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November 8, 2020

[EP012] Important Steps To Advocate For Your Child's Growth


Have you ever wondered how its possible that schools in predominantly white neighborhoods receive the best resources while the schools in predominately black neighborhoods receive subpar resources? Lajoy Law steps into the Cipher today to explain why this happens and what actions you can take to change your neighborhood schools. She provides the blueprint to the different government offices that create laws and budgets concerning your child's education. So you can become effective which creates permanent change.

Key Takeaways

  • What is the responsibility of the Board of Education?

  • The importance of Compensatory education and how to use it During COVID to make sure your children receive services that will help them maintain their progress and from falling behind.

  • Parent Training and Information Centers and how they help parents with resources, training, and support in advocating for their children academically, health coverage, and much more.

  • Breaks down the parts of the IDEA act for children under and over school age. And the usefulness of an Individual Family Service Plan”



Parent Center Hub

If you’d like to hear Lajoy’s favorite song “ Famalay” by Skinny Fabulous click on the playlist below

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Genie 00:07

Welcome to The Parenting Cipher, where each episode will give you the tools and resources to help your child thrive in school and in life. Please rate and review this podcast. I love to hear your feedback and also hit the subscribe button so you don't miss any upcoming episodes.

Genie 00:23

We're back with part 2 of our Cipher conversation with Lajoy Law. If you missed part 1, be sure to check it out on Episode 3 where Lajoy shared all the tea on how you have to make sure that you are okay so that your children are okay, okay? So we're going to jump right back in into the second part of discussion where we start talking about advocacy. Who holds the power? How do you get change to happen in your state? Let's go. What exactly do educational boards do and how does that affect families?

 Lajoy 00:54

So the state board of Education, they are a policy-making body in the District of Columbia, their role was redefined in 2007 when the city went under mayoral control. So currently, the state board of Education, they are the voice...let me say that one more time. They are the voice in public education, okay? And so they are the voices that are determining and that have direct authority over graduation requirements, academic standards for all public schools so that includes DCPS and charter, right?

 Lajoy 01:31

The graduation requirements like the community service hours, attendance requirements, residency requirements and that's not so many requirements, let me say standards. So social studies standards, graduation standards, academic standards and for the social studies one, currently, they're working on changing that standard so that way is more inclusive of black history, of Latin history, because right now, things are very, I say watered down and it just needs -

Genie 01:59

- but it's their story, it's not our story. With regards into say, "Oh yeah, yeah, okay" or to justify their story. That's how I feel about it. You choose, which one of our icons you want to choose to talk about because it helps benefit your story - so I don't know if this is a nationwide thing, but in DC they have started to give the children certificates instead of graduating them, which I feel is more of a push through.

Genie 02:33

If the child has not met the requirements, you have not actually implemented a program for that child to be successful and you're just pushing them through the gates and the certificate. So you're saying the Board of Education is in charge of actually implementing and creating that idea of certificates?

Lajoy 02:49

So with the non-public, yes. Well actually, let me take that back and this is the problem that I have. OSSE creates a lot of the things that we're talking about, like with a certificate and the graduate -

 Genie 03:02

Let everyone know what is OSSE.

Lajoy 03:04

OSSE is the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and so when we're talking about the non-public, OSSE determines who the non-publics are so they approve or deny them because what's happening is OSSE is the DC. I don't know if that liaison is the right word, but they are the DC liaison for the schools and the non-public school. So for example, let's use Abria for example. Abria currently is at rocketship. If the IEP team and myself, and it has to be a team decision if the IEP team and I decide that they cannot meet her IEP. So the hours on her IEP that she needs to go to a non-public school that can meet her IEP, which may even be a more restrictive environment, or they may have more resources to be able to implement IEP because it's not a request, it's a requirement.

Lajoy 03:59

The schools are supposed to implement the IEPs under IDEA. That's the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. That's one of the federal special education laws, right? And so, if the school is mandated under IDEA to implement the IEP, and they can't because they don't have the resources or the tools to do it, then we as a team can decide, "Okay, she's going to go to a non-public. For her to get approved completely to go to the non-public, Abria has to go through OSSE, Office of the Superintendent of Education. OSSE. For her to get to the non-public.

Lajoy 04:37

So under OSSE, you have the non-public monitoring unit where they are the state, OSSE is the State Education Agency so SEA, where they are supposed to ensure that IDEA, is being implemented. The problem with all of this is and how it relates to the state board of Education, OSSE does not report to the state board of education. So I just want to make this clear, the State Education Agency in the District of Columbia does not report to the State Board of Education.

 Genie 05:16 


Lajoy 05:17 

OSSE reports to the mayor, the superintendent, Hanseul Kang is appointed by the mayor. the deputy mayor of education is appointed by the mayor. The chancellor of DCPS Schools is appointed by the mayor. The public charter school board, I believe, is appointed by the mayor. I'm sure we all see consistency here about the imbalance.

