From Hilary Jenkins-Spangler:
Apparently, Principal at Aberdeen High thinks he’s ‘retarded’…
Dressed in a pink shirt with a fake pig nose, over the televised school announcements on Wednesday, Mike O’Brien said ‘I look retarded’. What exactly did he mean?
When he said ‘retarded’ was he suggesting he looked like a special ed student with a learning or intellectual disability? Or perhaps someone with Tourettes or Down’s Syndrome? Were these just careless words that the ‘PC’ police jumped on? Was it a harmless off the cuff comment? OR could it reflect a deeper held belief that people with special needs have little value and it’s OK to mock and ridicule them?
On closer examination, it seems that Mike O’Brien has been a champion of antisocial behavior, he has displayed a broad generosity and tolerance for it. He protected an aggressive football player who had history of aggression towards other students. During a game against Harvre de Grace, this particular player attacked a member of the opposing team which resulted in a nasty brawl on the field. The game official, had to immediately end the game with time remaining on the clock. Principal O’Brien was only then willing to remove the player from the team – after sufficient parental pressure forced him to do so! There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Aberdeen High School is a hostile environment for students with disabilities, where they often get little respect or protection. Last year, a group of parents ‘Concerned Citizens’ sent a letter to the Board of Education sharing their disgust and concern over the principal’s behavior during the graduation ceremony of 2014. The students filed across the stage to receive their diplomas and recognition of their hard work; when the five special education students proudly walked across the stage to receive their hard earned diplomas, they left confused, empty-handed and humiliated! The Principal did not have diplomas for them (or even paper rolled into a scroll). A cherished and valued milestone in a person’s life, stolen by an act of outrageous discrimination. It was considered a ‘mistake’! Apologies were given, but that moment cannot be recreated. I have no affiliation to this school or principal, but as a Harford County resident, I am offended by his comments and actions.
My husband and I moved to Harford County to live in a family friendly place; we were drawn to a great school system and low crime rate. The people I know who live here are intelligent, hardworking and decent – at least that’s how I like to think of Harford County residents. (Although, there is a sign behind the Equestrian Center that advises people not to ‘play or walk in the manure piles’ – tempting as it may be! I’ve often wondered who the signs are there for – probably for the type of people who will leave nasty mean-spirited comments about special needs students at the bottom of this letter.) I would like to believe that the attitude and actions displayed by this principal are not reflective of the majority in this county – we’re a little kinder and more sophisticated than this – aren’t we? So, is it OK for someone in an influential, strong leadership position making comments like this – with no repercussions? What kind of example does this set for the students at Aberdeen High and other students in the county?
If Mike O’Brien had made a racial slur, or a sexist comment directed at women he would have at the very least been reprimanded. At the end of the school day on Wednesday, Principal O’Brien did issue an apology, (probably under the advice of a kinder and more enlightened co-worker.) I asked my son who is in middle school what he would think if his principal said ‘I look retarded’. He replied ‘it would make me wonder why I am even at this school!’