Update to this post. Disability discrimination is an ugly thing.
After much effort, we finally got someone in the school administration to respond to our concerns. This administrator, the pastor of St. Rita School in Marin County, California, promised us a review of our son's application. A week later (today), we received a letter that said the following (red text is my annotation; all errors are sic):
Thank you for bringing to my attention the situation surrounding the application of your son (redacted) for admission to St. Rita School.
At your request, during the past few days I have taken the opportunity to speak with some of the middle school teachers (only one of the current middle school teachers personally interacted with our son, and she spent an hour with me after his shadow day expressing in glowing terms how great he was and what a good fit he seemed to be) as well as the school principal (the now-retired principal, Carol Arritola, never met with us or our son or discussed our application with us, despite requests). Likewise, I have received the perspective of the school counselor (whom we have never met and whom our son has never met).
Together, they have thoroughly (with no contact with our son's previous teachers, us, or our son, with the exception of one teacher) reviewed the application. They affirm that due to extremely limited resources, they are prohibited (??) from fulfilling the responsibility of adequately caring for your son (this phrasing has us baffled. Caring? We were asking them to educate our son). Therefore, they unanimously decline the application for all of the reasons previously stated (stated in the two-line letter that said the school doesn't have the resources our son needs--our son who needs no extra resources; if they don't have the resources to educate our son, they don't have the resources to educate any student) in the initial response letter from the principal.
The principal (who never met with us or met our son) is the final arbiter in admission cases.
While this response does not satisfy your desires (actually, at this point, it does), it nevertheless emerges from the serious and concerted (except that they did not speak with us or our son's former teachers or seek to contact them, even after our repeated invitations to do so) evaluation of the circumstances.
Personally, it my hope and prayer that you will be able to locate a school that can adequately meet all the needs of your son (We have. Any school could meet our son's needs in the way that they mean. We consider this to be St. Rita's loss of a bright, capable, intellectually curious student).
(Rev.) Kenneth M. Weare, Ph.D. (in ethics, I believe)Pastor
Here is our emailed response:
We are writing this email to apprise you that we are now planning to take public what we can only conclude is a case of disability discrimination, given the decision letter we have just received. I note here that the way the decision process is described, only one person in the group making the determination could have been someone who met with and interacted personally with our son, and that no one involved has gotten in touch with any of our son's previous teachers about his abilities. All of our statements that our son needs no supports and our provision of information supporting that and of teacher contact information for the same purposes have gone completely overlooked in favor of a blanket, unfactual determination that our son requires extra "resources" and "care." Only one member of the team that made this decision interacted personally with our son, and she spent an hour with me after his shadow day expressing nothing but positive reactions about it. Our son's ITBS scores are in line with or exceed those published for the school. He performs at or above grade level in all subject areas, without supports. For these reasons, we must infer that institutional discrimination is at work here.
We had anticipated with tremendous positivity our son's experience with what seemed like fantastic middle-school teachers at St. Rita's and the kinds of insights and learning experiences they would give him, even though only one of the current teachers met him personally. We had anticipated with pleasure the prospect of becoming part of what everyone kept telling us was a supportive school community. We trusted St. Rita School to do the right thing by our son, going so far as to entrust our son for a day to your school, to talk with him--with faith in the due diligence of your administration--about the decision to choose St. Rita School, only to find that not the slightest effort has been made on St. Rita School's part to review our son's application with any sort of good faith or intellectual honesty or even to contact teachers he had as recently as six months ago. We find this behavior to be unethical, at the least, and can only view it as discriminatory.
We are preparing to make public the fact that based on the rejection letters dated June 12, 2013, and July 17, 2013, we infer that St. Rita School discriminated against our son in his application process because of his autism and that the administration's handling of his application was not in line with the school's stated values. Every polite and professional attempt we have made in the interim to request a good-faith review of his application has been met by the school administration with either silence or a reluctance to address or confirm the information provided. For a review of the nature of our complaints, we have summarized them here:
and will be posting an update, including the content of the second rejection letter and of this email.
This post has received thousands of direct views and thousands more shares. Because we have received no appropriate action on our request that an intellectually honest review be made of our son's application, we now feel compelled to let people know the name of the institution that we infer, based on the content of the decision letters, to have discriminated against our son because of his autism. We will be naming St. Rita School, and we will be pursuing other recourse to ensure that this kind of offhand, dismissive treatment does not happen to other autism families, here or elsewhere.
We very much regret having ever applied to St. Rita's, which has become a deeply painful experience for us and our son's first real lesson in prima facie disability discrimination and because given the outcome here, we cannot in good conscience, on behalf of other autistic people, simply let it go as we would very much like to do. We remain baffled by the fact that no one in your administration could take even a moment to get in touch with any of our son's former teachers or us as part of this process and equally baffled at the administration's insistence despite evidence and our assertions to the contrary that our son would need specialized support or "care." We find this attitude shameful.