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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Lesson on How to Advocate

One of my favorite people in the China-adoptive community is my friend Sapphire Blue. She and I spend our Saturday mornings together, sipping coffee and massacring the Mandarin language. We keep our Mandarin teachers Shanghai Sweetie and Beijing Boy in stitches... and NOT because we are funny, y'all.

Although we are. If I do say so myself.

I adore Sapphire Blue because she likes me (always a plus). She also "gets" it when it comes to transracial adoptive parenting. She's a huge role model for me, especially since her daughter, Han Blue, is 12 years old and about to start junior high. I constantly learn from this mother and daughter duo, since they've been there and done that already.

This past Saturday, Sapphire Blue shared with me a story that STILL ticks her off. And I felt mighty riled up after I heard it, too. Han Blue needed to register for junior high school this month. She brought home the form and told her mom that she guessed she'd sign up for Russian as her foreign language. My friend felt shocked because her daughter loves learning Mandarin - why on earth would she sign up for Russian when Chinese was an option?

And that's when Han Blue told her momma, "But Chinese isn't even listed on the form."

Sapphire Blue felt her blood begin to boil. You see, the way it works in our county is that, in the spring, incoming students check off which foreign language they'd like to learn. If enough students express an interest in a particular language, the school MUST offer a class in that language. Sapphire Blue took a deep breath, telling herself that perhaps the rules changed recently due to budget cuts, then planned to attend the parents meeting that night to find out more information.

While at the meeting, she asked about the language class issue. And she was told, by both a teacher AND a principal, that Mandarin wasn't an option at this particular junior high school. Something didn't sound right about that, especially since nine junior high and high schools in our county offer Mandarin as a foreign language, so Sapphire Blue called the county administrative offices.

And she learned that this particular junior high school lied. And they changed the county form to omit Chinese as an option... we assume because the school didn't want to shell out the extra money it would take to hire an additional foreign language teacher. But boy, oh boy did this junior high school get into trouble. The county administration required the school to inform all incoming students (and their parents) via e-mail, telephone and snail mail that Mandarin was, in fact, an option. The county administration also required the school to issue a formal apology to Han Blue and her family.

We don't yet know if Han Blue will be able to take Mandarin as her foreign language next year, but at least we know there is a chance. And what a shame it would have been if my friend had just "let it go" because she didn't want to make waves. And what a shame it would have been if students interested in Mandarin hadn't been given the chance to take it... because school administrators saw it as an "expendable" language, less important than French, Spanish, German or Russian.

Sometimes it may feel easier to look the other way when discrimination occurs, but that doesn't make it right. I feel so grateful that I am able to learn from Sapphire Blue. I hope to be as strong an advocate for the Tongginator while she's in school.

What about y'all? Have your children faced any discrimination, large or small, from your school faculty or administration?


mumma to many said...

I am so glad she followed it up! Mandarin should be one of the top languages all children should have been offered with it becoming such an important language in our world as China deals more and more with the rest of the world!
So glad to hear that there was a change at the school!
Hugs Ruth in NZ

The Source said...

We have had MANY instances over the years. The most recent...the twins will move to middle school in the fall...much larger campus, lockers, big kids and NO sidewalk. Pip Squeak is unsteady on his feet due to CP and falls frequently so walking to class over dirt, grass and tree roots is an issue or safety. We asked for a sidewalk. We were told that I could instead drive him to the back of the school where the 6th grade hall is located and he could sit in the hallway BY HIMSELF until school began. Unsupervised and ALONE. While his classmates stood around socializing in the gym. What better way to isolate a child who already stands out?? Needless to say THAT'S not an option!

Sherri said...

Sapphire Blue is my kind of woman! Oooooh it just angers me to think that they CHANGED THE FORM to eliminate Chinese. And then lied about it! It sounds like the middle school where my older kids went.

They're not too fond of me at that school. I hate it for them.


Mom to 5...Daughter of the King said...

Good for SB! What an example she is to the rest of us with children from different races!

bbmomof2boys said...

I'm glad she stuck to her guns!!

Lets see - my son is no angel. Trust me - not at all. BUT, he would not pick a fight with anyone. 6th grade - last day of school. He was in a different lunch period because he helped a teacher out so he missed his lunch. He was messing around with his can of soda and a fork - up in the air it went and down on another boys head. (it was an empty can) He went over and APOLOGIZED! Teachers told me they saw him do this. After he goes back and sits down the other kid walks over to him, pushed his chair against the table so he couldn't move, and beat the crap out of him. Remember - last day of school. Big T got called in, no police report, no nothing. What was the school going to do? NOTHING!! It was the "last day of school". Huh? Who the heck cares? Why empower this kid by not punishing him for what he did? So, Big T went to the police station, filed a report, went to the admin office, filed a report. The kids momm called him and said it was our sons fault because he had been picking on him all year during his lunch and to please not file a report because it would go on his record. Ok mom - your kid did nothing wrong - our kid picked on him all year during his LUNCH even though he has an earlier lunch - yep, sure. So after Big T made such a fuss we were told that the kid would be suspended the first week of school the following year. Did that happen? Nope - he was in school. Yes we went back to the principal and we were told he was an "at risk kid" so they couldn't suspend him. - Yes - that's right - they never punished this kid! Go Wayne county schools go!! Empower these kids so they will graduate and become productive citizens! *sarcasm is POURING our of my mouth*

Yes - descrimination. If my son had done that the school would have filed a report, called the police, and suspended him. His mom would have probably called the newspaper and had some guy down here talking about descrimination because nothing was done.

