Alright – so, ever since Jaysen Anderson with the help of my son’s autism teacher Kelly Morris and Bloomington Public Schools special education director Jennifer M decided to kick my child out of school while they kept non-minority children with similar circumstances, I have been a relentless advocate in this area so that what happened to my family does not keep happening to other minority children. It is worth noting that Bloomington Public Schools have a shameful and disgraceful racial disparity record. They were part of 43 school districts cited by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Bloomington Public Schools have a long history of racial achievement gap for students of color and students with disabilities. This will not change unless there is a change in the board, in the administration and how we fight back.
Minnesota State Senate
E-12 Finance & Policy Committee (3.18.19, 3pm)
Chair – Sen. Carla Nelson from Rochester (please email her or call and ask her to put nonexclusionary language in her education omnibus bill) email@example.com or 6512964848. You don’t have to live in Rochester to contact her.
Dear Madam Chair and Committee Members, Good afternoon. Many thanks for the opportunity to testify today. I appreciate your time.
My name is Idil Abdull and I have a son who has nonverbal autism. As you may know, autism is a developmental disorder that affects the ability to communicate, social skills, sensory and behavior regulation skills. 1 in 59 children have autism nationwide and 1 in 26 Somali children have autism in Minnesota according to eleven CDC funded states which include Minnesota.
My son who does not understand cause/effect and is profoundly affected by autism was suspended by Principal Jaysen Anderson in Bloomington Public Schools. I will never forget the day this happened as it has profoundly affected our whole family emotionally, physically and financially. Individuals with autism are often routine oriented and can get dis-regulated if their routine is disrupted. My son’s routine end of the school day was to go to his locker, get his jacket and school bag then come outside where I would wait and pick him up. He always needs to have one on one and had a para. On May 2nd, his autism teacher knew he is a routine-oriented kid, yet she decided to ask the para to bring his jacket and the pack bag to him in the classroom. This, of course, threw him off his routine. He started to flop to the floor and cry. The autism teacher (Kelly Morris) instead of giving him his communication device so that he can tell her what he wanted calling security, the principal and the assistant principal. This again overwhelmed him even more because now his sensory is overloaded. These adults blocked him to go through the door that led to his locker.
Around 2:15 or so, when I didn’t see them bring my kid out, I went inside the school and saw my son on the floor crying and wanting to go through the door they were blocking which was where his locker was located. I asked them to help me bring him out to the car. I remember as I was buckling him into his seat, the principal asked me about his car seat, and I explained it to him that it helps him stay seated in the car as he has no safety skills and will get out of his seat if he sees a place he likes such as Starbucks or Leeann Chin.
The next day which was Thursday at 5:18pm 2018, I received an email from the school principal Jaysen informing that my child has been suspended not one but for five days. Keep in mind, the principal, teacher, all of them knew that my kid did not understand cause/effect nor comprehend what even suspension is. Furthermore, autism is a behavior disorder and his behavior the day before was caused by the teacher disrupting his routine. Additionally, she denied him his voice by not giving him his communication device thereby violating his civil rights.
The principal who is the adult that I am supposed to trust with my vulnerable child that needs one on one decided to sit in front of a computer and type a suspension letter to me. At first, I could not even believe it. I had to send it to another person to read it to me. Madam Chair and Members, from that moment on, I have become almost an expert in trying to understand suspension and disparity reasons. You see, suspension does not just affect the child, it affects the parents and the whole family. When a child is kicked out of school, we are told our child is not important enough to stay and learn. We are told, we don’t matter. This, of course, is wrong, immoral and unacceptable.
Research has failed to support the common perception that racial and ethnic disparities in school discipline stem from issues of poverty and increased misbehavior among students of color (Skipa, et al., 2012). In other words, when white students and black students come from similar socio-economic backgrounds and display similar behaviors, black students are still disciplined higher.
So, what is causing this gap & disparity?
I can cite many different researcher’s hypotheses, but I will give you my personal experience with my son. In my son’s autism classroom, there was a white autistic child who had severe behaviors, but the school principal never even knew about it let alone suspend him. You see, the teacher would contribute his behavior to his disability, but when my son had a behavior which mind you, they caused, their judgment and discretion were to suspend him, not one but for five school days.
Some may say this is blatant discrimination, some may say it is differential treatment, some may even say it is a subliminal bias that often administrators are not even aware of or lack of cultural training. I personally think it is a lack of accountability. The school principals and administrators know they have a shameful discipline disparity record. Nevertheless, it is still no meat off their bone. There are no financial consequences nor is there any reprimand for principals and administrators who suspend our kids higher.
In closing, I support the language of this bill in that schools must first try non-exclusionary methods before students are suspended or expelled. We must hold school districts accountable for their record or they won’t change.
I respectfully ask that you support this discipline language and vote for it.
Above words do not reflect any candidate, agency or committee.
Idil Abdull – Somali Autism Mom