Chapter 4: Graynle Jr.'s Educational Experience
11:40:23:13 - 11:40:42:10
Lisa: Um, Dr. Edwards, I'm going to ask you a little about Graynle's early school experience; Graynle Junior's school experience. I know, um, when he was young, professionally you were already teaching. Yes, you were a high school Biology teacher? Would that be right?
Dr. Edwards: Yeah, Biology teacher.
Lisa: At Gratz?
Dr. Edwards: Gratz High School.
11:40:42:10 - 11:47:55:27
Lisa: Gratz High school, okay. Um, so when Graynle Junior was six, you enrolled him in school just like other kids. How did that experience...
Dr. Edwards: Yeah, that didn't work out at all; didn't work out well at all. The, uh, I remember taking him to, uh, to the school. Uh, and in fact, the, it was the Park, uh, organization that had a, uh, um, I guess socialization for him when he was four and five years of age. But when he became six, he was of school age so you take him to the school. And uh, I guess around one o'clock, I got a call, uh, we can't service your son. We can't service him. Oh? So we had to take him out because at that time when someone says, that was (inaudible) to an expulsion. The school's expelling your child. Not knowing what to do, you take him out, you see. That's when I said earlier, that PArc came to the rescue so uh, he spent another year, he had been to PArc and he went back to PArc. So he spent another year there and that's when, uh, the right education law was passed. Uh, the, um, and that's when we took him back to that school and uh, I'm sorry took him back to another school. The first school was Hanes Street or High Street but the second school was a Joseph E Hill School. And uh, that was a program designed for special needs children and uh, it was clear to me while they, he was entitled to be there, the services weren't there. So, uh, we put him in the Woods School, the day program. Now that was a chore, long way out there to Salem. I forgot (Laugh) which one it was but anyhow, very expensive. So we, uh, petitioned the school district to have a hearing and have them pay for those service because it was clear the Joseph E Hills staff was not prepared to service him. The law said they had to service him but the talent, the skills were just not there. That's why I went out to the Woods. Stayed there almost a year and one of the, uh, social workers, came to us and said listen, of course this was off the record, for the kind of money you're spending and for what he's receiving, you need to take him out of here. Back to the Joseph E Hills School because what we were finding was that there were a number of folks in the business who jut didn't have the skills to service the intellectual disabled person; just didn't have it. So um, because of the legal mandates, skill development began to occur, okay, but they had a situation where the law exceeded the skills that were required and often times that's what has to happen. Before you get to the skills development you have to have a law that entitles the person to receive certain services, but anyhow he went back to the Joseph E Hills School. This ain't about the Joseph E Hills School. It was that there were two individuals that really gravitated to Graynle and um, gave him the kind of nurtures that you would want anybody to have who was in a school situation. And one of them, Van Hardy, she was so good at working with Graynle. And there were times when she would take Graynle home with her from school and when I came from school, I would pick him up and take him, you know, take him home. In other words, I would leave Norristown around, lets say, 3:30, quarter to 4 and I would be at Van's house by 4:30. And uh, so he had a very strong positive relationship with her for a long period of time. And Van was what we called the classroom aide, but his classroom teacher, you know I cant remember her name but she was a wonderful person and he was at the Joseph E Hill School for a number of years but a group of parents, uh, got together and said wait a minute, while we appreciate what the Hill people are trying to do, they don't have the facility that they need. And we were forced, that resulted, in them building the new Joseph E Hill School which sits behind Martin Luther King High School right off the Tulpehocken. Stenton and Tulpehocken. With all of the facilities, all of the services you would ever want. They had a, uh, physical therapist on the scene, on the site, all 24, not 24 but the full day. Same thing with speech therapy, they had a wonderful [pre-vocational] training center there. Uh, all of the necessary apparatus that you would want to see in a physical education class. Uh, I mean, they really did that right, but it was because of a number of parents saying listen, you're going to have to do better for us than what you're giving to us in the old Joseph E Hill School. And so it became a reality for about three years, two or three years and then this whole notion of, uh, restrictive placement came down the pike. Yes.
11:47:55:27 - 11:49:02:11
Lisa: Dr. Edwards, I'll ask you about that in a minute but I'm very interested in what you were saying about this group of committed parents.
Dr. Edwards: Yeah.
Lisa: Was this really the first time you considered yourself activated? Um, as a part of a movement?
