Saturday, May 3rd at noon, my pal Joel Elliott will start riding in circles; actually in “L’s.” He will be riding his bicycle for 24 consecutive hours to raise awareness for his daughter Hannah, who has selective mutism. Joel will be riding to bring attention to the failure of the Torrance Unified School District to properly address Hannah’s needs.
Joel’s goal is to ride at least 328 miles in that time. Of course I know Joel as being pretty much a wanker, so the 328 miles is hopeless … but what he’s riding for is not!
Hannah suffers from selective mutism, a rare condition that renders her unable to speak. Even though the Torrance school district agrees that Hannah qualifies for special services, they refuse to consider the advice of experts in formulating an individual education plan to help her. This is like someone saying, “I know you’re an Olympic caliber athlete, but you don’t need any special training in order to get there.”
In other words, cheap-ass bullshit.
Selective mutism is fully curable, but it takes time, patience, lots of love, and the right kind of help. With selective mutism, the wrong kind of help makes it worse. The district certainly understands this, but due to its inherent cheapness or its unwillingness to treat each student as an individual, it is unwilling to meet Hannah’s needs.
In a very real sense, her life is at stake. When treated properly, 99% of selectively mute children begin to speak within two years, but Torrance Unified doesn’t seem to care.
This school year has been extremely difficult. Though Hannah’s teachers have been amazing, the principal and the district continue to generate obstacles for Hannah.
Another parent recently reported that earlier this year, her daughter found Hannah on the playground, surrounded by a group of older boy who were abusively bullying her. Hannah was standing with her hands over her ears as tears streamed down her face. The other little girl stood up for Hannah and broke up the abuse, and though the matter was reported to the principal, the school has never reported the incident to Hannah’s parents.
This is just one example of how a child with developmental issues, a child who is fully capable normal adjustment, has been thrown under the CYA bus of Torrance Unified.
Joel’s ride will take place on the 1-mile industrial loop just outside of the Strand Brewing Co.’s tap room, on the famous TELO crit course in Torrance. Everyone is invited to come help Joel kick off his ride. Hannah needs a voice. We can all speak for her, by speaking from our bikes.