Florida mother Andrea Rediske is fed up with her state’s education department after being asked to prove to them that her disabled and dying son is in no condition to take Florida’s standardized test.
Rediske’s 11-year-old son Ethan was born with brain damage, has cerebral palsy, and is completely blind. Last year, he was forced by Florida education officials to take the FCAT. The test took a painstaking two weeks to complete due to his disabilities. Ethan’s mother watched in disbelief as administrators asked her son questions about things he would never be able to understand.
One question in particular really set Andrea off. Her son, who is fed through a tube, was asked about eating a peach.
"He doesn't know what a peach tastes like," she said. "He will never know what a peach tastes like. Or an apple. Or bananas. It's completely irrelevant to his life."
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As Orlando Sentinel writer Scott Maxwell writes, Ethan is not the only disabled child forced to struggle though the state’s standardized tests. A 10-year-old boy named Michael, born without a brainstem, took the test as well.
"He's blind,” Orlando County School Board member Rick Roach said. “And they're showing him pictures of a giraffe, a monkey and an elephant — and asking him which one is the monkey. I'm watching all this and just about to lose my mind."
After last year’s embarrassment, Rediske filed for a waiver to absolve Ethan from being required to take future tests. The family was granted the waiver. The only problem is the waivers are granted on an annual basis. Now, with Ethan living out his final days in hospice care, his family has to prove all over again that Ethan is not fit to take the tests. His mother wrote a letter to Orlando County School Board member Rick Roach and Orlando Sentinel writer Scott Maxwell discussing the situation.
Here is the letter:
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Rick and Scott,
I’m writing to appeal for your advocacy on our behalf. Ethan is dying. He has been in hospice care for the past month. We are in the last days of his life. His loving and dedicated teacher, Jennifer Rose, has been visiting him every day, bringing some love, peace, and light into these last days. How do we know that he knows that she is there? Because he opens his eyes and gives her a little smile. He is content and comforted after she leaves.
Jennifer is the greatest example of what a dedicated teacher should be. About a week ago, Jennifer hesitantly told me that the district required a medical update for continuation of the med waiver for the adapted FCAT. Apparently, my communication through her that he was in hospice wasn’t enough: they required a letter from the hospice company to say that he was dying. Every day that she comes to visit, she is required to do paperwork to document his “progress.” Seriously? Why is Ethan Rediske not meeting his 6th-grade hospital homebound curriculum requirements? BECAUSE HE IS IN A MORPHINE COMA. We expect him to go any day. He is tenaciously clinging to life.
This madness has got to stop. Please help us.