Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Clawson: Why resignation is not an adequate solution.

Earlier in the week a video was released showing a discussion of how to accommodate children with food allergies within the Clawson Public School district.  During the discussion one employee made an extremely irresponsible and offensive remark, at which her colleagues laughed.  Her remark was not the only inappropriate suggestion made, but was by far the largest misstep.

It has been announced that she has voluntarily resigned her position after the allergy community called her behavior into question publicly.

I am saddened by her loss of employment.  Her mistake was grave, and in need of serious corrective action.  It saddens me to think that job loss is the first answer the public jumps to when large errors have been made.  If she leaves quietly, her attitude goes with her.  She will not be required to learn more about why her statement was so unacceptable, she can not be required to take additional training on sensitivity, appropriate conduct, or disability awareness.  She needs these things.  Leaving the position does not provide resolution for her impulsive and offensive conduct.  It simply allows her to take this attitude with her to another position.

More, her resignation only impacts her behavior.  This is not an appropriate solution.

The woman who resigned is not the leader, not in charge of the board.  She is an employee.  She felt comfortable launching that statement into the discussion with her colleagues, in the presence of her manager.  There was no reluctance, and no reticence.  Neither her co-workers or the president of the board called her out on her remark.  There was  no stunned silence, or jaws dropping.  ( I know mine did!)  In fact, a few others had less offensive but equally inappropriate suggestions.  There was laughter at a few of the suggestions, both uncomfortable laughter and the type that acknowledges that a suggestion is not feasible but fun to toss around.  This seems to indicate a culture of acceptance for such attitudes and remarks.

My impression is that this in an issue at an institutional level.  I hope that the Clawson Public School district does not accept that removing the outspoken person solves the problem.  We, as an allergy community, can not afford to let the discrimination expressed here go underground and fester quietly.  There needs to be a way to rebuild the culture within the institution to support children with special needs, to embrace the challenge of including diversity and difference in the classroom respectfully.

To that end, I sincerely hope that the district will accept the offers of help that the national allergy organizations have made, and obtain additional training for their board, and even their staff at building levels if needed.  While we can offer training to help them better understand the seriousness of food allergies, I hope that the effort does not stop there.  There needs to be follow up to provide additional training on appropriate work conduct, sensitivity, and disability awareness.

I am proud of many in the allergy community for offering to provide support to the district in the form of training.  I am proud of the members of our community who were able to quickly mobilize to respectfully request corrective action to be taken.  I am in awe of the collective response, asking for children with food allergies to be treated respectfully, with their disability treated with the gravity it deserves.

Thank you to each and every person who sent a respectful message asking for this issue to be addressed.  I applaud your effort and your restraint.  It can be difficult to remain focused on facts, and not be pulled into the emotional discussion that this video evokes.  Kudos to each of you who managed to represent us well, and to help our voice be heard.

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