You should have seen his face - even the teachers took a picture of it for us. And nothing.was.done.

This happened 4 years ago and I'm still ticked about it!!!

Aunt LoLo said...

Good for her! I probably wouldn't have even followed up...'cause that's the kid of wuss that I am. We had Mandarin when I was in school and, while it wasn't a very large class by any means, it was important for the kids who took it!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Good for her for investigating this! That really is a shame.

happygeek said...

They lied?
That just irks me. Han Blue needs to be able to trust those in authority and they've proven themselves un-trustworthy before she ever set foot in the school.
Which is really really sad.

Jboo said...

How nice that you have your friend and her daughter to get together with! Am so glad that she stood up and found out the truth about languages. My girl has a hearing impairment and goes to a private school, but receives services from our public school system and believe me, I have to be watching to make sure she gets the services she is entitled to. If I don't advocate for her, who will? So glad that your friend was successful.

Take care.


Norah said...

Good for her! I hope Mandarin is soon a choice on that list! It is not offered in our school district as of now. 2 of my children have to take private lessons for Mandarin which is SO expensive. At school they are learning Spanish and Latin. Seriously, Latin? My daughter who speaks Cantonese,Mandarin and now English..has to learn Latin and Spanish?!

Marla said...

Yay for being a good advocate!! As the mom of a special needs child and two Chinese daughters, I tell people all the time that is OK to be the squeaky wheel! We have to stand up for our kids, otherwise who else is going to? I'm sure at all the schools my kids have ever attended, my name is probably preceded by "Uh-oh, here comes Mrs. _____" and followed by "RUN!" but that's OK, at least they know me and they know that I'm watching them. :)

Way to go Sapphire Blue! You taught that school and your daughter a very valuable lesson.

Kiy said...

We haven't faced anything yet in the schools as our little sweetie is just 2 years old. However, I am reading and learning from you (and your friend!). Keep these posts coming, there are those of us just absorbing!

Oh and GO! Sapphire Blue! You are one kick-butt mama!

Cheers, Kiy

Gina (Caleeo) said...

Like Kiy, we are not involved in the school system yet, but I really appreciate your sharing this story to remind us of the ever present need to be strong advocates for our children.

Janet said...

Well, MY school just rocks, plain and simple. ;-)

As for the language issue, DUH! Helloooo? Why would Mandarin not be offered? I don't get it. Let's see....how many MORE people in the world speak Russian than Mandarin? Hmmmm....maybe they shoudl look into that. Not to mention that CHINA is one of the USA's biggest trading partners.

planetnomad said...

That is SO LAME that they lied! I'm glad your friend caught them out and followed through. She rocks!!

Discrimination from the school: does it count that we pay more than most people? It's a sliding scale. French pay least, then Moroccans, then everybody else. There aren't many, but we're in that last bunch.

But our own school (American school) doesn't give us ANY breaks on price. Nope, we're full price there too.

It's enough to make a poor parent go on strike! Oh wait, I am. Tomorrow's the big day ;)

Blessed said...

Hi Tonggu Momma,

I just wanted to stop by and say "hey!"

You left me a comment a while back and I've been overloaded and unable to keep up with the blogging thing.

My boys are both sleeping right now and, well, we may just have to order pizza for dinner, but I finally have a chance to look in on some of my blogs! :)

Take care,

Sharie said...

I'm so glad she knew what the rules were and was smart enough to ask one more step up the chain. If we don't advocate for our kids, who will?

CC said...

Wow, I'm still stuck on the idea that the school HAS to offer a language if there is enough interest. We had 3 options in my high school: Spanish, French, Latin. What I would have done for more!!!

I hope she does get to take mandarin. And my kids too one day.

and I am mighty jealous of your weekly "chats"!

discombobulated said...

Wow! I can't believe they lied. I wonder if they'll get a classroom full of eager-to-learn-Mandarin students. I remember French and Spanish were only offered to me.

Patty O. said...

I cannot believe the lied, but boy am I glad your friend didn't just drop the matter! I am so impressed when people are such good advocates for their kids--this is something I am learning a lot about having a kid with some special needs. I have such a hard time making waves.

The weird thing to me about this issue, though, is that Mandarin, in my opinion would be a much more practical language for the students to learn than, say, Russian. I mean, there are way more Chinese people in the world, and the business opportunities seem much bigger with China than some other countries. I wonder why they chose to eliminate Mandarin, specifically...

3 Peanuts said...

Stuff like this DOES make me CRAZY. We have not faced stuff like that yet...but I am sure it is only a matter of time...sadly.


Kayce said...

Why do people have to lie???

I have to say I am UTTERLY amazed that the junior high offers so many languages! SOOOOOO COOOOOOOL!!! I also am ashamed to say that our junior highs AND high schools only offer one, yes, I said one language oh wait...if there is a french teacher available for the year the HS MIGHT offer french otherwise we are stuck with spanish. Man I live in a sorry town!