Meet Alexandra J. Hall!
As the mother of a son who receives special education services, Alexandra J. Hall quickly had to learn the importance of parent advocacy. In the beginning, she admits that it wasn’t easy.
“I remember feeling alone, and as though no one understood me,” Hall said, reminiscing about her experiences in the school system. “It seemed as though all factors were stacked against my child, and that he would fall through the cracks.” More than anything, she hoped that her son’s needs would be met with excellence, kindness and compassion. Unfortunately, this wasn’t always the reality.
Just when Hall had begun to feel defeated, a friend connected her to another parent — who happened to experience similar issues when her child was younger. Her assistance and guidance became a tremendous resource to Hall, and gave her the much-needed encouragement to push forward. After a great deal of persistence and trial-and-error, Hall found herself in a position where she had the knowledge to assist other parents in overcoming similar challenges. Her philosophy now is simple: “No parent should ever have to experience feelings of isolation and casual dismissal at the hands of the school districts that their tax dollars support.”
With her diverse background in social justice, community service, education and culture, — she hopes to use these experiences to work alongside other parents as a Parent Advocate. The COVID-19 pandemic, she notes, has strengthened her desire to help. “It is my hope that black and brown families can benefit from my desire to ensure that all children have equitable access to high quality education and intervention services.”
Meet Paula Barrett!
When Paula Barrett initially moved to Indianapolis in 1991, her experiences within the school system mirrored the stories of many parents today. As a mother, and now grandmother — she’s seen it all.
Though the days of segregation and racism in schools had been legally abolished decades prior, discrimination was still ever-present, according to Barrett. It didn’t take long before she was given the impression that teachers simply didn’t want to work with her children. One such instance happened to her eldest daughter.
“She was 15 years old at the time that we moved to Indy,” she noted. Because it was the middle of the school year, her children couldn’t be placed in schools near her home — and she didn’t have any transportation. “I literally had to walk her to the bus every morning,” Barrett added.
For reasons unknown, her daughter was quite sensitive to the chilly weather in Indianapolis, and was often sick. To resolve the issue, Barrett found a $60 fur coat at a local thrift store. When her daughter arrived at school with the new coat, her teacher took it off, and removed her from the classroom for ‘distracting other students.’
“I didn’t understand it, and confronted the teacher about it. When she started talking, she was talking at me, not to me.” said Barrett. “She claimed I had ‘no business’ sending my child to school with a $4,000 fur coat.”
Discriminatory events such as this took place quite often. Over time, Barrett was forced to learn how to navigate these situations by advocating for her children. She approached principals, requested alternative teachers, and stayed informed about the climate of the classroom.
With years of firsthand experience, she hopes that her work as a Parent Advocate will assist parents in navigating similar situations.