One of the definitions of discrimination as defined by the World English Dictionary is: unfair treatment of a person, racial group, minority, etc; action based on prejudice.
We’ve experienced our first serious act of discrimination towards Leah in what is supposed to be a place free from such things; church.
Four months ago Leah moved up to a big girl (Sunday school-like) class, called Primary.
Before she did, I spoke to the leader of that group and told her that we treat Leah as we would treat any of our children. I explained to her Leah’s behaviors; her shorter attention span for sitting but her willingness to be redirected, her inability to speak like the other 3 year olds but her strength for understanding even if she can’t communicate that understanding, her love for music, her tendency to push her limits but her willingness to learn from discipline and praise.
I basically gave this leader a few tools to use if Leah became naughty, but really I just wanted to break the ice a little because this leader had no experience with my peanut.
(FYI- Leah is considered socially age-appropriate. Meaning: she acts like a 3 ½ year old. Her behavior is very typical 3 ½ year old behavior. She has no social delay.)
The next week I dropped off Leah like I would any child. I walked the halls to make sure she was doing well and she seemed fine.
The following week this leader told me that I would have to sit with Leah during her classes because they, “needed help with her.”
I sat with her. I didn’t see any behaviors that were untypical. She was naughty. She banged on the piano. She colored on the chair. She tried to color on another child’s paper. But she was easily redirected, especially when music was involved (kinda like I said;)). She behaved like a 3 1/2 year old. Nothing more, nothing less.
Steven and I decided that we would not sit with her again. We felt as though she didn’t need us to babysit her. We dropped her off the next class, just like we did the first week.
The leader was upset.
She told Steven that someone HAD to sit with her. She said Leah was just too disruptive to the other children. She told Steven that they would be calling (assigning) someone to sit with her every week from then on.
I was furious.
Leah did not need a babysitter.
We were never asked about any of these choices.
My kid was being singled out because she has Down syndrome.
I pulled her from that class.
The leader tried to stop me from leaving.
She began to explain how disruptive Leah was to her primary. She told me that it was unfair to the other children to have Leah be so naughty. She acted like I was never there with her, like I didn’t spend an entire class with her (of the 2 she had). She began to discipline me for not talking to her about my concerns, regarding their treatment of Leah, sooner. (I was informed of all of the decisions they were making for my daughter at the time of drop off).
She was HORRIBLE!
We haven’t been back.
We’ve been visiting another church in the meantime.
We’ve reached out to the local leaders of our church.
Their responses, in a nutshell…
“You are going to have to deal with things like this Leah’s whole life, get used to it.”
“You have to be more considerate towards other’s feelings; they just don’t know how to act around your daughter.”
“You’re being intolerant.”
When we asked specifically if the leaders would pray about an outcome which would be sufficient to making us comfortable sending our daughter back, our reponse was:
“We’d like to invite you back to the ward.”
No training of the Primary.
No meeting of the Primary.
We are being treated like WE did something wrong.
If I wasn’t living through this, I wouldn’t believe it; it’s completely unbelievable!
The leaders of this Primary are uncomfortable around my kid. They are treating her as if she has the plague. Their answer to their discomfort, is to segregate her and to try to make US change.
If my kid was black, would this be acceptable behavior?
Would I be the one being told that I needed to change if this stuff happened because my kid was black?
What’s the difference?
I guess it’s just easier to ignore the problem then to fix it…
But this is CHURCH!
And their discrimination is being ignored by our leaders!
So, what do you do when the one place which should be welcoming, Christ-like, tolerant, and accepting, discriminates against you or someone you love?
Talk about testing of the faith!