Genie 05:41

So the mayor doesn't even talk to or confer with the Board of Education when they're hiring these people to put them in office, do you know?

Lajoy 05:48

Elaborate on that. When you say you talk about putting people in the office, are you –

Genie 05:51

So when he hires the commissioner-

 Lajoy 05:54

- which commissioner?

 Genie 05:55

The commissioner of education.

Lajoy 05:56

Wasn't it DC? OK, so let's break it down. The state board of Education has nine people on there. They are elected. That's what I'm doing now is going through the election process.

Genie 06:07


Lajoy 06:07

And campaigning. It is eight wards and one at large. I'm running for Ward 8 and my good friend Jack is running for at large. There are no black parents on the State Board of Education.

Genie 06:18


 Lajoy 06:19

There's one parent that has a school-age child on the State Board of Education, but there are no black parents with school-age children. We have an educated voice. We have the teacher's voice. We have a community activist voice. We have a research voice. We have all of these different voices on the state board of Education but the voice that is primarily missing is black parent voice and the education landscape in DC is over 60% of black children in our education system.

 Lajoy 06:46

And furthermore, in Ward 8, not all, the Ward 8 is definitely getting diverse. But the majority of our families are black families. Where are the parents? How was the state board of Education, The voice of public education but you have not one, not one, not one black parent with a school-age child, right? And so, that's a problem just within itself and then furthermore, with OSSE, so the State Board of Education advises OSSE, they don't have a direct line of authority over OSSE, but they advise OSSE.

Lajoy 07:19

OSSE reports to the mayor. The superintendent of OSSE is appointed by the mayor. The chancellor of DCPS schools is appointed by the mayor. The Deputy Mayor for education is appointed by the mayor. The State Board of Education is really the only elected body is the only independent agency that has elected officials. You with me now?

Genie 07:48


Lajoy 07:49

Okay. Personally, I think it's a travesty. It is an absolute travesty and I was really not so much taken aback but this is what happens with systematic racism.

Genie 08:00


Lajoy 08:00

This is what happens with inequity. We can say equity, equity, equity, trauma, trauma, trauma and all these wonderful terms but if you were not walking that walk, there is a problem.

 Genie 08:13


Lajoy 08:14

A real problem and for the State Board of Education to have every single voice.  How do you...You have teachers, educators, community activists. There are so many different voices on there out of those nine individuals and there is not one African-American parent with school-age children on the state board of education, which is our version of a school board?

Genie 08:37


Lajoy 08:37

That is a travesty but we want to reach equity.

 Genie 08:42

Equity. So this point, that whole was equity. I'm just feeling like it's being overused but understated and it's this place of well, we give you the opportunity to have a voice. We give you and you don't want it but the thing is, we have a voice, but we're not clear what the channels on how to use those voices. We're not clear on who we're supposed to be talking to get these changes done.

Lajoy 09:07

Because DC education landscape is so...It's all over the place. There's not a lot of cohesiveness or cohesion. So let's talk about this real quick. Let's look at the charter schools. The public charter school board, according to themselves, says we don't have any direct line of authority over the schools themselves. We are an authorizer. So we authorize the schools to open and to close but there is not a direct line of authority. Each charter school is its own local education agency. When D.C, it's like over 60 local education agencies here.

 Lajoy 09:46

DCPS is one which I believe is the largest and then all the other charter schools are its own LEA,  Local Education Agency. So their direct line of authority comes from their board. That charter school board, right? So when we're talking cohesiveness, that can be confusing, and then even within NDCPS, there is still confused because there's equity happening, the schools aren't funded the same as we have this funding formula that's not working and we'll talk about that later. That's a whole different conversation.

 Lajoy 10:21 

But there's not even cohesiveness in DCPS. Everyone is kind of doing their own thing because there's a different level of need. There's a different level of funding that's happening or is a different level of resources and then we get the state board of education over here as an independent education agency and under the state board, there's the ombudsman's office and office of the chief student advocate and the ombudsman's office is basically, ther’re a neutral party to basically to mediate conflict between families and schools.

 Lajoy 10:50

And then the chief student advocate office is to ensure that students and families, again, another resource to ensure that parents and families have the information that they need to advocate and to navigate, right?

Genie 11:01

Right. But rewind that for a minute. So you said the chief...what is it? The last one that helps parents advocate?

Lajoy 11:08

So the chief student advocate office is basically a resource office for families to help give them the tools necessary to advocate for their children.

Genie 11:19

That's interesting because I didn't even know that existed and I've been advocating for a while.

Lajoy 11:25

No, it's fine. That is why we're having this conversation about information sharing. So under the state board of education, that is where they do have a direct line of authority because their offices are under their purview. Office of the Student Advocate and the Ombudsman's office, which is a neutral party, I call them the Neutral Zone, and they help mediate conflict between the school and the family and I just want to make sure that this is clear. They can help families, right?

