Letter to the Editor: Quit Making Fircrest Children Scapegoats

Yes, the state needs to reiumburse Shoreline School District for costs, but don't segregate and abandon program at Fircrest for school-age students

To the editor:

I am writing this for not only our son, Thomas, but for all the other children with intensely high support needs who need the services at Fircrest in order to be healthy and safe. Thomas is 18, he’s a Shoreline resident and attends Shorecrest High School. Last year for Christmas the only thing he wanted as a Shorecrest Sweatshirt.

Many of you may know Thomas. He grew up in Seattle but I can’t tell you how many daily trips we made to Shoreline for years for his speech and occupational therapy programs. Shoreline is his community and Fircrest is his home. Thomas is a good example of the fact that one could never know the level of intense supports he needs in his daily life by looking at him or seeing him out with his support person. Yet, Thomas needs the level of care at Fircrest to manage his multiple medical and developmental disabilities.

Given that Thomas has a rare type of neurodegenerative disorder also, we realize he will not be getting better and cannot be cured. Yet, he has such a charm and exuberant personality and sense of humor that he is the light of my life. Thomas has been the spark to my fire in fighting for our most vulnerable citizens who cannot make their own voices heard.

I understand that Shoreline has extra costs in the School District related to having the benefit of educating our wonderful children. I fully support measures from the legislature which will fully reimburse Shoreline for the education of our amazing children.                  

What saddens me is that our children are considered “burdens” by the Shoreline School District Superintendent, Sue Walker. In the February 2012 “Superintendent’s Message”, Ms. Walker states an option might be to provide educational programs at Fircrest similar to those for juvenile inmates in an adult correctional facility. There are several other references that Ms. Walker has made with regards of the need to segregate our children.

Did Ms. Walker miss the Superintendent’s educational conference on IDEA? The Federal Law - Individuals with Disabilities Act and the Free Appropriate Public Education Act (IDEA and FAPE) clearly state the possibilities that Ms. Walker suggests are against the law.

Not only is Ms. Walker attempting to segregate our children – a major step backwards for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities but she is also assuming they live in a correctional facility and are inmates in need of rehabilitation. These are the RCWs which she refers to when speaking about Fircrest and our children.

Our children are not criminals and they are not confined at Fircrest to be segregated from others nor are they are in need of rehabilitation. Our children have developmental and/or intellectual disabilities which require extremely high levels of support to maintain their health and safety. They are also living at Fircrest for habilitation – a very different term than rehabilitation. Our children are lifelong learners. They are learning basic skills every day – skills that the rest of us mastered long ago. Our children deserve the respect that every other Shoreline resident receives. Our children are not the cause of the Shoreline School Districts financial issues. Stop making them the scapegoat again.

Cheryl Felak, RN, BSN

Because We Care - Beyond Inclusion

Seattle, WA

Janet Way May 08, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Wow Cheryl! Outstanding letter! Thanks for putting into words this clearly reasoned explanation of why we need to protect Fircrest as a vital resource for our community. Hooray for the important work being done at Fircrest and the wonderful people who live there and their heroic families!
Wendy DiPeso May 08, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Cheryl thank you for clearly articulating the outstanding value that Fircrest provides to Shoreline residents. I would encourage the public to go on a guided tour of Fircrest to see for yourself the level of care provided. On site research helps staff and residents learn how communicate when the resident is not able to use verbal methods of communication. It is quite remarkable.
Joe Davenport May 08, 2012 at 05:36 PM
I am the spouse of a Special Ed staffer in Seattle schools. Fircrest has also provided support to students in Seattle schools (well until the budget meant the therapy pool shut down). My wife works with the most obvious students-the toddlers to third graders trapped in teenage body. This assault on special education is (trying to control rage) ill advised and short sighted. Our youngest son is a mild special needs student-who will graduate form Ballard High this year. This is only happening after fighting with Seattle because we moved to Shoreline in 2010. It seems everyone wants to jettison special ed (or any challenging student). Arrgh.
Cheryl Felak May 08, 2012 at 05:44 PM
We are in the process of forming a Fircrest PTA. If you are interested in being on the steering committee or being a charter member, please let me know. Our residents are life long learners and already their services have been cut to practically non-existent. This is why we are looking at forming a Fircrest PTA -" Every Child One Voice" - this does not stop when our children turn the magical age of 18 and we believe in programs and projects which will enhance the quality of our children's lives by education, recreation and community participation. Community is relationships - meaning belonging, participating and contributing. All Fircrest residents have abilities.
Tracy Tallman May 08, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Thank you for writing this. It is a shame that your children are being treated in this way. I attended school at Shorecrest I don't remember these problems in the past. Our society must value all people and the School District seems to be behaving shamelessly in singling out this one part of the budget.
Boni Biery May 08, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I thought we were past the warehousing of people who are "different". Supporting the most vulnerable among us well worth while. When they are properly supported so they can successfully interact with the community introduces the opportunity for others to learn/exercise tolerance and understanding ..... qualities that are always beneficial to everyone.
Paul Strand May 08, 2012 at 07:40 PM
My boy Eric is now 43 years old. He is still learning. He came to Fircrest School a year ago as part of the tragic closure of his home at the Frances Haddon Morgan Center in Bremerton -- a facility like Fircrest School. 18 others came with him. Fircrest School has welcomed them all and is caring well for them and my son. Our family is greatful for the good service and comfortable rooms provided in Eric's new home. Thank God there are still those who support Fircrest School. Superintendent Walker helped close the Frances Haddon Morgan Center with her testimony to the Washington State Legislature. She now has many of the Bremerton residents in her district. While Fircrest school excels in client care, Walker is busing shooting herself in the foot.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »