Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Ethan Rediske Act: Another Update

Andrea Pratt Rediske is taking a hard-earned weekend break, so this seems like a good time to update folks on where things stand.

Ethan Rediske is the eleven year old boy who was required by the state of Florida to bring a note from his doctor proving he was profoundly disabled and dying before the state would excuse him from The Test. After Ethan's death. his mother Andrea thought it would be a good idea for the state of Florida to pass some legislation so that no other family would be put through such bureaucratic foolishness (the Florida state education head thought it would be a good time to berate parents who wanted to deprive their children of the privilege of taking a state test just because the child might be exceptionally disabled or sick). You can read my previous updates on the story here and here. The most recent update direct from Andrea Rediske is here.

The language of Ethan's Law has been folded into a new larger bill (one which for various reasons is not so popular). Originally it was pretty strong language-- the local superintendent could issue a test waiver for a seriously ill or disabled child. Now THAT language has been "tweaked" so that, according to an aid of Rep. Karen Castor Dentell, there will now be three options:

The first is a one-year exemption which can be approved by the district school superintendent. The second is a one-to-three year exemption coming from the Commissioner’s office, and the final one is a permanent exemption, also to be approved by the Commissioner, and directs the Dep. of Ed. to devise rules to implement.

Senator Andy Gardiner and Senator Kelli Stargell are the powers behind these new amendments, which unnecessarily complicate the new law; ironic that the whole point of the law was to make things easier for parents. There are tons of politics in play here. Having Ethan's name on a bill is not a possibility presently; politicians only like to commemorate victimized children when they didn't do the victimizing, and part of the tricky calculus here is that Florida politicians probably don't want to announce that they previously abused sick kids. Gardiner himself is the father of a child with Downs syndrome, so it would be a mistake to dismiss him as an insensitive jerk who doesn't know what special needs parents go through. But he is also a 44-year-old head of Florida Senate Republicans who just barely survived a coup attempt last December, so he has some political angles to work.

The bottom line is that these Florida politicians need to hear from people about the need to reduce the testing burden on parents of extraordinarily sick and disabled children. Here's Andrea's request:

There are a lot of ugly politics at play here, but we don't have to stoop to their level.  Please be civil when contacting these individuals -- we need to help them understand what a tremendous burden it is to care for a severely disabled and medically fragile child and ask them to make one small part of this burden lighter.  Please feel free to forward this information to family and friends who might be willing to help.

In the twitterverse and in blogsylvania, things move quickly and that, combined with the American tendency toward short attention spans, can make us forget that most of these battles are marathons, not sprints. Ethan Rediske and his family represent a real example of how just senseless this testing juggernaut has become. Florida needs to pass a law, and it needs to be the right law. Please don't forget, and do please pass the word.

Contact information:
Senator Andy Gardiner
20 Senate Office Building
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL   32399-1100
Phone: (850) 487-5013

Senator Kelli Stargel
324 Senate Office Building
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL   32399-1100
Phone: (850) 487-5015

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