MetroFocus: November 29, 2022

FAMILY DOCUMENTS THEIR FIGHT FOR INCLUSION IN THE CLASSROOM FOR THEIR DISABLED SON

As 3-year-old Emilio prepares to start NYC public school, his family finds itself embroiled in a challenge all too common for children with disabilities- to secure the right to an inclusive education that favors integration over segregation. Feeling cornered as they struggle through NYC’s public school system, which is one of the most segregated in the country, Emilio’s parents, filmmaker Olivier Bernier and his wife Hilda- a NYC special education teacher- turn the cameras on themselves and their son who has Down syndrome. Tonight you’ll hear their story and see their fight for their son’s future, as they navigate the byzantine school system originally designed to silo kids with disabilities.

For more information on the documentary Forget Me Not, click here.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, SEPARATE AND NOT EQUAL.

A FAMILY SHARES THEIR STRUGGLE TO ADVOCATE FOR THEIR SON WITH DOWN SYNDROME IN THE HEAVILY SEGREGATED NEW YORK CITY SCHOOL SYSTEM.

THEIR FIGHT NOR INTEGRATED CLASSROOMS AND INCLUSION AS THEY TURN THE DOCUMENTARY CAMERA ON THEMSELVES, WHEN 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

♪♪

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS,' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY --

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

THE NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM IS THE LARGEST SYSTEM IN THE NATION, AND NOTORIOUSLY ONE OF THE MOST SEGREGATED.

BUT WHILE MOST OF THE FOCUS FALLS ON RACIAL AND ECONOMIC SEGREGATION OF SCHOOLS, A NEW DOCUMENTARY SHOWS THAT THERE IS ANOTHER FORM OF SYSTEMIC SEGREGATION HAPPENING, THAT OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES.

IT'S CALLED FORGET ME NOT, AND IT OFFERS AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT OF ONE FAMILY'S STRUGGLE TO ADVOCATE FOR A DISABLED CHILD IN THE NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM.

THE FILM FOLLOWS THE STORY OF FILMMAKER OLIVIER BERNIER AND HIS WIFE, SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER HILDA, AND THEIR SON EMILIO, WHO WAS BORN WITH DOWN SYNDROME.

HILDA AND OLIVIER WANT EMILIO TO BE EDUCATE IN THE AN INTEGRATED SYSTEM, BUT EDUCATION OFFICIALS INSIST ON PLACING HIM IN A SEGREGATED SETTING WITHOUT ANY NEUROTYPICAL PEERS.

HERE'S A PREVIEW.

EMILIO.

I SEE YOU.

WHEN I LOOKED AT HIM, I JUST SAW A BABY.

FOR ME HE JUST LOOK LIKE MY CHILD.

I'VE ALWAYS KIND OF DREADED WHEN WE HAVE TO FIND A SCHOOL FOR HIM.

JUST WANT TO PREP YOU, I THINK IT'S GOING TO BE A LITTLE BIT OF A BATTLE.

SO YOU'RE TELLING ME MY SON IS NOT EVEN ON THE PICTURE OF THE CURVE.

LIKE, WHY DON'T YOU CREATE A BELL CURVE THAT FITS EVERY CHILD?

WE BELIEVE IN YOUR POTENTIAL, AND WE ARE GOING TO DO EVERYTHING WE CAN TO HELP YOU DEVELOP IT.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF KIDS WITH DISABILITIES IS STILL SEEING REGATED IN THE UNITED STATES.

THERE'S VERY LITTLE TRANSPARENCY INTO THIS PROCESS, AND AS A PARENT IT'S INCREDIBLY INTIMIDATING.

EMILIO, SAY HI.

HI.

IT'S NOT OKAY THAT ALMOST 60,000 STUDENTS IN NEW YORK CITY ARE IN SEGREGATED SETTINGS.

I WANT HIM TO BE EXPOSED.

I WANT HIM TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY, EVERY OTHER KID HAS.

