Enact "The Shepherd Patterson Law" for Minors with Disabilities

Enact "The Shepherd Patterson Law" for Minors with Disabilities

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Diana Lemon started this petition to Elijah Reichlin-Melnick and

As a young mother of a child that lived with Sickle Cell Disease, I was unaware at that time of educational accommodations to which my daughter Dream, was entitled.

However, once my daughter entered school, my gut instinct compelled me to call a meeting with all of the educators who had daily interaction with Dream, to make them aware of her medical diagnosis. At our first meeting, I provided information to them about Sickle Cell Disease. I requested to have that information added to her student file, for future reference.

One day when she was in kindergarten her teacher Ms. Patterson realized that Dream was coloring with her left hand instead of her right hand (which is was her dominant hand). Because Ms. Patterson had been in attendance at the meeting that I called, and she had read through the literature on Sickle Cell Disease that I provided, she was in tune with Dream's "normal" behavior, and knew to look out for signs of behavior that wasn't consistent with that. Ms. Patterson had Dream taken to the nurse. When the nurse concluded that Dream was fine, and sent her back to class - twice, Ms. Patterson insisted that an ambulance be called for Dream.  I was contacted by the nurse, with whom I had been in touch earlier when Dream was initially sent to her.  The second call would advise me that my five year old was in an ambulance, on her way to the hospital. I was confused, and upset in that moment, but to this very day, I am ever so grateful that that decision was made, on behalf of my child.  As a single mother, who was in the process of completing my undergraduate degree, I could not ever imagine the events that would follow after that call.

I met my calm, collected, ever so brave five year old at the hospital. She was not at all bothered by the fact that she had just taken a ride in an ambulance.  Dream was taken to the hospital where her Hematologist had privileges. She was seen right away. They immediately took blood and shortly thereafter rushed in to let us know Dream was going into emergency surgery because she was having a stroke, in progress. 


Until this day, I am grateful to Ms. Patterson for being vigilant and hyper-intuitive about Dream's "normal" behavior. She noticed something that many others might have disregarded, but because Ms. Patterson listened to me, and paid attention to my child, her actions prevented something that could have been tragic. 


Dream passed away this past summer on August 21, 2021 at the young age of 16 due to complications of her stem cell transplant. Dream overcame so much from kindergarten, because she was able to make a full recovery from a stroke, she was able to beat Sickle Cell Disease because she had a stem cell transplant, she was able to overcome osteosarcoma once. She beat many odds across her path, and while on her journey, she was able to get legislation passed in her name - The Dream Law became law in New York State on December 10, 2019.  

For myself, now a graduate of legal studies, an experienced mother, a paralegal and advocate for children like my late daughter Dream. It dawned on me that when Dream was in kindergarten, and I presented information about her disability to a room full of educators, in our initial meeting,  not one person mentioned that I should request a Committee on Special Education meeting, in order to get a 504 plan for Dream. It is very clear to me that I should have been advised of this, because it is a legal instrument and one of the first U.S. federal civil rights laws offering protection for people with disabilities.

So today, in the second month of Black History Year which is American history! As a Black mother of a Black child saved by a Black teacher - 

I present The Shepherd Patterson Law:

In New York State the "Shepherd Patterson law"; requires a physician who treats a minor patient with a life-threatening medical condition to provide certain educational information to such patient's parents or guardians indicating such minor is entitled to a free and appropriate public education as defined under section five hundred four of the federal rehabilitation act of 1973.

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