 Lajoy 11:52

In making sure that again, helping them, giving them the information, but they don't necessarily represent the family and they don't represent the school. They're neutral. They come in to mediate so you have all of this under the State Board of Education and then, what we just explained about the charters and how each of them is their own LEA, their Local Education Agency, and then you have DCPS, which is over here so there's not a lot of cohesion.

Genie 12:16 


Lajoy 12:17

And furthermore, with charter schools, charters were created under federal law. They weren't created on a D.C. Law. The School Reform Act of 1995, please correct me if I'm wrong.

Genie 12:29

It is.

Lajoy 12:29

Okay. So that is a federal law that was put in place because the school system was having a lot of challenges.

Genie 12:37

That's right.

 Lajoy 12:38

It was a lot of things happening and we're going to leave that there and we'll going to call them challenges. But there were a lot of challenges and the federal government, not only did they step in on schools at that time, they stepped in on a lot of things in D.C. at that time because we know that D.C. is not a state. So with our charter schools, they were established by federal law and in that law, it talks about autonomy and how they each have their own autonomy. This is what I want to share about everybody. Just because you have autonomy does not negate the fact that you still have to implement. IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, because that is a federal law –

Genie 13:18

- right.

 Lajoy 13:18

- it's a mandate. It's a requirement, not a request so to all of our families who are in charter schools or D.C. public schools, IDEA is a mandate. There's a process. The schools have to go through that process. The issue comes in with how we are funding the schools.

Genie 13:34


Lajoy 13:35

Why there is a lack of resources, especially east of the river and so as I wrap it up, I feel like I just that's like a whole lot, y'all. I'm sorry, to dump that.

Genie 13:45

It got heavy, but in my notes, I will be leaving explanations.

Lajoy 13:49

Yes, I was like, I know that was heavy, but I just wanted to make sure that we talked about the educational landscape and how me running fits into this, but also how just the educational landscape of DC because again, information sharing, a lot of folks don't know and it's because everything is kind of everywhere and that's just the best way I can explain it, which is one of the issues that we're having in the middle of this pandemic with the schools.

Genie 14:14

Right. So leaving with that, you were interviewed and for I think, in April or March about the pandemic in the schools and you said that parents are always our kids first teachers, but I don't think that's going to take the place of what they get at school and I know that you have been sharing on Facebook some of the interactions with your daughter that you have been using to support her in this virtual school right now and I also know in previous conversations that you've had that if schools open 100% under this pandemic, you have already stated due to your daughter's health, you will not be attending school.

Genie 14:52

So with that being said, what are your feelings like when you say that parents are always the first teachers? This is important because I think that we forget that and we go take a back seat. Thinking that somebody gonna drive a truck right.

Lajoy 15:07

Well,  let me expound on that. So and this is a shout out to every single parent, grandparent, great grandparent, auntie, uncle, community mama, community dad, community auntie, or community uncle. So this is to all the families. We are our child's first teacher. We are our child's first educator. We are the cafeteria lady. We are the chef. We are the doctor. We are kids the booboo. We are the counselor. Families, we have this role that encompasses a lot of things to make sure that we are whole for our children. So that is a statement to say, I acknowledge and respect you as a parent for the many roles that you are. That does not take place of the school teacher.

Genie 15:58


Lajoy 15:58

That does not take place of the actual social worker. That does not take place of the therapists but parents, we are in those roles because we are giving our children advice. We are guiding our children. We are teaching our children. We are educating our children. We are feeding our children, right? So we have this encompassing holistic role in addition to what they have at school.

Genie 16:24


Lajoy 16:25

Because I tell everyone, I'm like my daughter has a speech therapist, she has a physical therapist, she has an occupational therapist at school. She has an outside speech therapist. She has an outside occupational therapist that we go see that's outside of school. I was about to enroll her in tutoring so we could get her a tutor. She has a pulmonary doctor. She has her ears, nose and throat doctor. She has a pediatrician. She has her neurology doctor, okay?

Genie 16:48

We've got team Abria. That's why I like to call it.

Lajoy 16:51

There's a team. We get the IEP team. Okay, so we have this entire team of people to ensure her health, to ensure that she's okay, right? But guess what? Who is at home giving Abria the medicine? Who is at home teaching Abria in doing homework? Who has to take Abria to the doctor's appointment? Who is taking a Abria to therapy? Who has to reinforce what the therapists are saying? That's when parents come in. So that's the holistic view that I'm talking about, about all of these different folks that are on our children's team. We have to embrace all of that and implement that at home and everywhere else, right?

Genie 17:33


Lajoy 17:33

But when it comes to school and this pandemic, you're going to have to make this decision for your household. You are truly going to have to parent your household your way and in this pandemic, I told everyone, I'm like, I still have to go to work, right? So I broke Abria's school schedule down into a matter of two hours. That's it.

