If the apocryphal “man in the middle seat” actually exists and reads the education news, he probably enjoyed some schadenfreude at the expense of Lily Eskelsen-Garcia.
The NEA president followed the public apology protocol after her remarks last month to the Campaign for America’s Future sparked outrage among many disability rights advocates. She issued a written apology, and a video apology, and her poor staffers spent most of yesterday cutting and pasting the same apologetic tweet in reply to those on Twitter who used the #UnacceptableExample hashtag. They must have gotten a little loopy doing so, even apologizing to Education Week.
Those who were satisfied with the apology were rewarded with a retweet. Those who weren’t took to social media and their blogs to express anger at the apology itself (including one who is an NEA member). Meanwhile, the number of signatures on the Change.org petition demanding Eskelsen-Garcia’s resignation grew to 1,573.
NEA hastily arranged a meeting with representatives of a number of advocacy groups for those with disabilities, and they released a joint statement. The interesting part had nothing to do with the speech or the resulting controversy:
We appreciate Ms. Eskelsen-Garcia’s expressed regrets for those remarks. At the same time, our organizations communicated our deep concern with some of NEA’s prior positions regarding students with disabilities, particularly those taken during the recent debates surrounding re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act…. We request that NEA quickly convene a Disability Stakeholder Advisory Committee as a formal mechanism for NEA to coordinate with the disability rights community on issues affecting students with disabilities. We appreciate Ms. Eskelsen-Garcia’s promise to respond to our request prior to December 21st.
I’ll repeat my opinion that Eskelsen-Garcia screwed up while wisecracking, something we wisecrackers are prone to do if we’re not careful, and that I believe her apology to be sincere and proper under the circumstances. That should be an end to it.
I am, however, eager to hear more about this “deep concern with some of NEA’s prior positions” because that has to do with policy, and directly contradicts NEA’s claim that it speaks for all students.