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"It has been a struggle to make sure their schools share our high expectations"

picture of justin at promCheryl Poe 8/4/15

I am an African-American mother of two children in Virginia public schools. Both of them have a learning disability. My husband and I have very high expectations for our children. It has been a struggle to make sure their schools share our high expectations. One day my son Justin's speech pathologist told me that she was not sure if my son had a "real" speech delay, or if my husband and I were speaking "Black English" to him at home, and that was the cause for my son's speech delays. I guess she forgot that my husband, and proud father of his children, is White.

At that moment, I knew it would take more, than just raising our children to believe that if they work hard, they can and will achieve great things. I would also have to convince their schools to look beyond my children's race or disabilities and believe that they could be successful in school and in life.

Though this experience was (and still is) painful, it gave me the "spark" to learn everything I could about the special education world, something I knew little about before my children were diagnosed. This is how I discovered COPAA. 

COPAA gave me the opportunity to network with people who gave me the support I needed in order to effectively advocate for my children.  The advocacy tools provided to me by COPAA were invaluable.  All of the tools and support I received from COPAA gave reason to be hopeful about my children’s educational futures.

One of my children graduated with honors from High school, while still receiving special education services.  This is especially amazing when you review the national statistics on graduation rates of Black Male students, according to the report, "Black Lives Matter: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males," the gap between the four-year graduation rate for black males and white males is 59 percent for black males to 80% for white males, a gap that widened from 19 points in the 2009-10 school year to 21 points in the 2012-13 year.  In its report Public High School Four Year On Time Graduation Rates: School years 2010-11 and 2011-12, the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) paints a bleaker picture for a black male with a disability, citing a gap of 61 to 86%, a 25 point spread.  Particularly striking is that in Virginia the report states only 47 percent  of students with a disability graduate.  Not only did my son graduate, but he graduated with honors!  

young Boy running on beachMy other son, whose program now only requires a 504 plan, because he no longer requires individualized instruction has a 3.0 GPA and scored 1490 on his SATS on his first try!  It is clear to me that my advocacy efforts resulted in incredible results!

Thank you COPAA!  

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