Lajoy 17:54

I focused on quality versus quantity. I focused on okay, I know she's going to need a break. Let's do 30 minutes of reading with her breaks in between and then we'll take like a whole 15, maybe 20 minute break. Let's do math for 30 minutes depending like with her teacher will do on the Zoom and things of that nature and then we'll do that. Take a break. Here's your lunch. Recess, that's playtime in her playroom. Let's come back and do some writing. Two hour, that's the max because that's all I have to give because I'm at work.

Genie 17:54

I focused on quality versus quantity. I focused on okay, I know she's going to need a break. Let's do 30 minutes of reading with her breaks in between and then we'll take like a whole 15, maybe 20 minute break. Let's do math for 30 minutes depending like with her teacher will do on the Zoom and things of that nature and then we'll do that. Take a break. Here's your lunch. Recess, that's playtime in her playroom. Let's come back and do some writing. Two hour, that's the max because that's all I have to give because I'm at work.

Genie 18:22


Lajoy 18:22

So I have to make sure that I'm doing my casework and my caseload and helping parents that are calling in to help them navigate. And so that's what worked for my household. Now, do what I think I did here at home during this pandemic replace the things that she's getting at school? Absolutely not. If you have a child that is on IEP or if five or four, please talk to the IEP team about compensatory education and if you don't have a child who is in special education, there is probably academic loss for everybody, right? Now there may be some children where they are loving the online platform, okay? They are excelling. They are like this. I have found my niche, the family we are flowing, okay, and that's amazing, right? But we really need to talk about this is not a one size fits all, okay? It's just not.

Genie 19:18


Lajoy 19:19

Every household is different and so we have to...We really...I keep saying this to everybody. We genuinely right now should be reimagining education. Why are we going back to same old, same old? We should be going back to same old, same old. We should be reimagining. We should be talking about the state board of education. Are you all talking to the schools in developing a mandated distance learning academic standard? We could create an online platform for students that excelled in online classrooms. Do you know how much bullying will go down?

Genie 19:55


 Lajoy 19:55

- or other things that would happen?  And then, to have that and it's not taking in place of, it's having an addition. It's having another option. I talked to two young people yesterday and they said, in Ward 8, there's a lack of options. That's what they say. Where are the options for us? Where are the options for our families? So where they can say, okay, I want to do distance learning or the option of saying, I want to go back to school, that should be a family choice and whatever that choice is, needs to be respected.

 Genie 20:25

Right. So on that note, I wanted to ask you, for parents who are frustrated, in the entire COVID, what is my school want to do next? What's going to happen with my child's IEP? Oh, my child isn't making progress, right? Who should they be talking to? So for the parents who have actually reached out to the school and they're getting, the PC, oh, we don't know what's happening yet but then you hear from people who are teachers, these conversations about you guys better come back because we're coming back like 100%.

Genie 20:58

For those parents who have those concerns and even if hypothetically saying, I know my kids, we are not going back 100%, but for those parents who are doing virtual school and let's say their schools are not providing everything the child needs to be. The IEP is still intact or they are still making progress. Who outside of the IEP team or the school can they talk to? Because I know that you work for AJE for you guys, information center.

Lajoy 21:29

Yup, the PTI. So we're the federal mandated PTI. So for those listening, every state has a parent training information center. It's a federal mandate under IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It's a federal mandate and again, it's not a choice. It's a requirement. Every state has one. I'll give you the information to share with parents about where they can find who their parent training information center is.

Genie 21:53


Lajoy 21:54

Okay. For D.C, it's AJE, where I work.

Genie 21:58


Lajoy 21:58

If you are in Maryland listening, your PTI, your Parent Training Information center to help you navigate, you know, to go outside the school to help you navigate what's going on, even though they're going to have to work with the school so that way, they know what's going on and so that way, there can be a communication with the school about what's happening, right?

Lajoy 22:16

But for Maryland, Parents Place of Maryland, so PPMD, Parents' Place of Maryland. That is the Maryland Parent Training Information Center. VA, Virginia, your parent training information center, I call it PEATC. So it's PEATC, Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center. I always use acronyms so that's why I'm like, oh my gosh, I hope I got it right. So if I got it wrong, I'm so sorry but definitely, it's PEATC. P-E-A-T-C. there is a website.

Lajoy 22:47

It is called Parent Center Hub. It is either .org or .com. But basically, that is the website for you to find your Parent Training Information center. We call them PTI so Parent Training Information. Every state, you can find that. So like if you're in Texas or California, you have like California has like 10 because the state is so big. Texas has like six or seven or something like that because of how big the state is but for the DMV purposes, DC, AJE, Parent Training Information center. Maryland, Parents' Place of Maryland. That's your parent training information center and Virginia is PEATC. That is your parent training information center for Virginia and basically, what we do is we help parents, again, navigate special education and give them the information, tools and resources to best advocate for their child because there is no better advocate for a child than their parent.

 Lajoy 23:43 

Because even when you get an advocate, let's say I'll use myself, let's say I'm having an issue and I get an advocate to help me with Abria, right? The advocate is still going to take my lead.

