June 30, 2004

air time

The strange part about being interviewed on TV is how, after a few minutes, it isn’t strange at all. When I realized I was going absolute right-this-minute-we’re-ready-for-you first, I mostly felt “oh shit” and not much else. Not that adrenaline surge, not that heart pounding in your throat, not that wild flush of blood to the face. Just “Crap, now I have to do it.” I’m not sure why exactly. Maybe because this wasn’t about me. Maybe because it was in someone’s house, not a sound studio. Maybe just because I’ve been around enough cameras and equipment in my life, even if I haven’t been the one looking into the lens. But for whatever reason, it seemed surprisingly like no big deal.

I spoke. The reporter listened. Asked questions that frankly were not germane to the story I was telling. I answered them. I know my answers disappointed. No, I have not had other trouble with the school district. No, really, they’ve been remarkably fair with us and with our son’s services. No, truly.

I walked away frustrated. The story I think worth telling, the one that outrages me, with its widespread and clear-cut discrimination against children with neurological diagnoses, the story where we find doors shut in our faces that are open to every other child in the system, that story isn’t the one she’s interested in telling. She wants to tell another story. Related perhaps in theme but not in specifics. A story of budget cuts and service cuts and fights with the school districts to get the therapies our children need. I understand her need to tell that story. It’s just not been mine. And so I was perhaps irrelevant, a footnote.

I suspect, in fact, that the only thing I said that will end up on camera is an aside I mentioned at the end, about how the players have changed at our IEP meetings, the administrator with a clue was shoved out the door and two women were brought in, women who not only don’t have a clue but who actively avoid any emotional connection with the children they supposedly are there to help. I believe these women were brought in with the understanding that they were to make no decisions on their own, do nothing that would cost their superiors any additional moneys. They were brought in to be button pushers and paper shufflers and they’re not even all that good at it, but at least the district is getting what they want. Did you know that the LAUSD contains approximately thirteen percent of the state’s special needs children? And seven years ago the LAUSD also had approximately thirteen percent of the state’s mediation and due process cases. What you’d expect, right? Well, these days the LAUSD generates FORTY PERCENT of the mediation/due process cases. The system is broken. What’s more, it may be broken on purpose. If they deny services to ten thousand families, how many of those families will fight them? Some will, yes. But most will roll over and accept the cuts and then they’ve saved themselves a bundle of money.

So yes. There’s a story here. But as I said, it’s not my story and not my son’s story. We’ve gotten the services he’s needed. He’s progressed wonderfully as a result. For us, the system and the people in it have been kind and understanding in all the right ways. So I spoke, she listened, she tried to elicit the answers she wanted but ultimately she failed, at least with me. I got up from the chair after the camerawoman had filmed me this way and that way and filmed the reporter asking another question just for coverage, just in case.

I guess I’m disappointed, but not really. I hope she gets her story. I hope it’s strong and powerful and shocks people. I want to write mine too, though. I want to do some research, get some quotes, and write up something that may also shock on a different front. Because there are many stories here and hers is only one.

Posted by Tamar at June 30, 2004 11:04 PM