I DIDN'T KNOW HE WAS DIFFERENT, BUT THE WORLD KNEW HE WAS DIFFERENT, AND AT THAT MOMENT, I LEARNED THAT MY CHILD NEEDED TO BE INCLUDED LIKE EVERY OTHER CHILD.

YOU HAVE TO BE YOUR CHILD'S FOREMOST ADVOCATE, BECAUSE NO ONE IS GOING TO DO IT TO A GREATER EXTENT THAN YOU.

BY OPENING THE DOOR FOR EMILIO, WE'RE OPENING THE DOOR FOR QUEER STUDENTS, TRANSGENDER STUDENTS, BLACK STUDENTS.

I'M ARGUING FOR PASSION.

WE MUST HAVE PASSION IF WE'RE GOING TO CHANGE THE WORLD.

YOU DON'T KNOW EMILIO.

YOU'VE SEEN HIM ONCE.

YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT'S APPROPRIATE FOR HIM.

I KNOW DEEP INSIDE OF ME HE'S GOING TO DO EVERYTHING.

HE JUST NEEDS TO BE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY.

AND I'D LIKE TO WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS' DIRECTOR OLIVIER BERNIER AND HIS WIFE HILDA TO TALK ABOUT THE FILM AND SHARE MORE OF THEIR FAMILY STORY.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR HAVING US.

ABSOLUTELY.

THANK YOU BOTH SO MUCH.

SO, FIRST OFF, JUST THE TELLING OF YOUR SON'S STORY.

SO MANY OF THESE INTIMATE PORTRAIT FILMS, SOMETIMES PEOPLE WONDER, WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO SHARE SUCH A PAINFUL AND YET INTIMATE PART OF YOUR LIFE WITH THE GENERAL PUBLIC?

WELL, I THINK IN THE BEGINNING IT WASN'T NECESSARILY GOING TO FOCUS SO MUCH ON OUR PERSONAL LIVES, BUT AS WE STARTED MAKING A FILM ABOUT INCLUSIVE EDUCATION, WE QUICKLY SAW EMILIO BEING PUT ON A TRACK FOR SEGREGATION AND STARTED TO TURN THE CAMERAS ON OURSELVES, AND ULTIMATELY WE JUST FELT COMPELLED TO TELL THE STORY.

NOW, HILDA, I THINK PEOPLE MIGHT ALSO WONDER, JUST FROM YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE AS A SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER, WOULD YOU HAVE NOT BEEN PREPARED, OR WERE THERE THINGS THAT STILL CAME AS A SURPRISE OR SHOCK TO YOU IN YOUR SON'S JOURNEY?

ABSOLUTE.

ABSOLUTELY.

FOR ME IT WAS SHOCKING HOW THE ADMINISTRATORS WERE LEADING TO PUT HIM ON A SEGREGATED SETTING AT SUCH AN EARLY AGE.

YOU KNOW, FROM MY UNDERSTANDING AS AN EDUCATOR, WE SHOULD ALWAYS START WITH THE LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT AND GIVE THAT CHILD TO OPPORTUNITY TO PARTICIPATE ON GENERAL EDUCATION CLASSES FIRST.

AND THEN MOVE ON TO THE INTERVENTIONS AS NECESSARY.

SO FOR ME, IT WAS VERY SHOCKING THAT AT 2.5 YEARS OLD, HE WAS ALREADY BEING PLACED ON THAT DIRECTION.

WELL, DID ANY OF THE -- I DON'T WANT TO SAY FORMAL EDUCATORS -- BUT ADMINISTRATORS GIVE YOU ANY REASONING BEHIND WHAT THEY FELT WAS BEST FOR YOUR SON?

.

THEY HAVE A WHOLE LITANY OF REASONING.

YOU KNOW, I THINK ONE EXAMPLE THAT'S IN THE FILM IS THEY SHOW YOU A CHART AND WHERE YOUR CHILD FALLS ON THAT CHART, ONLY EMILIO DIDN'T EVEN FIT ON TO THE CHART, BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T MAKE A BELL CURVE THAT FITS EVERY CHILD.

