Dear Baby / Gratitude Project

Dear School Board

Many of you may know that school boards across America are being inundated with outraged parents that their children have access to a book that shows a picture of a child with two mommies (or whatever the fuck). Women are screaming at school board members about Critical Race Theory without knowing what it even really is. It’s been particularly ugly in our district- forcing our Board President to resign recently.

Another target in our district is the SEL (Social Emotional Learning) curriculum, which is taught to elementary and middle school students. It’s like 15 minutes a day and it exposes kids to ideas about emotions, empathy, and things like, “It’s okay to be different” (THE HORROR)

I can’t imagine being in public education right now.

Anyway, I wrote the following email and cc’ed all the school board members, including our superintendent, as well as The Baby’s teachers and principal.

Hi School Board Members, 

My name is Beth Wise. I have two children in Richardson schools. My youngest, {The Baby}, is a Kindergartener in {Teacher}’s Active Learning Class at {School} this year. {The Baby} has Down Syndrome and, due to a host of issues, is very developmentally delayed. He doesn’t communicate with words; he can’t walk on his own yet and so he crawls or uses a gait trainer to get around; at 6, he still drinks water out of a baby bottle. Children who aren’t familiar with special needs don’t usually know what to make of him.

I’m sure you can imagine that I was very nervous about sending him to school. While (blessedly) {The Baby} doesn’t register how his peers perceive him, I am acutely aware of the scared stares and strange questions we get from kids when we’re out in public. Before the year had started, I had already planned to talk to the regular Kinder class that {The Baby} attends art, music, and PE with to head off any questions or fears the class may have about {The Baby} in the hopes that some of them would befriend him. 

It turns out that my worries were unfounded. 

Last week, during PE, {The Baby} was playing a game with {Regular Kinder Teacher}’s Kinder class and the whole class stopped to cheer and clap for {The Baby} as he finished the game. This happened without any adult prompting. {The Baby}’s private duty nurse who goes to school with him related this to me and it nearly had me in tears. 

I recently spoke with {Regular Kinder Teacher} and she mentioned that the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum covers some of the character traits (kindness, compassion, celebrating differences, etc) that I had hoped to see in {The Baby}’s neurotypical classmates. Instead of being afraid of him or considering him a pariah, his Kinder peers are welcoming him and celebrating his differences. 

I know that the SEL curriculum is under fire right now and I wanted to write you in support of it, as a parent of a child who directly benefits from the lessons taught during this time. Please keep doing what you’re doing. 

Thanks for your public service, 

Beth Wise

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