Sometimes, labels are meant to be ripped off. East New York eighth-grader Lamarre St. Phard was stuck in a class by himself without support from those entrusted with his tutelage when the special education student was denied an opportunity to compete in his school districts spelling bee because he wasnt smart enough. Advancing to the primary leg of the contest and beating out a dozen of his classmates at Intermediate School 252, the industrious 13-year-old was given a certificate declaring him the spelling champion, through default, because other classes bowed out of the schoolwide challenge. Principal Mendis Brown caved into her doubts about sending a special education pupil to the Scripps National Spelling Bee by calling the budding wordsmith into her office and alerting him to her misgivings with a candor unbecoming to her position. She said, You dont have the brains to do it. Youre gonna go to the first round and get eliminated and make the school look bad, the boy grieved to the press, adding, I felt embarrassed. The door was open and other people heard it, too. The situation worsened after the principal coordinated another schoolwide spelling bee, the first round of which was won by a general education student, who backed out of the next level, allowing the second runner-up to flex his spelling muscle with pride. It appears that Principal Brown had a problem with that runner-up as well, forbidding him to progress and fulfill his capabilities because, like Lamarre, that student was also in a special education program. In the end, the curmudgeonly administrator decided that if a general education student couldnt represent the school, then no student would. Too bad. The sorry conclusion to what could have been an unprecedented and glowing victory for the school closes the chapter on student enterprise, industry and even acumen, thanks to a blow by a myopic headmistress, who could not transcend her own poor vision and hard heart to realize the obvious: that the hopes of keen and eager pupils should not be squelched, special education students should be encouraged to excel not dragged into defeatism and that mountains can be surmounted in a nation, which elected the star of Bedtime for Bonzo as its fortieth president. If not national spelling bee champ for now, at least Lamarre St. Phard is nonetheless, a champion of special education students, who voiced his first words of activism by boldly declaring, Im gonna keep studying to show her that special ed students can participate and Im gonna stand up for special ed students. Hear, hear, kid. Principal Brown deserves an F for her handling of the matter, which snubbed the forlorn boy and compelled him to voice: That really hurts, to tell someone they dont have brains
It sure does, laddie. Principal Browns lack of foresight and unkind spirit towards an aspiring young mind is a worthy reminder that grown-ups do not always have the final word in cultivating good character and dispensing sound education particularly in a school where the special education students appear to be a cut above the rest. E-mail A Britishers View at BritView@c
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