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Point of View: Oklahoma lawmakers should support parents, school choice

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Melissa and Addie Andrews
Melissa and Addie Andrews

My daughter, Addie, is an exceptionally bright girl. She soaks up all the knowledge and information she can. She wants to go to a good college and knows a good high school education is key.

Addie is different in that she was born with only four fingers on each hand. She has some upper-body deformities and struggles with epilepsy. She has to use a backpack on wheels for school.

Before I decided to enroll her in EPIC Charter Schools, she would come home from school in tears, shoulders aching, because she had to retrieve that backpack after students kicked it down the hall. Once, she was shoved into a locker and another time down the stairs. She was traumatized and I knew the day it was time for a change.

Addie is now a sophomore and thriving. Because of the one-on-one attention she receives, we have been able to pinpoint her weaknesses and work to overcome them. She earns higher grades in subjects she used to struggle with and is back to the happy girl she used to be. I’m grateful for EPIC and I will fight any lawmaker who wants to take parental freedoms from me and other parents to do exactly what I did for Addie.

A bill being considered by the Legislature, Senate Bill 148, could have prevented me from enrolling my daughter in EPIC when I decided it was the right time to do it. That’s because it limits enrollment into a virtual public charter school to a very restrictive window during the school year unless a student meets narrowly defined “exceptions.”

One exemption in the bill is bullying, but it’s up to the superintendent of the district the student is leaving to determine if bullying has occurred and been reported. Given my child’s experience, I question whether her superintendent at the time would have agreed she was bullied.

“Catastrophic” medical conditions are another exception but the bill doesn’t consider such things as ADHD, depression, dyslexia, autism and pregnancy as “catastrophic.” Perhaps my daughter’s epilepsy would have been. It would have been up to her superintendent at the time to determine. But why should he have that power over my parental freedom? And why is it OK for a child with a “catastrophic” condition to have that freedom but a pregnant teen or a child debilitated with anxiety can’t?

Our main responsibility as parents is to protect and provide for our children. Politicians can’t do that. Lawmakers need to focus their efforts on protecting public school choice and rejecting legislation infringing on that. Join me in telling them “no” on SB 148.

Andrews lives in Bartlesville.

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