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My Story - Eva Marie Roberts

Yes, I am one of those parents. You know the ones. When I enter the hallways of my school the whispers and stares begin. I am followed by the principal and or any other administrator who happens to be there. I act like I don't care...I throw my shoulders back and chin up and continue on. Internally I quiver and ask myself why is it like this? How did I get here?

Well the answer is I got there because I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. A baby who happened to have the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck at birth. Although when he was born we were told he was fine...perfect. To us he is and always has been. It wasn't until he was about 3 years old when we realized he was unique in his abilities. To them (administration) he is his labels.

It was when he was in first grade when I started learning our rights. I have a teacher to thank for this. Although I can't name the teacher as at this time he/she is still not tenured. At a school function in November of 1999 the teacher leaned over and whispered in my ear, "None of the students are receiving speech therapy. They haven't been. We don't know when it will start and we don't know what to do. Please advocate but don't let them know where you heard this." Talk about a slap in the face! WOW. I will never forget that night, it was my 31st birthday.

The next day I made my phone calls, I was still green when it came to knowing my rights. I called the Special Ed. Cord.,for East Maine Dist. 63, (Illiois) Tracey Shoellhorn. I asked about the speech to only be drilled on how I found out. I never told her how. I asked about bringing in an outside service to provide the service...Shoellhorn laughed at this suggestion. I asked if they were going to inform all the parents, the response I received was "We don't have to inform parents about this." The brick wall was in place. I got mad. I called anyone and everyone to learn my rights. I addressed the school board at the next meeting. I filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. I attained an attorney (pro-bono) through Equip for Equality. Then I started a parent group, Parent-2-Parent for Special Students. I was on the front page of our local newspaper.

Parents and stories slowly started to appear. Teachers continued to whisper encouragement to me. Administrators GLARED at me. The school district attorney, Laura Sinars, started appearing at my son's IEP meeting. Actually she ran the meetings...or at least attempted to. Funny thing even with her there District 63 still managed to be non complaint in regard to my son. I was now the new mouth in our town.

Over the course of the next three years and until this day, I have been a very vocal advocate. I have spoken to Senators and Congressmen. Twice last year I went to Washington DC with the group Parents' Alliance for Compliance in special Education (PACE). I have seen children be neglected by the system. I know children who have attempted to kill themselves because they fell hard through the holes. It just so happens that I was one of those children when I went to school. I was gifted but medically fragile. My school ignored me and turned me in as a truant even though I had been hospitalized. The judge of course threw out the case but the damage to me was done. I thought I was a freak of nature, my school pretty much endorsed my belief. I remember them telling me why I was the way I was, they claimed I made up being ill..despite the fact that I had a very enlarged spleen when removed a few years later was on the verge of rupturing and was 8 lbs. No one ever asked me my thoughts on the subject. So I know what these kids go through. I know the darkness and the pain.

It's also been over the course of the last three years where I have met some of the most courageous teachers. The whispers, the emails and phone calls I received from them helped me to expose the problems within our school district, East Maine Dist. 63. One teacher in particular, Cheryl Mix, went a step beyond the others. She took the chance and vocalized the truth to a larger audience.

So to any administrators or others in power reading this, know that I will continue to expose you if you are corrupt and abusive. Know that I will continue to fight and stand behind ANY person who advocates for the welfare of our children...all children.