An open letter to Mrs. DeVos and the Trump Admin

I told myself I’d never write about politics, but I couldn’t stop myself this time.

Mrs. Betsy DeVos and the Trump Administration,

I write to you not only as a concerned citizen but as a first-hand beneficiary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504 plan). If the IDEA and other laws that ensure students who are disabled, or in need of accommodations, are provided the equal opportunity for education never existed - or were not mandated by the federal government - I wouldn’t have graduated high school. If you let the states decide whether or not to provide equal education for their disabled students, I guarantee thousands of more students would not have been able to lead successful lives.

Due to having Little’s Disease - a mild form of cerebral palsy - I have a below average fine motor skills and physical abilities. That, in addition to my stutter, caused a lot of stress at a quite young age. I was slow, shy, unable to talk, and couldn’t finish a test in the allotted time because of anxiety. Without the Individualized Education Program (IEP) I would not have been allowed to get extra time on exams, get notes from teachers, etc. I would’ve been forced to do the physical education activities I could not perform and endure the ridiculous laughs of my peers. I would not have been given the support — the guidance counselors, the speech classes at school — without an IEP.

I was under an IEP until the middle of eighth grade, when school administrators realized that I didn’t meet the requirements anymore. I was then put on a 504 plan which only allotted me extra time on exams. If you would’ve thrown the 504 plan out too, I would not have been able to take the Honors and AP classes I took just because I would not have been able to finish tests on time, not because I was intellectually incapable.

I can already hear some people saying:

“You would’ve figured it out, you’re a smart kid. Other kids can too.”

Yeah, sure. I figured it out to an extent. But I think I got lucky. I was a somewhat intelligent child with a loving family that provided for me. Most people don’t have that support at home. The IDEA also protects students with intellectual disabilities, which is a lot harder to overcome than my physical issues. You can’t say something like that without considering all the factors.

“Kids don’t need such coddling.”

The kids are our future. You don’t know where the next genius may emerge from. We need to help everyone out, do our part.

We can’t let the states decide whether they should provide disabled students with an equal education. That isn’t right. We need our federal government to support our students, not hinder them.

This isn’t a bipartisan issue. We are all Americans, and we need to help out those that are less fortunate than us. Disabled individuals didn’t choose to live their life with problems… I know I didn’t.

So please Betsy, Trump, Congress, etc., don’t leave this up to the states.

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