Most people who know me know how passionate I am about things that I care about, especially human rights. It's personal. I advocate and I write and I take action because I deeply believe in the causes I champion. I believe that regardless of age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ability status, nationality, socioeconomic level, HIV or Hepatitis serostatus, political affiliation etc. that at the core you are first and foremost a human being, and by virtue of that fact you deserve respect and to be treated with dignity. You deserve to have your rights upheld. You deserve access to opportunities. You deserve a voice and autonomy over your own life. You should matter.
That's the dream. But it isn't reality yet. That's why we all fight - increase awareness, to raise consciousness, to change hearts and minds, to obtain justice. It's hard. It's tiring.
It's necessary though.
I am feeling emotional and don't think I will be able to go into as much detail in the next part as I'd like. Please bear with me if I'm not writing at my best; this is hard for me. It is too close...too close. To think about it hurts. To write about it hurts.
It's necessary though.
There is an alarming trend in society where individuals with disabilities, especially people of color, get the "short end of the stick;" or in other words, face sub-optimal outcomes compared to their non-disabled peers.Employment rates are lower. Home ownership rates are lower. Graduation rates (high school and college). The percentage of married/partnered adult is lower. Yet rates of poverty are higher, as are rates of homelessness; likelihood of physical, emotional, sexual, and/or financial abuse; mental health diagnoses; suicide; murder; and unpleasant run-ins with law enforcement. We don't do a very good job as a society of accommodating the needs of disabled people and providing critical supports for us to succeed. Moreover, covert disability discrimination (ableism) is rampant; people are frequently infantilicized/patronized; viewed as "broken" or "less than" and therefore viewed as objects of pity; or alternatively viewed as "inspirational heroes" (this phenomenon is known as inspiration porn). Even though we're really just people, we're never just "people."
Kayleb Moon-Robison is a person. He is a disabled person (like myself and two of my children, Kayleb is on the autism spectrum). He is a black (or African American) person. He is a Christian person. He is a male presenting person. He is a young person.
He is a victim of injustice.
In a turn of events almost too upsetting to repeat (you can read about it in detail HERE), Kayleb kicked a trash can during an autistic meltdown at a new school and was charged by the campus police officer with a second degree misdemeanor of "disorderly conduct." A few weeks later, Kayleb lined up with his classmates instead of remaining back in the classroom segregated, waiting for them all to leave the class before being permitted by his teacher to also get in line. For this minor infraction of the rules (a rule, it should be noted, that only applied to Kayleb; no other student in the class had to abide by it) the campus officer arrived. Attempting to take Kayleb to the principal's office, he grabbed Kayleb. Kayleb, a small, bespectacled child, pushed the officer away to free himself. He was then thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and carted off to juvenile. Charged and brought to trial (this month) for "assaulting a police officer," mild-mannered Kaylen became, at the age of 11 years old, a pre-teen felon (merely awaiting summer 2015 sentencing since the court has already determined that it has found facts "sufficient for guilt.")
That's right. A pre-teen felon.
According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Kayleb should have been afforded certain provisions and accommodations by his school district and by local law enforcement. He was not. And now this 6th grade child has to face life as a convicted felon before he's even old enough to drive. Not because he shot, stabbed, raped, or murdered anyone, but because he did not receive sufficient support for his disability. He is now being made to pay the ultimate price.
Unless we do something about it.
Kayleb could have been me. He could have been my son. Or your son. Or your neighbor. Or someone in your community. Whether or not you are on the autism spectrum it has to be obvious to you that something is drastically wrong. Kayleb is not the only child in his district, his state, or the country to whom this has happened. Sadly, the cases occur far too often, and little is done because few people are aware of the problem. Today, I want you to be aware.
11 year old 6th graders with disabilities who have not committed an egregious crime DO NOT deserve to have their lives ruined by becoming a convicted felon before their teen years. Kayleb deserves a chance. He has endured enough, and he doesn't deserve this. Neither do any of the other people whose names I don't know who have been similarly wronged. For some people, it is too late to help them right the wrongs they have faced. But it's not too late for us to help Kayleb.
Will you join in with the Autistic community in demanding #JusticeForKayleb?
We want the prosectution of Kayleb to STOP.
We want this removed from his record.
We want him to serve ZERO time in a juvenile facility.
We want him taken out of the alternative school that he has been forced into and returned to a less restrictive general education environment with adequate supports for his needs.
We want this nightmare to be over for Kayleb, his mom Stacey, and their family.
And we want no one to have to have this also happen to them.
I need you help. Lei Wiley-Mydske and I started a Change.org petition yesterday for Kayleb. It is taking off. But more attention and more public support is needed. Not just from the autistic and autism communities; not just from disability community, not just from communities of color. We need help from everyone.
Will you help?
Will you oppose ableist and racial injustice? Will you sign and widely share the petition urging the Virginian governor to give us #JusticeForKayleb?
Will you join in with us as we advocate for Kayleb on social media next month (for more details click HERE)?
And will you spread the word about this on social media, helping to boost the #JusticeForKayleb hashtag?
I hope I can count on you. Thank you for your love and support.
|Photo credit: #JusticeForKayleb FB page|
More #JusticeForKayleb resources are linked below: