Monday, February 03, 2014

Skooling the School

When I was in eleventh grade, I was excited to have been selected to be in the high school musical -- not just a chorus part, but a one-line solo. A friend of mine from out of town was coming in to see me perform. She had arranged a sign language interpreter to come along, and all we needed was to find a place in the light where she could see. I went to my choir director for support and what came next I was not at all prepared for. He told me no: "No interpreter." When I asked why, he said, "It will be too distracting for everyone else."

I tried negotiating. "What if the interpreter is near the wall? To the side?" And "how about near the back with a flashlight?" (I cringe today, thinking of how reminiscent this is of Rosa Parks.)

"No," he said. "We can't have one person ruin it for the rest."

Ruin it?

He leaned back in his chair, tossed the script over the desk toward me. "Here," he said. "Have her read this."

I was stunned.

What else is there to do but obey? I took the script, did a 180 and made a bee-line out of his office. 

I told my mom. She told my friend's mom. There was something abuzz. Something humming in the background. I felt deeply uncomfortable. I didn't know why.

My friend and her mom still drove 1-1/2 hours to come to the play. She did not bring the interpreter. I felt deflated and angry and embarrassed as I handed her the script. I felt like I failed her. Her mom assured me that everything would be fine.

After attorney and coalition phone calls, the school received a disability awareness education.

But I got an education, too. I will never forget how the school principal and the musical director called me into their office (alone) and denied to my face that the director prevented my friend full access to the performance. Their apology sounded something like, "I'm sorry, you misunderstood...." I won't either forget that I was not included in the 12th grade musical -- not in any aspect of it. Of course, I probably "didn't honestly make the cut."

Kindergarten stuff going on in high school. Any time I have *more* than someone else in an area, it is my privilege to be of service. Is that hard?

Is it worth mentioning that my music teacher was a White, Straight, Christian man? Strictly positive, happy-all-the-time with a huge toothy smile, and very, very well-liked by everyone, including me?

Who the hell am I?

A shit-pot stirrer.

There is a new policy. I have been made aware that all musical seasons at my alma matter now have one scheduled interpreted performance.

I lick the spoon. I pretend it's chocolate.

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