To the Editor: I’m going to be fired. How do I clarify that to my Particular Schooling college students?
To the Editor:
Dear Boston Public School families,
I am writing to let you know that hundreds of my colleagues and I may soon be terminated from our jobs.
As a special education teacher I want to tell you how much this career has meant to me.
After months of working closely to help your children re-acclimate to a classroom setting after the devastating effects of remote learning, watching your children make valiant progress to recover lost learning time as they begin to learn to read again and perform math operations with improving accuracy , I will need to leave my students.
I have had the privilege of supporting your children in this highly specialized education setting as they learn to communicate with ease both verbally and non-verbally, to develop their own sense of self, and to assist them in mastering life skills toward a life of independence . I cherished the opportunity to address and implement vital IEP (individual education plans) modifications that have been neglected during shutdown to assist your children on their journeys toward their life goals and dreams.
Due to Mayor Wu’s vaccination mandate, hundreds of BPS staff and other city of Boston employees and first responders will be fired because they are unable to receive a mandated medical procedure. I speak on behalf of my peers, including a disproportionate amount of educators of color, bilingual educators, and educators with disabilities.
I also share this out of consideration for the thousands of affected students, the ones who will pay the most, and who have continually paid the most during this pandemic. Once again, their needs will be neglected and their emotional security trivialized. Many older students are aware they may be losing their teachers and have written heartbreaking letters pleading for the mayor not to fire their teacher.
Many students with severe special needs and socio-emotional considerations will need to undergo yet another deeply damaging transition in a school year that has already been profoundly challenging.
And, lastly, I share this to give a voice to those of us who were denied, without a way to appeal, our pleas for exemption consideration due to religious and medical exemptions. All religious exemptions were rejected without appeal; a majority of medical exemptions were also rejected.
How will we tell your children that we are being fired over religious and disability discrimination? How will we explain to our students that so many educators of color are being terminated when we devote ourselves to teaching our students that they can achieve their dreams regardless of race, religion, and disability?
We are heartbroken that the ones paying the price for this will be children. I cannot continue to provide special education services to my severely disabled students after months of building relationships with them, learning their communication styles, discovering how to adapt learning materials to help them flourish, and creating a warm and welcoming learning atmosphere for students who were deeply harmed emotionally and academically as a result of virtual learning.
We are alarmed as to why our rights to be free from workplace discrimination involving religious concerns and medical needs are being violated. What is most troubling is that it comes at a time when the virus has become manageable, mandates are being dropped, and even the CDC is telling us to move on.
The balcony of the Old State House is where the Declaration of Independence was read publicly for the first time on July 4, 1776. Here in Boston, we agreed on the inalienable rights man possesses.
Today, in City Hall, just a few feet away from that building, the mayor plans to fire us despite those very inalienable rights. What will we tell our students when they ask us why we are leaving?
I hope you stand in solidarity with us and contact your elected official to end this discriminatory and harmful mandate.
Deirdra Dostou is a Special Education teacher in the Boston Public School system.