SO THEY TRY TO GIVE YOU A LOT OF REASONS WHY YOUR CHILD WON'T BE SUCCESSFUL IN A CLASSROOM, BUT ULTIMATELY HOW CAN YOU KNOW IF YOU DON'T TRY?

I WANT TO MAKE SURE WE'RE SENSITIVE TO ALL NEEDS OR PERHAPS WHAT PEOPLE'S UNDERSTANDING IS GOING INTO THIS, AND SOME PEOPLE MIGHT SAY, WELL, IS THAT -- IT MIGHT NOT SEEM FAIR, BUT GIVEN THAT OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE ALREADY OVERCROWDED, TEACHERS ARE ALREADY OVERWHELMED, AND THEY DON'T GET THE SUPPORT THEY NEED NOR NEUROTYPICAL STUDENTS, IS IT FAIR TO THE OTHER STUDENTS TO PUT A CHILD IN THE CLASSROOM WHO MIGHT NEED MORE OF THE TEACHER'S ATTENTION?

THAT'S A FAIR QUESTION.

I THINK ALL SCHOOL SYSTEMS AROUND THE COUNTRY ARE OVERWHELM IN THE SOME SENSE, BUT THAT'S A PROBLEM THAT NEEDS TO BE SOLVED.

I THINK NO CHILD SHOULD BE SEGREGATED JUST BECAUSE OF THE WAY THEY'RE BORN ESSENTIALLY.

EMILIO WAS BORN WITH DOWN SYNDROME AND DESERVES THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE IN THE CLASSROOM.

AS YOU'LL SEE IN THE FILM, THERE'S A LOT OF SOLUTIONS THAT ARE OFFERED, AND THE TRUTH IS THAT THE SOLUTIONS ARE OUT THERE.

THEY JUST NEED TO BE IMPLEMENTED.

WELL, HILDA, I'M WONDERING, WHAT WAS THE PROCESS THAT YOUR FAMILY WENT THROUGH?

STARTED AT 2 1/2 YEAR WHEN KIDS MIGHT BE IN PRESCHOOL AND NOT STARTING THEIR FORMAL EDUCATION, BUT WHAT WAS THE PROCESS OF FINDING OUT THAT PEOPLE FELT IT WAS BETTER TO HAVE YOUR SON SEPARATED?

SO, TO BEGIN WITH, BABIES START WITH EARLY INTERVENTION.

AND THERE IS A POINT WHEN THEY WERE GOING TO TURN 3 WHEN THEY'RE TRANSITIONING FROM EARLY INTERVENTION TO PRESCHOOL EDUCATION, AT WHICH POINT IT GOES ON THE HANDS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, AND THERE IS THIS WHOLE BATTERY OF TESTS THAT THE CHILD HAS TO GO THROUGH TO BE CLASSIFIED WITH A DISABILITY.

SO, BASED ON THESE EVALUATIONS AND, YOU KNOW, THAT ARE MOSTLY DONE BY PEOPLE THAT DON'T KNOW YOUR CHILD, IT'S THAT THEY ARE MAKING THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS.

SO FOR US, IT WAS VERY DISHEARTENING HOW THEY USE THESE EVALUATIONS JUST TO JUSTIFY THE FACT THAT THEY NEED TO BE SEPARATED FROM THEIR PEERS.

AT AGE 3, IN MY OPINION, CHILDREN SHOULD BE PLAYING TOGETHER, LEARNING FROM EACH OTHER, AND STARTING FROM SUCH AN EARLY AGE JUST TO PUSH THEM ASIDE BECAUSE OF THEIR DIFFERENCE, IT'S NOT FAIR FOR ANYBODY, REALLY.

IT'S NOT FAIR FOR THE CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES, IT'S NOT FAIR FOR THE CHILDREN THAT DON'T SEEM TO HAVE ANY ISSUES.

SO IT'S -- I DON'T KNOW, IT'S -- IT WAS VERY HEARTBREAKING TO SEE HOW THIS IS TAKING PLACE IN SUCH A BLATANT WAY.

WELL, YOU KNOW, OLIVIER, THAT WAS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT EVEN FOR MYSELF WATCHING THE FILM, WHICH I DIDN'T REALIZE, WHICH IS THAT BECAUSE THIS HAS BEEN HAPPENING FOR SO LONG, MOST PEOPLE WHO ARE NEUROTYPICAL AGAIN MIGHT NOT EVEN REALIZE THAT THIS WAS A THING.

THAT'S PART OF THE REASON WHY SO MANY OF US DON'T HAVE ANY EXPERIENCE WITH NEURODIVERGENT PEOPLE, BECAUSE WE'VE NEVER BEEN EXPOSED TO THEM.

WHEN YOU CAME TO THAT REALIZATION AND, WHAT DID THAT TELL YOU ABOUT THE SOCIALIZATION AND EDUCATION THAT YOU GOT AS A CHILD?

WELL, WHEN MY SON WAS BORN I WAS COMPLETELY UNPREPARED.

IT WAS A SURPRISE TO US THAT EMILIO HAD DOWN SYNDROME, AND WE LEARNED ABOUT IT ONLY A FEW MINUTE AFTER HE WAS BORN, AND VERY QUICKLY I REALIZED THAT I DIDN'T HAVE TO TOOLS TO REALIZE WHAT DOWN SYNDROME WAS OR WHAT LIFE COULD BE LIKE WITH DOWN SYNDROME.

WHEN I STARTED TO LOOK BACK AT MY OWN LIFE I REALIZED THAT I HAD GONE TO SCHOOL AND I NEVER MET ANYONE WITH DOWN SYNDROME.

I NEVER MET ANYONE WITH AUTISM OR A SIGNIFICANT DISABILITY, AND I WENT TO A REALLY GOOD PUBLIC SCHOOL THAT WAS LARGE.

AND, YOU KNOW, IT WAS JUST -- TRIED TO UNDERSTAND WHY THAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED OR HOW THAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED, AND QUICKLY I CAME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT ALL THOSE CHILDREN WERE SEGREGATED AND HIDDEN FROM US.

SO THAT KIND OF SET US ON OUR JOURNEY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT INCLUSIVE EDUCATION IS AND WHAT IT COULD LOOK LIKE.

OF COURSE.

AND FROM AN EDUCATION POINT OF VIEW, HILDA, YOU KIND OF TOUCHED ON IT, BUT WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS FOR ALL CHILDREN TO BE ABLE TO INTERACT WITH AND EXPERIENCE ALL THE DIFFERENT FACET OF NEURODIVERGENTCY?

THERE ARE STUDIES THAT NEUROTYPICAL CHILDREN BENEFIT WITH CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES IN THE CLASSROOMS.

IT HELPS BOOST THEIR ACADEMIC ABILITIES.

AND IT ALSO HELPS EVERYBODY TO LEARN HOW TO DEAL WITH DIFFERENT KINDS OF PERSONS.

AND THAT IS VERY IMPORTANT, BECAUSE WHEN CHILDREN ARE LEARNING FROM EACH OTHER AND THEY ARE EXPOSED TO DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS, DIFFERENT ABILITIES, THEY WILL BE EQUIPPED IN THE FUTURE TO WORK AND PARTICIPATE IN THE COMMUNITY WITH ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE.

SO I THINK IT'S VERY IMPORTANT THAT CHILDREN HAVE TO OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN FROM EACH OTHER AND CARE FOR EACH OTHER.

AND IT ALSO CREATES MORE AND RESILIENT SOCIETY WHEN WE HAVE THE ABILITY TO WORK WITH EACH OTHER.

SO I FEEL THAT PARENTS SHOULD NOT BE -- OF NEUROTYPICAL CHILDREN SHOULD NOT BE AFRAID OF HAVING CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES IN THEIR CLASSROOMS BECAUSE IT REALLY BENEFITS EVERYBODY.

THE BENEFIT IS NOT ONLY FOR A CHILD LIKE MY SON, BUT FOR EVERYBODY ELSE THAT PARTICIPATES AND HAS THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPEND THAT AMOUNT OF TIME EVERY DAY WITH PEOPLE OF DISABILITIES OR WHAT NOT.

SO, BUILDING AFTER OF THAT POINT, I WANT TO PLAY ANOTHER CLIP FROM THE FILM.

AND THIS CLIP, YOU GUYS ARE VISITING A HIGHLY INTEGRATED PUBLIC SCHOOL.

AND I WANT TO EMPHASIZE, THIS IS A PUBLIC SCHOOL IN BOSTON CALLED THE HENDERSON INCLUSION SCHOOL, AND IT SERVES OF COURSE AS A MODEL FOR THE MIND OF INCLUSION IN EDUCATION THAT YOU GUYS ARE TALKING ABOUT.

SO, IN THE CLIP, WE'RE GOING TO PLAY, I WANT YOU GUYS TO TALK ABOUT WHAT IT IS THAT YOU FEEL THE SCHOOL IS DOING RIGHT.

HERE'S THE CLIP.

WE ARE A BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOL.

ALMOST 40% AN OUR STUDENTS HAVE DISABILITIES.

NOW, OUT OF THOSE 40%, ABOUT 18% HAVE SIGNIFICANT DISABILITIES.

WHERE IN MANY OTHER SCHOOLS WOULD BE IN A SEGREGATED CLASSROOM.

WHEN YOU PUT 3-YEAR-OLDS TOGETHER, 3-YEAR-OLDS THINK IT'S NORMAL TO BE DIFFERENT.

AND WE EMBRACE DIFFERENCES AT AGE 3.

SOMEWHERE AROUND AGE 8, WE START TO QUALIFY DIFFERENCES AND WE START TO SAY SOME PEOPLE ARE JUST NOT INTELLIGENT.

SOME PEOPLE ARE GIFTED AND TALENTED AND THEY SHOULD BE SEPARATED.

WE DISAGREED.

WE KEPT ALL OF OUR STUDENTS TOGETHER, AND WE ROSE TO BE ONE OF THE HIGHEST ACADEMICALLY PERFORMING SCHOOLS FOR STUDENTS WITH AND WITHOUT DISABILITIES.

OLIVIER, TELL US ABOUT THE HENDERSON SCHOOL.

AND FIRST OF ALL, HOW DID YOU EVEN FIND IT?

BECAUSE NEW YORKERS AND BOSTON ARE SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE OIL AND WATER.

BUT ALSO, WHY DO YOU THINK THERE AREN'T MORE SCHOOLS LIKE IT?

WE FOUND THE HENDERSON SCHOOL, IT WAS SERENDIPITOUS.

WE INTERVIEWED SOMEONE NAMED THOMAS HARE IN THE FILM WHO SPENT HIS LIFE STUDYING EDUCATION AND IMPLEMENTING IT TO THE GOVERNMENT.

HE WAS ONE OF THE AUTHORS OF I.D.E.A., OR THE MOST RECENT VERSION, AND HE INTRODUCED US TO THE HENDERSON SCHOOL BECAUSE HE SPENT A LOT OF TIME GOING THERE AND SEEING HOW IT WORKS AND TRYING TO UNDERSTAND IT SOME WHEN WE WENT TO THE HENDERSON SCHOOL, THEY WELCOMED US WITH OPEN ARMS AND SAID, YES, BRING YOUR CAMERAS.

COME SEE.

WE WANT TO SHOW THE WORLD THIS MODEL OF EDUCATION.

AND THE MORE TIME WE SPENT THERE, THE MORE IN LOVE I FELL WITH THE PLACE.

AT FIRST IT'S ALMOST SHOCKING BECAUSE YOU DON'T THINK IT'S TRUE.

IT'S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

AND THEN THE MORE TIME YOU SPEND THERE YOU REALIZE THIS IS A FUNCTIONING SCHOOL AND EVERYBODY'S VERY ENGAGED.

AND IT'S REALLY AN EXCELLENT MODEL THAT I HOPE OTHER PEOPLE CAN TAKE SOMETHING AWAY FROM.

HILDA, IS THAT THE TYPE OF MODEL THEY HAVE?

AGAIN, THIS IS A PUBLIC SCHOOL IN BOSTON.

DO YOU THINK THAT'S SOMETHING THAT CAN BE RE-CREATED IN A MASSIVE INSTITUTION LIKE THE NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM?

IT'S GOING TO TAKE A LOT OF WORK, AND IT'S GOING TO REQUIRE A DEEP LOOK AT HOW EDUCATION NEEDS TO WORK BECAUSE WHEN YOU SEE THE HENDERSON SCHOOL, LIKE, EVERYBODY IS ON THE SAME MIND SET OF HAVING ALL THE CHILDREN WORKING TOGETHER, WHETHER THEY HAVE A PHYSICAL DISABILITY, AN INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY, OR WHETHER THEY'RE NEUROTYPICAL.

SO IT REQUIRES A MIND SET.

TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS NEED TO WORK ON THAT MIND SET BECAUSE ADULTS ARE NOT ON BOARD, THEN IT'S GOING TO BE VERY HARD TO IMPLEMENT SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

EVERYBODY NEEDS TO BELIEVE THAT INCLUSION WORKS, AND IF THAT MIND SET IS NOT THERE, IT'S GOING TO BE A BUMPY ROAD.

I BELIEVE THAT ALL TEACHERS SHOULD BE PREPARED AND TRAINED TO EDUCATE CHILDREN WITH MANY LEARNING PROFILES.

SO, THE WAY WE TRAIN TEACHERS ALSO NEEDS TO BE MODIFIED BECAUSE THERE SHOULDN'T BE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GEN ED TEACHERS AND SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHERS.

THERE SHOULD BE AN UNDERSTANDING TO MAKE INCLUSION WORK, THAT WE ARE ALL EDUCATING THE SAME GROUP OF CHILDREN AND THAT THERE IS DIFFERENT WAYS TO LEARN AND THAT, YOU KNOW, IF WE TRY TO MAKE IT EQUITABLE, IT CAN HAPPEN.

AND YOU CAN SEE IT IN THE MOVIE, HOW YOU HAVE CHILDRENS WITH PHYSICAL DISABILITIES AND THEY'RE JUST ALL PLAYING IN THE PLAYGROUND AND JUST HAVING A GOOD TIME TOGETHER.

THEY ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR DIFFERENCES, AND YOU KNOW, THAT'S SOMETHING THAT I THINK THE TEACHERS IN THESE SCHOOL DO SO BEAUTIFULLY IS THAT THEY CREATE THIS UNDERSTANDING THAT THEY ARE IN THERE TOGETHER FOR EACH OTHER.

ONE THING THAT YOU SEE IN THE SCHOOL A LOT IS TEACHERS PROBLEM SOLVING AND WORKING TOGETHER, BECAUSE EVERY CHILD AS DIFFERENT CHALLENGES, WHETHER THEY'RE -- WHETHER THEY HAVE A DISABILITY OR NOT, SO THE TEACHERS ARE CONSTANTLY COLLABORATING AFTER SCHOOL OR BETWEEN CLASSES AND PROBLEM SOLVING ON HOW THEY CAN MODIFY, HOW THEY CAN HELP THESE CHILDREN SUCCEED, AND IT'S REALLY SOMETHING AMAZING TO SEE.

WELL, ONE OF THE OTHER THINGS THAT THIS FILM DOES DO IS AS FRUSTRATING, I'M SURE, AS YOUR JOURNEY WAS WITH THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM, AT THE SAME TIME YOU ALSO SHOW THAT THE COUNTRY'S COME STILL A LONG WAY FROM THE WAY IT USED TO DEAL WITH NEURODIVERGENT PEOPLE AND I WAS WONDERING IF YOU COULD TELL US, A LIVIER, REMIND US ABOUT YOUR PAST AND HOW THIS COUNTRY TRADITIONALLY DEALT WITH PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T FIT.

YEAH, WHEN WE STARTED MAKING THE FILM, I REALLY DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THE LANDSCAPE OF HOW FAR WE HAD COME.

YOU KNOW, MY MEMORY STARTS IN THE '90s WHEN I WENT TO SCHOOL.

SO, BUT LOOKING BACK ON IT IT WASN'T THAT LONG AGO THAT A CHILD THAT HAD A DISABILITY, AN INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY BORN WITH DOWN SYNDROME WOULD BE TAKEN FROM THE MOTHER FROM BIRTH AND BROUGHT TO AN INSTITUTION AND RAISE IN THE AN INSTITUTION, AND THOSE INSTITUTIONS WERE REALLY OPEN UNTIL THE '80s, BUT IT WASN'T UNTIL A DOCUMENTARY THAT GERALDO RIVERA DID IN THE 1972 REALLY EXPOSED THESE INSTITUTIONS AND WHAT THEY WERE LIKE, AND THEY WERE HORRIBLE PLACES.

HORRIBLE PLACES THAT LOWERED THE LIFE EXPECTANCY OF A HUMAN, THAT THEY WERE NOT TAUGHT.

THEY WERE ROAMING AROUND NAKED.

AND WE SHOW THAT IN THE DOCUMENTARY BECAUSE IT'S IMPORTANT TO SEE THE PROGRESS THAT WE'VE MADE OVER THESE YEARS.

FROM THERE, THERE'S BEEN LAWS WRITTEN, YOU KNOW, THAT GUARANTEE THE RIGHT OF A CHILD TO BE EDUCATED IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

BUT YOU KNOW, WE HAVE SO MUCH FURTHER TO GO, AND I THINK THAT -- I HOPE OUR FILM PUSHES IT A LITTLE FURTHER AND JUST REMINDS PEOPLE THAT IF WE ALL KEEP WORKING TOGETHER, WE CAN MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES.

EN YOU KNOW, EDUCATION, OR AT LEAST PUBLIC EDUCATION, DEFINITELY SEEMS TO BE IN SOME TRANSITIONAL PLACE WHERE A LOT OF FAMILIES ARE FINDING THAT THEY HAVE TO BE AN ADVOCATE FOR THEIR CHILD AS MUCH AS THEY ARE, YOU KNOW, A SUPPORT SYSTEM AND JUST A PARENT.

AND I'M WONDERING -- AND THIS IS FOR BOTH OF YOU OR EITHER ONE OF YOU, DOESN'T MATTER -- CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT DUE PROCESS MEANS WHEN IT COMES TO THE CONTEXT OF FEDERAL LAW AND CHALLENGING THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION?

I COULD START WITH THAT ONE.

SO, THIS -- HILDA WAS A LITTLE MORE FAMILIAR GOING INTO THE FILM OR EMILIO'S JOURNEY, BUT I HAD NO IDEA YOU HAD TO SUE THE EDUCATION SYSTEM IN ORDER TO GET AN EQUITABLE OUTCOME FOR YOUR CHILD.

WHAT DUE PROCESS IS IS A LEGAL RECOURSE FOR PARENTS TO ADVOCATE FOR THEIR CHILD, AND IF THEY HAVE A DISAGREEMENT WITH THE SCHOOL'S ASSESSMENT OF THE CHILD, YOU ESSENTIALLY HAVE THE GO TO COURT, AND THERE'S A WHOLE INDUSTRY OF LAWYERS AND ADVOCATES BUILT AROUND THIS.

AND THE TRUTH IS THAT IF YOU'RE OF A LOW INCOME FAMILY AND YOU DON'T HAVE TIME OR MONEY TO DO THIS, YOU BEHOLDEN TO WHATEVER THE EDUCATION SYSTEM RECOMMENDS FOR YOUR CHILD.

AND THE SECOND PART OF THAT IS THAT, YOU KNOW, THIS TAKES A LOT OF TIME.

IT TAKES YEARS SOMETIMES.

