As a preface to this story you need to understand that I work at a large sub-urban public high school. I do not work for this school, I work for a public educational agency who rents space in public schools so that our students may be educated in the least restrictive environment while still receiving the benefits of a highly specialized educational program. Our host school is, on a whole, very welcoming. This story is a one time occurrence and not at all illustrative of how things are for us in this building or in the community there.
Today I took a student of mine into the teacher's dining room for a treat. Several plates of cookies, packages of donuts and a cake have been in and out of the fridge in there since last week when the PTO had a recognition day for the staff.
The teacher's dining room was full, which wasn't unexpected since it was nearly noon, but I hadn't realized it would be because I had never been in there at that time before. My student didn't seemed phased by the crowd which was basically a very full table of women that I recognized as mostly paraprofessionals, another smaller grouping of female teachers and two male teachers at the furthest table.
While we were in there I turned my back to get some paper towels because there were no plates or anything on the table with all of the food. In the 90 seconds I had my back turned I heard someone snap, "Don't touch!". When I turned back around my student didn't have anything in his hands or mouth and wasn't touching anything so I proceeded to cut two pieces of cake and didn't say anything.
At that moment one of the women at the crowded table said, "He shouldn't be in here! You can't bring students in here!" Horrified someone would talk about another person right in front of them I ignored her and put one hand on my students back protectively out of instinct. The woman next to her took up her case, "This is the teacher's room! We don't bring our students in here! (and she implied our special students by how she looked at my student)". The first women finished, "He's grabbing at food!" That much I doubted, if this student grabbed at food it would be in his mouth.
I gently guided my student out of the room and back to the classroom fuming. Smiling to myself when he did, indeed, grab a donut on the way out, thinking, "serves them right!" Once back in the room I steamed for a minute and explained what happened to a woman who works in my room. Then I returned to the teacher's dining room.
Once I arrived I was shaking and my palms were sweating. I walked over to these two women and I said, "In the future if you have something to say about one of my students you will say it when he or she is not present. You will not speak about people with disabilities like that in front of them."
"Sorry." The instigator said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"He was standing right there and he could hear you." I said.
"I said I was sorry, you don't have to go on and on!" she said.
At that I gave up. Obviously this woman was not going to be swayed. Besides I had students back in my room who were much more deserving of my attention than she was.
Back in the room I set one student up with an independent vocational task and sat down to assist the same student I had taken to the teachers room with a sorting task box. Then there was a knock on the door. It was one of the female teachers who was sitting at the second, smaller table of women. She spoke to my student and said she was sorry they talked about him in front of him and then she whispered to me, "Thank you for coming back and standing up to them. It made me sick that they did that to him. Thank you."