Although advocating for a child with disabilities can be lonely, exhausting work, our collective efforts can improve the lives of countless students who will follow behind our own. Cambridge SE-PAC fosters advocacy in three ways:
- Individual: Building the capacity of diverse families to advocate for their children through respectful, collaborative communication with teachers and IEP Teams.
- Collective: Creating a community where families share stories and recognize patterns within our experiences. Elected leaders give voice to these experiences in collaborative meetings with the CPS Administration and the School Committee aimed at improving inclusion and services for students with disabilities.
- Legal: Educating families about the legal rights of students with disabilities so that they may exercise their rights, including the right to file appeals, request mediation, and file complaints with the Office of Civil Rights and Bureau of Special Education Appeals.
Cambridge SE-PAC views this work within an anti-racist lens. Despite the efforts of many dedicated teachers and administrators of color and white allies, we know that racism infuses every American institution, including public schools. Cambridge is not immune to this challenge.
- In Cambridge and nationally, students of color are disproportionately mis-identified as having disabilities (particularly intellectual or behavioral).
- Simultaneously, students of color are also disproportionately under-resourced when disabilities are identified.
- Due to race-based economic inequality, parents of students of color with disabilities are less likely to have access to paid legal advocates or attorneys.
- Due to structural racism and implicit bias, advocacy efforts by parents of color are more likely to be met with rebuke.
Therefore, building a racially and economically diverse community of families who are equipped as strong and effective advocates is fundamental to advocating on behalf of the rights of persons with disabilities in the Cambridge school system.