Genie 23:54

Say it again.

 Lajoy 23:55

The advocate is still going to take my lead because I, I am the legal authority and the legal education decision maker. To the families, you are the legal authority for your child or your children. You are the one with the legal decision making. Nobody has legal decision making rights but the parent or the legal guardian. You are the legal authority. You're the boss.

Genie 24:26

You're the boss.

 Lajoy 24:26

Because when you get the advocate, they're working for you.

Genie 24:30


Lajoy 24:30

You're the boss.

Genie 24:32

And when things are not making sense to you, do not feel less than and do not feel like, oh, I'm just going to sit back. No, you ask them, what does that mean? This is what I feel like being said and I don't agree and then you tell them why you don't agree. You don't sit back and let them take the lead. I'd like to say this to my coaching parents. You are the boss. Your child is your vision, so when you have a business, the boss doesn't know all the pieces. He doesn't know what the architecture does, he doesn't know what IT does.

Genie 25:06

He knows what my vision is and what I want to happen so that's what you do. You go in. You don't need nowhere by those at the table, which you do know, this is my vision. Hey, you! Right over there, special education, you tell me how are you going to contribute to his vision? Okay, I see what you're talking about. That's not going to work for him. Okay, teacher, how are you contributing to the vision? Advocate, how are you contributing to the vision?

Lajoy 25:28


Genie 25:29

You have to make people get in alignment with your vision and explain to you how they're going to make it work and what they're offering to is go where you were like, okay, that's not going well. I guess it's facts.

Lajoy 25:43 


Genie 25:43

Because at the end of the day, everybody on the team is always going to revolve and the constant is you.

Lajoy 25:49

Can you say that one more time?

Genie 25:50

Everybody on a team are going to be constantly evolving and the only constant is going to be you and everyone will go about their lives. Only you and your child left, so you don't want to do is at '21, you're trying to figure out what happened. What happened was, these people say we're helping you and you're like oh so by help me. And you sit back and even though your spirit, stuff has happened and you're like, it doesn't make sense, why are you telling my kid I was going to be two years behind? But the way they give it to you is so smooth, like your child always going to be two years behind and this is what we have in place. But this appear as like, Hell no! What the hell is it?

 Lajoy 26:31

What the hell is this?

Genie 26:32

If you don't know what other things you can do, you can go to the parent training.

Lajoy 26:36

To all my parents, let me tell you something. If you do not agree, say something. You squat up on their ass. Y'all hear me? The only constant is you.

Genie 26:47

And guess what? I'm gonna say it. It is the old school saying. Closed mouth don't get fed, baby.

Lajoy 26:52

Come on, baby. I tell everybody, I said, even in me running for the State Board of Education, if it directly affects my child, I'm going to be right there. If it indirectly affects my child, I'm going to be right there. If it indirectly twice removed, affects my baby, Ms. Law is going to be right there.

 Genie 27:15

And let's clarify there, okay, so for some of my parents out there who when they're invited to these IEP meetings, in these parent-teacher conferences and you're like, I have to work, I can't attend. Guess what? You the boss, you tell them. Unfortunately, being in person, I cannot meet that. However, I am open to having a teleconference. Please get back with me with the details.

Lajoy 27:38 

So you guys and honestly, I'm going to put the law out there again. It's a mandate. It's under IDEA so it's something called under the law. It's called meaningful parent participation. The school cannot refuse or make barriers for a parent to participate. Now, let's be real. Some of them have and some of them do, and some of them will-

Genie 28:01

- right.

Lajoy 28:01

- but you're not in compliance with IDEA, okay?

Genie 28:05

And that right there is when you tell them that you know... See, they're banking on the fact that you don't know, and they're in charge. Now, when you pull up and you say, well, according to IDEA and the meaningful parent participation law, you are required to give me access to this meeting and I bet you, all of a sudden, everybody's turn the tide to make sure that you're there –

Lajoy 28:30

-because they don't want us stay complain. They don't want that due process complain. They don't want it.

Genie 28:34

True. It is power and knowing and that's it. That's when it's about how you talk about-

Lajoy 28:41

- power and knowing.

 Genie 28:42

- there's this breakdown in communication but there's also breakdown when it comes to a parent and their advocacy. You're depending on someone to give you all the tea and they just giving you a sip.

Lajoy 28:52

Sometimes they're just giving you like a bread crumb and you're just left to find the rest of the pieces of the puzzle.

Genie 28:58

Figure it out yourself and in the interim, all you give up, or you just get, you just get really fed up and frustrated and you don't know what to do but trust and believe what the Cipher is, is to provide that place for you to learn all the tea. I want you to know the tea. When someone says speech therapist. I want you to know all that -

Lajoy 29:15

We want you to know the tea, honey.

Genie 29:16 

We want you to know that tea. This is like the one stop shop where you're going to get that tea so you can show up at the table and you have an inkling of what the discussion is about.

Lajoy 29:27

I think this is beautiful, be a part of it. I love what you're doing.

Genie 29:34

So we're about to wrap this thing up, but I want to ask you...So I always ask everybody, what's the moment that made them decide to take charge of their child's education instead of letting someone else leave, least of all teachers in school -

Lajoy 29:48

Honestly, the moment I knew I had to take charge was when Abria was born and she was one pound and six ounces. 23 weeks, miracle baby and I've never seen so many doctors in my life. There were like thirty doctors in the room. I gave birth, gave birth naturally, and there was so many doctors, and then after that, she was gone. It's like they swooped her into the ICU…Do the things they needed to do.

Lajoy 30:11 

So I didn't get to see her. I don't even know how many hours have passed. It was like nighttime because I had her. It was like 12 o'clock. I don't think I got to see her for like 9 hours because they were doing so much to keep her here.

Genie 30:25


Lajoy 30:26

And so when I went to finally see her, she was in the incubator and she was the tiniest little thing that I have ever seen and I prayed. I said, "God, I give her back to you because this is your miracle. And if you need her to go with you, then that's what will happen." I never dreamed that I would be a mother and so in that moment when I saw her in the ICU, I said, if the Lord will have me to keep her, I will do everything in my power to fight for her. I will do everything humanly possible to make sure that I am right there.

Lajoy 30:55

I asked so many questions. I asked about breastfeeding. I asked about her apnea monitor. I asked about her oxygen. I talked to the social worker. I talked to her every single day about what do I need to do? Where do I go? I have no idea what to do. What do I do? She said, Miss Law, I want you to look up National Children's Center. That's how actually I got introduced to Ward 8, going to the National Children's Center when she was a couple of months old.

Lajoy 31:22

That's how I actually moved over here. I wanted to be close to her and so when I went to visit the school, I went to NCC and just saw the love that they had for their students and the resources that were there to make sure that she's going to be okay. And from then on, I remember when my dad advocated for me to be able to get resources, I just think those skills kind of like transferred over to me as a parent.

Genie 31:46


Lajoy 31:47

So I was like literally right there when they did not give her OSSE at one point in time. Oh, there was an email sent to OSSE. When I had to learn about the IFSP, the Individualise Family Service plan. I was right there asking questions. When she was at NCC, I had to learn...that's when I first got introduced to IDEA, that's early intervention. And for my parents out there, that's PART C so early intervention from like 0-3 is part C. Age 3-22 is part B, that's our public education. Whether it's charter or a DC public school or anything like that but I've been fighting for my baby, since she got here.

Genie 32:27

I hear you, you know, so I'm going to ask it is, what is Abria mean? What is her name mean?

Lajoy 32:33

So Abria is actually my middle name but Abria is the female name for Abraham.

Genie 32:42


Lajoy 32:43

Father Abraham and my dad's name, God bless his soul, may rest in peace and in power, is Abraham. My dad's name was Abraham. So basically we named her after my dad even though and my middle name it's Abraham plus my mom's middle name, which is Maria. So we get Abria, but Abria is the female name for Abraham and so basically, Abria is named after pop pop.

Genie 33:06

After listening to your story, I had to ask just because my kids' names, it's a reflection of what I wanted them to have because – 

Lajoy 33:14

- Amen!

Genie 33:15

It was hard, like it was not easy pregnancy but I also wanted to share with you, I was three pounds and five ounces.

 Lajoy 33:22

Come on!

Genie 33:23 

And I was three months early.

 Lajoy 33:25

See, the power and us sharing our stories.

Genie 33:28 

Yeah and it is something...It's something to be said when you have a child, or when you have a child and it doesn't go as planned and the moment where you are willing to just give it up to God. Give it up to the Almighty and I remember, it's so funny. When you're young, you know, you're young, you say a lot of stuff and I remember watching a movie with, Demi Moore, I think it's called the Messiah, and she's supposed to be giving birth to the last child on earth and the ancients, "Would you die for him?" And she said "Yes".

Genie 33:58

And I was like, "Shit!" I kid you not and have my son, it was hard. Mind you, I was chill with the birth like I was doing natural but he was the stall birth, he wasn't dilating and they were like, you got to go and all I kept telling them was make sure that he survives. You make sure he survives because I don't trust my hospital. You make sure he survives and in that moment, yes, you would die for him. And when you see your child and they are your piece of forever ever, you do put all of your greed into their survival and happiness. So that is like, yeah, my sister. You make me cry. I say yes.

 Lajoy 34:40

Literally, I put...Even to this day, I put everything I have into my daughter. I remember praying to God. I was like, "Lord, look at what a miracle she is. I want the world to hear her story."

Genie 34:53

And then with that right there, I've been watching your campaigning and then you said, not only am I trying to get my daughter to the decision making table -

Lajoy 35:01


Genie 35:02

- so then I'm looking at your pictures and I see her with you.

