Monthly Archives: January 2020

Comments Off on Alex Bartolic from DHS Retires – I will miss you and Thanks Much!

Alright – so, Alex and I go years back. I met Alex over a decade ago, omg I feel old now. When I first started advocating at Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) with other autism parents, Alex was the first person that then DHS commissioner Ludeman back in Gov Pawlenty’s administration (the good old days) asked to answer my million autism questions. I remember I would call Alex and ask her questions about what services does DHS cover for kids with autism including does DHS pay/cover ABA therapy. Of course, we now know that DHS did not cover ABA therapy for kids with autism who had Medicaid but it did for wealthier kids who had TEFRA. I would find out when Alex would be testifying at the capitol and make sure I go there to testify and ask the same questions again and again. The committee chair would then have to call Alex as she often represented DHS and ask her “does DHS cover ABA therapy”. Alex would politely say no. Then I would say “yes they do but only for wealthy and mostly non-minority families”.

I know this pissed so many but it also made this state wake up to its many many many disparity and bias ways. As they say the rest is history and Minn now has one of the best ABA therapy coverage for kids with autism in the nation. This blog is not my advocacy and how ABA coverage came about, it is about Alex and my interactions with her.

I am eternally grateful to Alex. From day one until we actually passed not just EIBDI but other policies and laws helping kids with autism, Alex has always listened and took my views and concerns to heart. This does not mean I got everything I asked her but she listened. Of course, I wish her replacement was a person of color but maybe that is a dream. DHS is still one of the most racist agency in the state and will probably stay that way for a long time. Yes, I know they hired a black assistant commissioner but that is just for appearance not because DHS actually cares about equity nor equality – not under Governor Walz anyway.

Thank you Alex for validating my points, listening to my concerns, answering my questions and most of all respecting me even when we disagreed. No matter what I threw at you in state committees, meetings or in person – you always remained calm, cool and collected. Thank you for vising Somali community in Brian Coyle with then Asst Commissioner Loren and hearing from Somali autism parents. Thank you for all that you have done. I along with thousands of autism families in Minnesota will benefit from the many policies that you helped us with.

I wish you all the best in your next chapter!

Above words do not reflect any committee, agency or candidate.

Idil – Autism Mom

Comments Off on Education Minnesota – Your Silence Speaks Volumes

Alright – so, Education Minnesota represents teacher’s union. I was watching a documentary about education inequalities and achievement gaps, and one sentence that stuck with me was “often in public schools where there are minority students – principals sound like wardens and teachers sound like correctional officers”. This made me think about Bloomington Public schools and how they treated my family. Jaysen Anderson who is the principal for Jefferson high school and my son’s teacher Kelly Morris kicked my kid out of his educational environment. They did not try to help him when he wanted to communicate his needs. In fact, his teacher (Kelly) denied him his communication device. The principal (Jaysen) suspended him despite the fact that my son has nonverbal autism and didn’t understand cause/effect nor what suspension is.

As that was not hurtful enough, the administration team including those from special education, the superintendent and the all-white board protected Kelly and Jaysen (the adults with no disability who chose to work in this field). From that day on (May 3rd, 2018 at 5:18pm), I have been trying to learn and understand more about the reasons behind the high suspension rates for black and brown kids as well as students with disabilities in publicly funded schools.

I often hear this issue is complex and complicated, but really it is not. It is simple. It is all about race and color. This country has so many good qualities, but it also has a lot of horrible and shameful racial record that sadly has not gone away. In fact, some may say it has gotten worse. Today there are no laws that allow segregation and discrimination. Today’s racism is more subtle and is delivered subliminally with a hint of sugar in a charming manner. In other words, the same people who were racist back then had children who are racist now, but they are more educated sort of like a quite hyena. The quite hyena will still eat you, but it will not scream at you or make noise when it is coming. Instead of having unequal and separate laws, we have situations that allow unequal and separate education systems

What does this mean exactly? Well – lets dig in. If public school are funded with public funds then why are schools with majority white students given more money and resources which enables them to hire quality teachers, have equipped buildings and better resources? It is even more sad when there are school districts with minority board members and crap still happens like Mpls Public Schools.

Why do we have so many black and brown versions of Clearance Thomas. They look like us but not really. Ughhhh – this is the most frustrating part. Bloomington has one Hispanic person in their school board. Yet Bloomington’s suspension and achievement gap are worse for Hispanic students as well as other minorities. How can that be? What is the point of electing Nelly Korman if our kids are still failing and being kicked out of schools? Bloomington public school’s superintendent is also a person of color. In fact principal Jaysen who suspended my kid is a minority. Still disparity in suspensions and achievement gaps happen under their leadership. Why is that?

