love with their profession in the first place. They have turned the focus of education from the children to themselves.
For the subset of these instructors who are in the same category with the 18 aggrieved members of The Steel Valley Education Association, I would like to propose an appropriate restroom alternative for them...
|Photo image courtesy of Travis Manley via 123rf.com|
It is just too bad that the teachers had to not only make an unsavory spectacle of themselves, but also deeply offend a student and her mother in the process.
Please keep the student, her mother, and the entire school staff in prayer. It would be extremely difficult to move forward working as a team after such a contentious situation.
~ Barb Dittrich
* "Steel Valley teachers fight accommodation for special needs student," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 26, 2015.