Some of you may have seen a story that made the headlines this weekend about a young Kansas boy with downs syndrome being forced to give up his letter jacket that his mom had bought him because the special needs team he plays on does not qualify under school rules for "lettering". For me, this story leaves me with a very bitter taste in my mouth and more than a bit torn. For starters, where the heck did his mother find a letter jacket with letter on it? Obviously it wasn't from the school, especially since even they admit that the letter was a completely different style than the ones they use. Secondly, didn't she think to check with the school before purchasing this thing? Most school districts have very strict guidelines on this sort of thing. I know this for a fact, partly because I never lettered when I was in high school. The fact that she didn't even bother to check first was just the start of things that let her son end up having his feelings crushed! But as bad as that may sound, she does not bear all the responsibility here.
The second thing that really hits me is the fact that the whole thing started because another mother noticed his jacket and complained to the principal about it. Really lady? Is it really so important to you that your son be known as one of the select that you need to ruin a special needs child's day, or even year? This poor kid was so proud of the fact that he had made it onto the school's special needs team, but you've managed to help destroy all that for him just because he was wearing a jacket that didn't even look that much like the official school letter jacket that your son wears. To be completely blunt, only someone who is legally blind could possibly mistake one for the other so, at least in my opinion, it takes a special kind of pettiness to make this big a fuss about it.
And then there's the school officials themselves. Okay, I get that you had to do something once the mother of one of your precious varsity athletes complained; but don't you think you could have handled this at least a little bit better? Especially since you didn't just stop at making this poor child remove his prize jacket, but then went on to make him wear a ladies sweater? And couldn't even do that in private, but instead did it in front of the entire school? Really? Was it really, really necessary to humiliate him like that? You do realize that very few parents of special needs children are going to be able to forgive you that slap in the face don't you? To many of us, what your actions say is that special needs children are a nuisance to be tolerated simply because it helps bring more money to the school and all the special programs are little more than window dressing to be discarded when ever it starts to interfere with important things. You know, things like making sure the real athletes get their fancy cars, college scholarships, and are looked up to as heroes. That sort of thing.
In short, the only one completely blameless in this whole ordeal is the child himself. Suffering downs syndrome, this child would have completely missed the social cues that would have told him that he shouldn't be wearing a letter jacket of any kind without the approval of the authorities in charge of his school. But he did miss those cues, and he did think he was eligible for a letter jacket; and once his mom bought it for him, it quickly became something of pride. But instead of being allowed to carry himself with that pride, a jealous mother complained to a clueless principle about a jacket bought for him by an equally clueless mother which resulted in the only true innocent in this story being embarrassed and humiliated in front of his entire school. Well done people, I applauded your pettiness and stupidity, and especially the way you've so masterfully proven to this poor child that in your collective opinion he isn't even worth as much as the manure you scrape off the bottom of your shoes when you come in from the garden. Well guess what. As far as I'm concerned he's worth more than all of you combined, and if I could I'd give him a new letter jacket to replace the one he lost that would make the letter jackets of all of your precious varsity athletes look like cheap costumes.