Wednesday, September 1, 2004

WUSA9: No Joking Matter

It was supposed to be funny, but scores of parents of special education students are furious about the remarks of a school system lawyer.
The parents say the attorney was making fun of them and their children during an out of town convention.
It was a take off on "Saturday Night Live" at a special education lawyer's convention in San Francisco.
Parents, however, say the comments of Montgomery County Public Schools attorney Zvi Greisman about special ed students anything but funny.
"Sit on your seat for five minutes and keep your big mouth shut without attacking anyone," Griesman can be heard on a videotape of the skit.
"My 13 year old son's ability to sit in a seat and be quiet is measured in half minute increments. And to have somebody joke about somebody sitting in the seat and keeping their big mouth shut is beyond offensive," Lyda Astrove said of Greisman's comment.
Astrove is the mother of two special education students. She has had to fight the school system in an administrative court to get enough help for Scott, who is so autistic he can barely sit still.
She feels Griesman was mocking parents who go to court to help their children.
"In Boulder, Colorado, students took to the street in celebration of their due process victory when the judges ordered them new sets of parents," another comment made from Griesman's skit.
Greisman refuses to apologize. He declines to talk on camera now, but says it was all done in light hearted good spirits.
Ricki Sabia is also furious about the performance. She says the public is paying Greisman to help children like her son Stephen, who has Downs Syndrome. And she says instead he's making fun of them.
"I think there are some things that just don't have a lighter side. These are issues that parents cry themselves to sleep about at night. It's very sad and hard to lighten up when it's your child," Sabia said.
A school spokesman declines to comment on what the school attorney was doing on his own time.
"I know if there were kids in a schoolyard that were making jokes about a kid with disabilites, one would hope someone would put a stop to that, but it makes you wonder," Sabia said.
Far from apologizing, Greisman is slated to deliver another take on what he calls the lighter side of special ed law at the next convention.
Parents saying if he was making fun of a religious group or minorities, no one would put up with it.
They are demanding the school system apologize and disavow Greisman's comments.
To learn more on this story, click "Play Video." 
Written by Bruce Leshan