There’s a thin line between not being a jerk and political correctness. Most of the time people seem to fail. Completely.
You see, there’s nothing wrong in and of itself with trying to treat people decently and humanely. Part of that is not making fun of things that are beyond someone’s control, especially when you’re in a position of authority. However, that’s a memo one teacher reportedly didn’t get.
12-year-old Derek Cooper suffers from ADHD. As someone who has ADHD as well, I can assure you that not only is it a real thing, it’s also a real pain. Unlike so many other disabilities, society doesn’t open itself up to the average ADHD person. School accommodations are minimal, for example, making it a real challenge to thrive in an educational environment.
It doesn’t help when your teacher awards you a “most likely to be distracted… by something shiny” award.
In front of the entire class.
Unfortunately for young Derek, that’s exactly what happened. His disability is a real one that many people refuse to acknowledge. His disability was not only placed front and center, it was placed there for mockery.
Yeah, that’s going to give a kid a warm, tingly feeling.
His mother, Tera, is furious and is now talking about legal action.
“He had tears in his eyes. He’s embarrassed because he had to accept it in front of his entire class,” she told NBC Connecticut.
“He is on a 504 plan at the school, so she is aware of it. I don’t know if she thought it was funny but it’s not funny. She’s the teacher. It’s supposed to be a safe place,” she added.
For the record, a 504 plan is an educational plan for people who have various learning disabilities but don’t require special education necessarily. In other words, it’s a document that shows the school and the teacher did, indeed, know about Derek’s disability.
To be fair, though, the school acted quickly. Principal Scott Gagnon sat down with Derek’s folks and assured them the matter would be taken care of promptly. Superintendent Kenneth Di Pietro, however, was less forthcoming, saying he would not commit himself to anything until after an investigation had concluded.
For Mrs. Cooper, though, that’s not enough. She’s considering taking this to court. The reason? To “make the administration more involved in what teachers are doing and protect the students from having to deal with something like this in the future.”
Again, as someone who deals with ADHD daily, I get Cooper’s frustration and Derek’s embarrassment. I joke about my own ADHD all the time. It’s something I own and now people can’t use it to get under my skin.
Unfortunately, not everyone can do that.
But by the same token, talking about legal action is a little much. Yes, Derek was legitimately hurt by this and I get that Cooper wants to protect her son. What parent wouldn’t? However, he was not the only one to get the ADHD award, and he also received one for his improvement in social studies from the same teacher. Of course, the third award was for borrowing stuff and not returning it, an unfortunate symptom of ADHD.
Yet what good would reviving this accomplish? Forcing the schools to have more control over what teachers do in the classroom? I’m sorry, but that’s never going to happen to a sufficient degree that something like this would never happen again. The only way that can happen is if the principal is in every classroom at all times.
Instead, it might be better to use this as a lesson for Derek. Not everyone understands ADHD and many think it’s a topic for humor. In the real world, you either get used to it or get your feelings hurt a lot. There’s no way around it, so you might as well make that choice now.