May I safely assume we all know the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”? Good! Today I’d like to explore the idea of crying discrimination. The word “discrimination” often conjures up very strong emotions, which in return can prevent us from seeking the full story. Consequently, actions then get misconstrued. I believe this to be the case with a recent news item discussed by The Stir‘s Jeanne Sager.
Sager writes about the following photograph, posted to Facebook Tuesday, March 27th by Alex Pollard’s mother.
As I’m sure you accurately deduced, Alex is the sixth grader in the wheelchair off to the side. Outrage continues to spread across the Internet over the picture. While plenty of critics prove more than justified in their criticisms, others seem to be turning the situation into something it’s not. For example, take Sager’s comment,
“But for Alex Wilson, being different has come to mean being ignored.”
Initially the writer/editor within me screams out “FACT CHECK, FACT CHECK!” Yes, the last name of Alex’s mother is Wilson but according to 11 Alive News Alex’s last name is Pollard. Enough about pesky details though. I want to focus on the notion presented that Alex getting ignored proves reoccurring. A statement released by the school notes the following.
“(Alex) has been a member of the chorus for the entire school year and there have been no prior issues.”
The school went on to explain the person who usually wheels Alex onto the stage remained absent at the choir concert and calls what happened a “regrettable oversight.” I personally believe “regrettable oversight” serves as a gross understatement. However, I do not feel enough evidence exists to label the events at South Cobb High School Tuesday, March 27th “discrimination.” I consider what happened to Alex an inexcusable mistake, NOT an intentional action meant to exclude an individual with a disability from participating in an extra-curricular activity.
Now 11 Action News does report choir director Lars Grevstad claims to not have seen Alex off to the side. Alex’s mother counters this by saying the director personally welcomed her son before the performance started. I really can’t correctly debate this reasoning without first knowing what the mother means by “before the performance started.” Did the alleged welcome occur when Alex arrived at the high school? Or, did the director literally walk up to Alex, welcome him immediately before the singing started, and then walk back to the center? I find the latter hard to fathom.
Given my thoughts here you might wonder, do I condone what happened at South Cobb High School Tuesday, March 27th? No, of course not. Perhaps no comment demonstrates my point better than repeating my earlier words.
“I consider what happened to Alex an inexcusable mistake, NOT an intentional action meant to exclude an individual with a disability from participating in an extra-curricular activity.”
In conclusion, we in the disability community should stay cautious about crying discrimination. This will help us avoid encountering the same fate as The Boy Who Cried Wolf.