What is the point of advocating to have leadership who reflect the students if the fruits are still rotten? I always thought if the seeds are diverse then fruits will be diverse, and equality will prevail. This is not always and sadly the case. In fact, many leaders in teacher’s unions including Education Minnesota are people of color, yet teachers are kicking minority students left and right from their educational settings. Really what the hell? Education Minnesota has been silent about high suspension rates for black and brown kids as well as students with disabilities. Their leader Denise is your typical white woman who is charming. She preaches sugar but practices salt. She is often quite and allows white female teachers to screw with our children. Education Minnesota is also very strong politically. They practically own Minnesota’s governor aka one Minnesota hoax. Gov Walz has refused to put anything significant or meaningful in his budget nor state policies about education and keeping kids in schools. In fact, the teacher’s union tells him to jump and his response is how high and from where.

So now what? Well – we reap the politicians we vote for. We vote stupid – we get stupid and useless. We vote and not hold them accountable then they continue the same racism policies that got us here in the first place.

We must vote smarter; we must hold them accountable after they win, and we have to say to them we will vote you out if you don’t accomplish xyz for our community. We (black and brown) communities simply have not perfected this simple concept that other (Jewish, Caucasian, etc.) communities have done. We must realize when we vote for a governor, he/she (one day) hires the education agency leadership, health agency leadership, etc. They in turn hire others who push whatever policies they like which affect us and our children. The same for school board which hires the superintendent who hires principals who hire teachers – you get the point. It ain’t from the bottom up – it is from the top down.

To Education Minnesota: Stop protecting racist white female teachers and start protecting all students irrespective of their race, color or abilities. Worry more about kids than adults who chose this profession. When you are silent in the face of inequalities, you are condoning injustice.

In California – community-based organizations and students fought hard through demonstrations, policies and the courts. As a result, willful defiance and other stupid reasons black and brown students were being kicked out for became no more and guess what? Suspensions went down – yep. Guess what went up? That is right …… drum roll please…… oh come on pretty please……achievement and graduation went UP. You see it ain’t the kids who are bad or are failing. It is the adults who we trusted to teach and nurture our kids who are failing them and kicking them out of their learning environment. In 2012, a group of students challenged California’s teacher tenure in Vergara vs California to get rid of ineffective teachers who demean and berate their students instead of helping and teaching them. Wow imagine if my son’s teacher Kelly nurtured my kid who has autism. Imagine if she gave him his communication device and asked what he wanted. Imagine if she understood autism is a behavior disorder and her job was to teach and help him. Instead and I cry as I write this – Kelly called security and the principal on a child with a disability who depended on her, took his voice away and suspended him. Then she hid behind protective teacher’s union and school administrators. Imagine the heartache and pain I go through every time I remember this. More importantly, imagine what this did to an innocent kid who went to school to learn and be cared for. Imagine then put yourself in our shoes.

We must fight back. We must fight back. We must fight back. If we don’t this vicious cycle of kicking our kids out of school and failing them will not stop. If we parents don’t fight for our children – who will?

Vergara vs California also challenged the state of dismissals and lay off policies. Now imagine if Education Minnesota whose name is quite misleading. It sounds as though they care about education. Instead they are the teacher’s mafia gangs. Imagine if they actually cared about educating the students. Imagine if they didn’t protect teachers like Kelly who suspend nonverbal autistic kids, imagine if they fired ineffective and teachers with horrible suspension and achievement gap records, imagine if they actually promoted and enhanced equity instead of inequity. Just imagine that. Now imagine if so many state lawmakers were not puppets for teacher’s unions. Imagine if policy makers actually looked at the state’s data and did something about it with actions not just pretty charming words. Just imagine that.

You see change has to come from us. Parents and communities who are disproportionately affected by this must fight education Minnesota, policy makers and in the courts by suing these shameless and racist school districts. Change will come when we stand up and fight back. Change will come when we say we will no longer allow nor tolerate our kids being treated such cruel and inhumane manner. Change will come when we say no more. Change will come when we hold school board members particularly black and brown ones accountable and not vote for them again if they don’t speak for us. Change will come from parents, communities and most of all students whose future depend on this. We need teachers who care about our kids and families, not teachers that don’t care and get paid whether the students are there or not. I stand with students and families and never with adult teachers nor principals who created these disparities.

This is the documentary I mentioned. It puts into perspective how far we have come and sadly how far we still have to go. You can watch the full documentary on Netflix. It is worth noting that while the first judge ruled in favor of the children and families, three appellate judges (Hoffstadt who won in an election even unopposed once, Boren who was initially appointed by the governor then won subsequent elections and judge Judith (two white men and one white woman) reversed the first decision that sided with the students and families over teachers and administrators. Sadly, the state’s supreme court declined to hear the appeal. The point I am making here is that the ultimate folks who decided against kids and families either won elections or were appointed by elected officials voted by the people. We must vote wisely and realize that our votes are directly connected to our children’s education or lack thereof.

I applaud the attorneys who represented the students and families. One of them said “ineffective teachers are not fired instead they are transferred to schools with poor and minority children”. Ain’t that the truth.

Above words do not reflect any candidate, agency or committee.

Idil – Autism Mom