Another end-of-the-school-year awards season.

Another malicious award given to a student with disabilities.

It’s happened more than once, just in this last week alone.

These actions are especially cruel during this bittersweet time of year, when so many families like mine are confronted with daily reminders that our children’s developmental trajectories and future opportunities do not align with those of their typical peers, a time when the panic we have managed to push down for the better part of the school year rises with a renewed sense of urgency and lodges itself in our throats as we pass the graduation decorations in aisle 9 and listen ad nauseam to our next neighbor boast about her Ivy League bound granddaughter.

We are already skating on thin ice, trying to balance acceptance for what is with a tentative hope we dare not share with others of what might still be if only a miracle presented itself. The right school. The right program. The right teacher who sees beyond the diagnoses and assessments and greets our child each day with a commitment to build upon the strengths and potential she sees rather than clinging to the challenges and giving up before she even begins.

This Most Annoying award that an Indiana educator bestowed upon her student with autism, it’s more than just an inappropriate gesture. It’s the realization of a deep rooted fear we all have that our children are not being given a safe and nurturing learning environment. That for six hours each day, they are stuck in a classroom with someone who cannot stand them, much less care about their future.

And, if this woman was so brazenly able to stand up before fellow classmates, staff, and parents, and hand this award out in front of all of them, what was she capable of doing when no one was watching?

This behavior doesn’t just speak ill of the individual responsible for the action. It erodes the entire teaching profession, because even though we know there are amazing educators out there dedicating themselves to our children, keeping them safe and engaged, incidents like this one bring our biggest fears and doubts to the forefront of our minds and we are left with a sinking feeling that maybe our child will be next.

And to make matters worse, we already have our own superlatives about our kids swirling in the backs of our heads, don’t we?

Most Likely to be Bullied

Most Likely to be Left Behind

Most Likely to be Abused

Most Likely to Have the World See Her as Less Than

Most Likely to Wander and Never Be Found Again

Most Likely to Have the Least Opportunities

Most Likely to End Up Alone

God. Those suck, don’t they? The last thing we need is someone adding Most Annoying, or Most Likely to Never Leave to the list. Especially someone who has chosen a field where protecting and defending our most vulnerable students is part of the job description.

The news cycle is swift. A few more days at most and this latest story of inappropriate conduct towards someone with disabilities will fade into the background until a new incident surfaces to take its place.

And that’s what parents like me just can’t shake.

We know it’s just a matter of time

before there’s another one.

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