I recently saw a post on Snopes.com about a young man in a Cobb County school who was excluded from a night of choral performances. The image they used for the news story showed a student in a wheelchair sitting at the end of a set of removable risers while his classmates and director were center stage. People have taken this story and run with it, decrying the director, the school district, the community and anyone else who could have been to blame for this student’s exclusion. This is a bad situation. The singer, who has cerebral palsy, was excited to get to sing with his classmates, he’s obviously involved and invested in the program and he was left out of something he loved to do. That’s no good. Calling the chorus director out for being neglectful of the full chorus is a good move. My worry is about the effect the media exposure could have on the student.
It’s one thing to confront the director for not doing his job, it’s another thing entirely to drag the student into the spotlight when that is not where he may want to be. Obviously the mother decided that’s where he should be (since she would have had to sign the release for him to appear in the news, as she is his parent), but we never hear from the student. The mother admits that he was indifferent about the experience, he was unhappy, but not so unhappy that he never wanted to return to the school. I know mothers are protective of their children (I have a protective mother), but you have to look at the impact all these stories are going to have on the child socially as well.
What could have been a matter settled between the family and the school district is now a public event with stories describing the student as “wheelchair bound” and “handicapped.” Other stories describe his heartbreaking pity. It annoys me because, yes, he went through an insulting and embarrassing incident, but the media (and his mother) and attempting to portray the story in a light that highlights the boy’s disability and otherness more so than the negligence of the choir director. Also, all the facts are not present, based on this one incident some are jumping to the conclusion that this happens all the time at this school and there is gross misconduct abounding, when there is no evidence of this. This portrayal of the poor child in a wheelchair is not going to be constructive to opening a dialogue and could potentially open him up to ridicule from his classmates.
What are your opinions? Could the coverage have been handled more tactfully? Do you think it was handled fine?