Dr. Edwards: An activist? I would think so. Yeah because the, up until that time, I can't recall any deliberate actions on my part to change the system. The only activism that I was involved with was the trying to get the, uh, the state to pay for his education up at Woods School, but that was funny, we went to the hearing, I knew more about the situation than the lawyer that I paid to be there. You know, I ended up doing all the talking. I didn't even need him. I didn't even need this guy! (Laughs)
11:49:02:11 - 11:50:05:20
Lisa: We were talking about you becoming an activist around...
Dr. Edwards: Oh yeah, yeah. That's around the building of the construction of the Joseph E Hill School. That's when I really got it. Yeah. And simultaneously, the City was under a federal mandate to upgrade its special education program and I was a part of the special Ed action committee. I had come down to the board just to speak on behalf of the marginal services that were being provided to children. (inaudible) and Maureen grabbed me and said Listen, we want you to come on our committee so I said ok. So that was my very first and then advocating for the Joseph E Hill's new school was my second.
11:50:05:20 - 11:50:37:07
Lisa: What was it like in connecting with these parents? You mentioned two of them who are particularly powerful advocates, (inaudible) and Maureen. What was it like for you to connect with parents in this way?
Dr. Edwards: It was easy because we all had a common cause, you know. The, uh, it's amazing how people can come together when they have the same interest. That's what it was all about. No adjustment whatsoever.
11:50:37:07 - 11:54:59:22
Lisa: Why did Graynle have to leave the Hill's School eventually?
Dr. Edwards: Because the, uh, lease restricted, uh placement. That was, had come down the pike and uh so now its time to implement that, uh, particular, statute. And uh, that meant that he had to leave the Joseph E Hill School and go to Germantown which was a joke. Those folks had not been, in any way, socialized, trained to service that population of children. Graynle ended up in a basement with little or no interaction with anybody other than his classroom and his classroom teacher. And uh, by this time, I guess I had run out of time for the time being, anyhow, but I knew he only had one more year and uh, so, uh, at the end of that year, in fact, it was Armstrong that enabled him to have that extra year. I said I'm done, you know. Any time, you have a mandate, a federal mandate, that's impacted on your child, and it was a mandated self that allowed the child to have that experience, you see. So you got one thing going against the other. But again, here again, it's a situation where the laws going to have to precede practice because as the integrated, uh, special needs with intellectual disabled into the so called regular schools, they became develop programs to embrace them and um, like I know, there, uh, Champion's daughters, who are younger than Graynle, they went to their Germantown's prom, you see. And uh, the students began to, uh, interact more with them because they saw them more often. You see there was a time when students very seldom saw the intellectual disabled child. They didn't see them. So there was, when there's a, when you're not aware of something, it's easy, its very easy to be, uh, frightened or, uh, maybe frightened is not the best word. Uh, maybe alienated from a certain group of people if you don't know anything about them and since a lot of the intellectual disabled students also had physical deformities, they became, for many, many years, even centuries, the brunt of jokes and ridicule. So now you got these kids, you're bringing these people into my school. So it took time for the adjustment to take place and that's because if it was happening, there were people in that building who were marshalling that change because the kind of complaints that you heard in the late 70's and 80's, you don't hear that about the interaction between the disabled and so called normal children. Uh, you hear more cries about the LD students being integrated into regular classes; teachers up in arms about that. In my judgment, I think they have a right because there's no training. You put the kids in a room and oh, that person is LD, that person is LD. You do the best you can do them. That's what happened to too many places. With a Special Ed support person maybe once a week. (Laughs)
More Interview Chapters
- Childhood and Family
- Dr. Edwards as a Student | Professional Aspirations
- Birth of Graynle, Jr.
- YOU ARE HERE: Graynle Jr.'s Educational Experience
- Impact of Disability on Relationships
- Graynle Jr's Education and Impact of Least Restrictive Environment
- Joining a Community of Advocates
- Lack of Opportunities Post-secondary School
- Dr. Edwards Advocacy for Children and Adults with Disabilities
- Challenges for Parents Today
- Relationship with Graynle Jr. and Reflections on Advocacy
About Graynle Edwards
Parent, Adjunct Professor in Environmental Sciences, Lincoln University
Fathers, Education and Least Restrictive Environments, PARC, Parents, Employment and Workshops, Waiting List