SPEDWatch will pursue its mission through collaborative and respectful dialogue. It is our fervent hope that our demands can be met through dialogue alone. We are, however, unwilling to long delay the fulfillment of our childrens’ educational rights. If dialogue does not lead to acceptable outcomes, we will employ the techniques of nonviolent direct action.
Nonviolent Direct Action
Nonviolent direct action has been used for centuries to force social, economic, and political change. The technique derives its power from the mass participation of aggrieved citizens who exert pressure against an oppressing force. It leverages the fact that public institutions (such as the public education system) do not “run themselves.” Their efficient operation is entirely dependent upon the cooperation of the thousands of persons who carry out the day to day work of the system. Our educational leaders do not personally possess the power of control, administration, or retaliation. How much power they possess depends on the degree to which we cooperate with, and carry out, their directives.
The African-American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s is probably the most familiar example of the use of nonviolent direct action by an oppressed population. Women also used these techniques in the early 1900s to secure their voting rights. Workers have a long history of using such nonviolent techniques as strikes and boycotts to press their demands.
Why Nonviolent Direct Action?
SPEDWatch applauds the many hard won victories achieved by Massachusetts advocates that have improved conditions for many students with disabilities. Yet discrimination against these students remains entrenched in our educational system. For this reason SPEDWatch has chosen to augment current advocacy efforts by using an approach that has not yet been applied to the struggle for students' special education rights: nonviolent direct action. The power and intent of nonviolent direct action is most eloquently expressed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his seminal Letter from a Brimingham Jail.