Our Complaint Against EVCS—Privilege, part 2

This is the beginning of the report we sent that outlines our complaint about EVCS  • I will post the report in 6 installments • This is part 2 • If you would like to read the dang, long pdf version please do so by clicking here

Sam (our white, biological son) graduated from EVCS in 2020 and is now studying at Canisius High School. In the spring of 2022, when Cal (our black/Hispanic adopted son with an ADHD diagnosis) was in 3rd grade, I removed him from his classroom for digital learning. It was later discovered that he was not receiving the special education accommodations outlined in his IEP. He was practically illiterate. As parents, we were heartbroken when we finally realized the extent of what happened at EVCS to Cal. Sam said, “I told you for years this was happening, not just to Cal. You didn’t want to hear it but now you see it for yourself.”

The year before Sam started at EVCS, he was enrolled in what could be called a “redshirting program” at Westminster Early Childhood Program, a private preschool. In his class, seven children who were born in the later part of the year were given one more year of preschool so they would enter kindergarten at five years old. The director of EVCS had enrolled her children at this school. Of the seven children in Sam’s class, five of them enrolled in the lottery for EVCS. In a lottery of hundreds, all five students won a spot. In fact, one of the kids’ parents is now the chair of the board. Of course, this statistical anomaly raised my suspicions. I try not to justify my complicity. I accepted the admission with relief and silence.

At the time of Sam’s entrance into kindergarten, we were trying to adopt. When Sam gained admittance into EVCS, we changed our “child interest grid” to include children of color. I believed EVCS with its mission of community and multiculturalism to be a kind of gift to our someday baby. From my vantage point at the time, I was happy Sam would attend a diverse, well regarded, well funded, safe, and highly ranked elementary school which given sibling preference would be the same one for our adoptive child. We adopted Cal in February of Sam’s kindergarten year.

After the new principal arrived, the special education resource room was replaced by the Wellness Room. I initially thought this was a place for students to regulate and reflect. In five years, Sam spent all of 10 minutes there, coloring a flower. I later learned that it was also used for disciplining students with suspensions. My son Cal was there almost daily, and his disciplinary record grew.

Sam’s record remained pristine despite his starting at least one altercation. This type of non-reporting protects the school’s reputation and allows privileged students to attend better, often private high schools, without damaging their records. The school never once contacted me about Sam after the new principal. Recently, he told me about a situation when he was in 7th grade where a girl threatened a teacher with a knife. All students were explicitly instructed not to tell their families about the incident. The reputation of the school was deemed more important than helping the children and teachers after a traumatic event.

I wrote off Sam’s concerns and his admission that he was getting treated better than his peers as Sam just being a really great kid. He is a really good kid and so were his classmates, some of whom looked and sometimes acted like his brother. I continued to believe that our years as members of this community would extend the privilege to my black, adopted son with an ADHD diagnosis. As it turns out, trickle-down privilege is no more effective than trickle-down economics.

One of the last incidents that prompted us to remove our son from EVCS was an in-school suspension followed by a white, female classmate drawing pictures of him in jail and stuffing them into his desk. Cal gave the drawings to his teacher who promptly filed it under, “Nothing to see here.” I am positive that this little girl had no idea that he wasn’t receiving his special education mandates, or that the teachers were inexperienced, or that the curriculum wasn’t being modified, or the whole horrifying reality of the school to prison pipeline for black boys. She was simply illustrating what she saw everyday at EVCS that when black boys “misbehave,” they belong in detention. Cal reported these incidents to the teacher who ignored them even after I repeatedly asked about it.

10-25% of all students have ADHD or ADHD behaviors (American Psychiatric Association, 2022). EVCS worked hard to expel Cal from its rolls (only back-pedaling when lawyers were present), and we know of other families who have faced similar treatment.

I will no longer be complicit and silent about a system that privileges some children over others, that suspends rather than accommodates, that refuses to integrate special education into their curriculum. I hope our honest account of what transpired will motivate you to insist on change.

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Lesa Quale Ferguson

Writer + Picture Taker ^ Image-Maker & Design Web-ber #Ma

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