 Lajoy 35:05

Every time.

Genie 35:07

Right and I see her with you, and I always have this conversation with people about inclusive parenting, and that's when you take your child with you on the journey, but you give them context of what's going on. So what are your conversations like -

Lajoy 35:21

- with Abria?

Genie 35:23

- with Abria? When you're talking about running? Because kids get it, even though you don't think they get it but just the conversation.

Lajoy 35:29

The first conversation, it was so funny. I was like, you know Mommy needs to talk to you and mommy is running for office. Abria says to me, "Mommy, why do we have to run to your office?" She was like, why can't we get in the car. I don't understand. She was so literal. It was so funny. And I was like, you know what? I was like, she is such a smart cookie because I said, Mommy is running for office and in her mind, running to your...I've been to your office. I don't understand. It was the most hilarious thing that was our first off.

Genie 36:02

So literal.

Lajoy 36:05

And I was like, I think I should change this up. And so I said, you know, Mommy is in the community. And we say, meeting. Mommy, you're always at a meeting, you're always at a meeting and she knows -

Genie 36:17

- you're always on the phone.

Lajoy 36:18

And she knows I'm always at a meeting because she's sitting next to me with her snacks and her books and her toys with me in the meeting. Everybody knows everywhere I go, Abria is right there and 90 % of the time, even when I'm doing the lives, like on Facebook or doing something with the campaign on Zoom, she's right there.

Lajoy 36:36 

I don't have her with me as much because of COVID like when I'm out in the public. But if it wasn't for COVID, first of all, I got my wagon and she'd be right there in her wagon or she's starting to pass out things so I said, "You know how mommy helps you?" She goes, "Yes." I said, "Well, mommy wants to help other kids, too." And I said, "And I want us to help other kids." I said, "Abria, so you're helping other babies and other kids as you know how mom is always saying for us to be kind to each other and to help each other?" She says, "Yes, Mommy." I said, okay. I said, "Mommy is working on something new to help more families and to help more kids"

Lajoy 37:14

And I think she started realizing it once we got like the campaign literature and we start sending it out because on the literature, on the front page, it says Families First. And there's a picture of her and I literally, this was when I got my masters and I was just in that picture. You can just tell, like maybe we made it -

Genie 37:34

- we made it!

Lajoy 37:34 

And so... We made it. And so she knows that picture. She loves that picture and so when she sees it on, like thousands of material, it's like, wait a second, something is happening and then we go out in the community. I have to pass it out, right? When we're going to get petition signatures, signatures and her mass, she sees me talking to people and I'll have her behind me or something like that and she'll pass it out. When we got the campaign signs, shout, she said, Vote Lajoy J. Law.I said State, she says State and she was like Board of Ed... I said education. I said "Now, read it again."

Genie 38:14

Oh my God!

 Lajoy 38:16

You read the sign. I said, now do it again. She said, Vote Lajoy J. Law, State Board of Education Ward 8. "Mommy, I'm eight." " Yes, you are!"

Genie 38:28

That's right. Oh, look at that power numbers.

Lajoy 38:30

Look at that power numbers, I mean, she'll be nine in August but I think the fact that she's eight in this moment and to see the eight on her sign, I think she translates that, "Oh my God, I'm eight. My mom is eight on the side. We've arrived." And so when she read it, I think she's getting it. She's like, "Oh, mommy, this is another project that Mommy is working on, OK, Mommy is doing something to help the kids."

 Lajoy 38:54

So it's just been a blessing to have her with me and then it's just a blessing when I meet folks and just the love and support and encouragement that they give to the both of us, because everyone knows, like I'm a single mom and just the love that people have shown her and shown myself, it's just been so amazing. I mean, every time I meet someone, I'm like in tears because of just the love and support and the prayers that people are giving to us, because I care. I'm coming from a place of help. I'm coming from a place of I want our families. I'm running because I want my family is in a position of power. I want our families to stop being disrespected. I don't want oh, prayerfully, if I win, I don't want people just saying, oh -

Genie 39:40

Wait, stop. Let's put a pin in that right there.

Lajoy 39:43


Genie 39:44

Okay. So I believe in talking in affirmations, so I need you to refrain that from me. I need you to say -

Lajoy 39:50

- yes.

Genie 39:50

- when I win.

 Lajoy 39:52

So when I win -

Genie 39:55

All right.

Lajoy 39:55

Okay, when I win, we're speaking live, when I win, I want everyone to see over sixteen thousand soul. I want folks, when they talk to me, oh, baby, you don't need to be talking to me. You need to go talk to Ms. Dawkins. You need to go talk to Chevon. You need to go talk to Nicole. You need to go talk to Mr. and Mrs. Jones. You need to talk to Natalie. You need to talk to Ms. Thompson. You need to talk to Mrs. Campbell. Because when I roll up, my family's are right here and you will not get to me without going through my family's first.