THERE'S STILL CASES FROM THE '70s APPARENTLY THAT ARE FLYING AROUND NEW YORK.

IN THAT TIME, WHO LOSES?

THE CHILD LOSES.

WELL, HILDA, WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT WHAT THE FEDERAL LAW SAYS NOW, AND HOW DOES THAT WORK IN PRACTICE?

THE FEDERAL LAW HAS THE DUE PROCESS RECOURSE AS A MATTER TO SOLVE THESE DISAGREEMENTS BETWEEN PARENTS AND ADMINISTRATORS.

THE RIGHT IS THERE, BUT LIKE OLIVIER MENTIONED, IT'S VERY TIME CONSUMING.

AND IT CAN BE -- IT CAN WORK AGAINST THE PARENTS, BECAUSE MANY PARENTS DON'T HAVE THAT TIME TO JUST, YOU KNOW, GO AHEAD AND FILE FOR MEDIATION AND THEN HIRE LAWYERS OR ADVOCATES IF THEY NEED TO.

SO IT'S AN UPHILL BATTLE FOR MANY, MANY FAMIIES THAT WOULD LIKE TO PURSUE DUE PROCESS BUT JUST DON'T HAVE THE MEANS OR THE TIME TO DO IT.

OF COURSE, AND THAT IS I THINK A COMMON THREAD WITH SO MANY ISSUES THAT REQUIRE, YOU KNOW, LEGAL INTERVENTION, IF YOU WILL.

BUT I DON'T WANT TO END THIS INTERVIEW WITHOUT ASKING ABOUT YOUR SON EMILIO AND, YOU KNOW, WHERE IS HE NOW?

NOT RIGHT THIS SECOND, BUT IN TERMS OF SCHOOL?

HAVE YOU GUYS SETTLED ON AN EDUCATION SYSTEM THAT YOU FEEL IS GOING TO BE THE MOST BEN OFFICIAL FOR HIM?

SO, EMILIO IS IN AN INCLUSIVE CLASSROOM RIGHT NOW, AND WE ARE VERY SATISFIED WITH THAT.

WE HOPE WE CAN KEEP HIM IN THAT SETTING.

YOU KNOW, WE HAVE -- WE ARE WORKING WITH PEOPLE THAT UNDERSTAND WHERE WE ARE COMING FROM AND THAT ARE WILLING TO WORK WITH US TO MAKE INCLUSION WORK.

SO AT THIS POINT WE ARE VERY GLAD THAT THINGS ARE MOVING ALONG THE WAY THEY ARE.

WE HOPE IT STAYS LIKE THAT, AND WE DON'T -- WE CANNOT -- I MEAN, IT'S ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT YOU JUST NEVER KNOW.

AN IEP IS A DOCUMENT THAT NEEDS TO BE REFILED EVERY YEAR SOME EVERY YEAR, RECOMMENDATIONS ARE MADE, AND YOU HAVE TO, LIKE, KIND OF REEVALUATE WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO DO IF THINGS CHANGE.

SO THIS IS A FLUID DOCUMENT, A FLUID CIRCUMSTANCE, BUT WE HOPE WE CAN MAKE IT WORK FOR HIM.

AND VERY QUICKLY -- WE HAVE ABOUT TEN SECONDS LEFT.

IS HE STILL IN THE NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM?

NO, WE RECENTLY MOVED TO NEW JERSEY, AND WE'RE VERY HAPPY WITH THE SUPPORT HE'S GETTING.

ALL RIGHT, WELL, UNFORTUNATELY WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO LEAVE IT THERE, BUT AN INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT STORY AND SUCH AN INTIMATE PART OF YOUR LIVES THAT WERE SHARED, SO THANK YOU TO DIRECTOR OLIVIER BERNIER AND OF COURSE YOUR WIFE, HILDA.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING YOUR STORY.

THANK YOU TO EMILIO FOR BEING WILLING TO HAVE HIS STORY SHARED.

AND OF COURSE THE FILM IS CALLED 'FORGET ME NOT'. SO THANK YOU BOTH.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

ABSOLUTELY.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

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