Genie 40:31


Lajoy 40:31

This isn't about me. This is about every single family in Ward 8.

Genie 40:35

Right. Giving them a voice.

Lajoy 40:37

They have a voice.

 Genie 40:38

Making them be heard.

Lajoy 40:39

We just need to be able to get them to a table where the microphone is so that everyone can hear.

Genie 40:45

Right. I feel like, you know, when I do attend the meetings and I see Ward 8 parents at the mic and they're passionate, and they're advocating and then I'm looking at the faces of the people who are listening and they are dispassionate and they are disconnected. And I'm like, whoa -

Lajoy 41:05

It's hurtful.

Genie 41:07

It's hurtful. So are you not listening because there are from Ward 8? Are you not listening because they are black? And you've already decided their show up, you've already decided who you're talking to. I'm talking to an angry black parent so I'm not even going to really listening to you because all you're doing is complaining. When I to coach parents, what I've coached them about is you are the primary expert on your child And every time they kick back at you, you bring in the experience of your child, be your child's voice.

Lajoy 41:38


Genie 41:38 

Be your child's voice. Don't tell them it's not going to work. You tell them a nice, good, good story on why that's not going to work. See, because my son has anxiety and even though he has autism spectrum disorder, he knows that he can't read. That's why he's not talking. He has anxiety. So what does it look like to him is you want him to sit with a peer and read when he know he can't read and now you want him to put himself on blast in front of his team member?

Lajoy 42:04


Genie 42:05

How do you think that makes him feel?

Lajoy 42:07

Does that make sense to you?

Genie 42:08

Does that make sense to you? You got to bring them in.

Lajoy 42:10 

I tell everyone, Ms. Law, what if I'm embarrassed about my story or what if my truth isn't just the best? And I remember I was talking to Jack and he said it has gotten to a place where I don't care if you have to cry it out, say it loudly, say it in anger. If you say it softly, tears rolling down your face. However it comes out, it is time and it needs to be heard because what I think will happen is when we come together in a unified front, the disrespect will cease because they'll know, if I come sideways, how we are sideways. If I come sideways to this parent over here, you realize you just messed with over 16,000 parents, right?

Genie 42:50


Lajoy 42:51

And we're coming.

Genie 42:52

Right. Where is power numbers, power of community.

Lajoy 42:54

Absolutely, Amen!

Genie 42:55

Which is what I love about your work and we're going to wrap it up and one of the questions I always ask everyone who comes in because it is the Cipher and we do take our head nod off to the rap Cipher -

Lajoy 43:07


Genie 43:07

Right? So I ask you your favorite song and you said Famalia is that Famalia?

Lajoy 43:14

No, it's Famalay. So we say family.

Genie 43:17

It's Famalay, but it's Famalay.

Lajoy 43:18

Yeah, Famalay, that's how they say it in the island. I love my Machel Montaño. He is an island Caribbean singer. I love soca music. He's a soca singer. I love some soca music. I love African music. I love pop. I love rap, RNB. I'm just all over the place. I'm eclectic. But this song right here, not only does it represent everything with the campaign, it just represents everything just how I'm feeling right now within the community. When you hear the lyrics, like how there's power and how we don't see color, and about how we just really have to come together, you know like one love for real. I just love it.

Genie 43:51

When I was going through the notes and I pulled up the song and I like did the little intro but then I put the lyrics as I was listening and I was like, I can see why she likes the song especially the first set of lyrics was like, because when we roll, we no roll alone. So anyway, that's way we go. And then when I was listening -

Lajoy 44:10


Genie 44:11

- We don't see skin, we don't see color, we see strength, we see power,  we don't see race one or the other. Once he is breathing on this earth, he is my brother. I was like, I can see the embodiment of your presence existence in this moment. But it's a culmination -

Lajoy 44:27

It is.

 Genie 44:28

- of all your work.

 Lajoy 44:28

It is. I mean, I finally feel like I'm at the right place at the right time, in the right moment. And a friend said, well, guess what? That's called purpose.

Genie 44:37

Purpose. So I want you to share with the listeners. Of course, it will be in the show notes, but share with the listeners one, how can we support you? So for all of my Cipher people who are in the DC Ward 8, how can they support you and win in the elections and where can they find you?

Lajoy 44:54

Yes, okay, so everyone in Ward 8, the election is Tuesday, November 3rd. So vote Lajoy Johnson Law. You all can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @lajoylaw and as far as donating, anyone can donate so you don't have to be in Ward 8. You don't just have to be in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, just anywhere like anybody can donate to the campaign. This is a family movement and so I need everyone's help with getting families to the decision making table. We are in this together, but you can donate at www.lajoylaw2020.com.

Genie 45:45

Always remember, you're doing the best with what you have. Remember to be patient with yourself and your child. Did you know you can support the show on patreon so The Parenting Cipher can keep bringing you great content and guests. Just click on the patreon link in the show notes. 'Til next time!



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