The class photo that made a father cry

Dec 8, 2004
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When Don Ambridge first saw his son’s Grade 2 class photo, he cried.

"It broke my heart," Ambridge said in an interview with Stephen Quinn on CBC Radio One's On the Coast.

It was last month when Ambridge’s seven-year-old son Miles came home from his New Westminster, B.C., school with the picture in his backpack.
'He doesn’t carry that perception of any wrongdoing or malice. He’s just trying to be part of the picture and he’s having a great time doing it.'

But when Ambridge took a look, he says he was disgusted by what he saw: 22 Grade 2 students lined up neatly in three rows, their teacher standing to the left with her students, and to the far right, Miles in his wheelchair.

"He’s leaning in, he wants to be included," Ambridge said.

"It’s a mix of humiliation for your little guy and sadness and you know, a little bit of anger. The problem is where do you put that anger?"

Miles has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease that attacks the nerve cells — called motor neurons — in his spinal cord.

Ambridge said he put the photo away and chose not to share it with his son. Instead, he penned an angry note to the class teacher.

"It basically said, 'I find this photo disgusting. Please throw it out. I don’t want it in my house.' Painful, very painful. It still hurts to see it."

Ambridge said he thought the photo was dismissive and harmful, but stopped short of calling it discriminatory.

"For me, discrimination is a wilful exclusion of somebody. I don’t believe that’s a case here in any way, shape or form," he said.

'It’s a mix of humiliation for your little guy and sadness and you know, a little bit of anger. The problem is where do you put that anger?'

"I think what it is, is just a circumstantial lack of awareness that resulted in a really emotionally tragic output."

Ambridge said the school responded immediately, first with a personal call from the principal and then, a plan to reshoot the class photo.

Ambridge said the original photo does not reflect how Miles is treated at school day-to-day.

"He’s been wonderfully accommodated. The kids love him, he loves his peers. The staff have always been terrific with him," he said.

But he thinks the school and everyone involved can work harder to make sure Miles is included.

"Be sensitive to our differences, but don’t highlight those differences, accommodate them," he said.

"I hold myself to account for making mistakes in [Miles'] daily life as well. I’m a parent. You do your best on a daily basis, but I’m not above it either."

In the original class photo, Miles is beaming, seemingly oblivious. But it's that innocence that caused Ambridge to feel even more protective of his son.

"He doesn’t carry that perception of any wrongdoing or malice. He’s just trying to be part of the picture and he’s having a great time doing it," he said.

"I think that’s part of the pain for me … it's just so innocent where you start thinking 'How dare you?'"
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Perhaps the teacher should have cut the bench down so he could sidle in...
 

Mags

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They were trying to make the photoshopping easier.

Dad cries, I laugh. Get over it, Daddy Failgenes.
 

steve500

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While I think he may be a tad hypersensitive, I really like his approach. I liked how he explicitly said it wasn't discrimination, and he made it clear that they don't exclude him on a day to day basis.

If this was a woman or a darkie, they would be using every bit of hyperbole available to paint a picture of a broken system that's out to get their shitum. Could you imagine Tamerique saying

"He’s been wonderfully accommodated. The kids love him, he loves his peers. The staff have always been terrific with him," he said.
. . . ..
"I hold myself to account for making mistakes in [Miles'] daily life as well. I’m a parent. You do your best on a daily basis, but I’m not above it either."
 

Begbie

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Jul 21, 2003
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#6
Yeah, I'd at least have the rest of the kids slide down near the kid. That may be about all you can do...depending upon the physical abilities of the kid. It doesn't really mention if the kid would be able to support himself standing in the 2nd or 3rd row or even sitting on a bleacher to take the photo.

It just looks more like the photographer had OCD considering the rest of the class are arranged so perfectly...kids in the 2nd and third row are standing and the kids in the front row are sitting straight up with their hands together on their lap. That kid wouldn't make it look uniform no matter what and the photographer was probably just like, "Eh fuck it, that's good enough."
 

fletcher

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There was a kid in a wheelchair in the grade below me and every single class picture looked just like that. The father should be more understanding that his cripple isnt like the rest of the kids by this point in his life.
 

Neon

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There was a kid in a wheelchair in the grade below me and every single class picture looked just like that. The father should be more understanding that his cripple isnt like the rest of the kids by this point in his life.

It would have taken zero effort to do it properly, and you'd think a bunch of people who teach young kids for a living would be more sensitive to something like that. I don't like kids and even I would have felt weird taking a picture like that. Just use your goddamn brain once in a while.
 

NuttyJim

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as a father to a 1 year old. If I was in this mans situation, seeing your childs class photo where your child who you love with all your heart is just set off to the side I would cry too. I too like how he admitted that it wasn't intentional. If you fucking animals could put your assholery aside for just a moment, no father wants to see their child like that. no father wants to see their kid have a difficult childhood.
 

fletcher

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It would have taken zero effort to do it properly, and you'd think a bunch of people who teach young kids for a living would be more sensitive to something like that. I don't like kids and even I would have felt weird taking a picture like that. Just use your goddamn brain once in a while.
I doubt it was even the teachers fault, the photographer is the one who places the children in a symmetrical fashion and they probably didnt know what to do with rollerboy so they did nothing and snapped the pic. Hindsight is 20/20 and all but that photographer was probably just looking to get in as many pictures in one school day as possible.
 

ironman25dc

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#12
I think it was a dick move by the teacher and the photog; the teacher for being ignorant and not making sure the kid was included and the photog for having zero photography or staging skills. I think the kid's parents are also wrong because there is no reason we should be seeing this photo, it should have been dealt with directly with the school and the photog; now this kid who already has challenges and likely feels different has to feel even more different/insecure with all the publicity.
 

Neon

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I doubt it was even the teachers fault, the photographer is the one who places the children in a symmetrical fashion and they probably didnt know what to do with rollerboy so they did nothing and snapped the pic. Hindsight is 20/20 and all but that photographer was probably just looking to get in as many pictures in one school day as possible.

Come on, fletcher. The teacher can't say "hey, we are not putting my student who is in a wheelchair off to the side, photographer. Figure it out"? Stop it. I've taken plenty of class pictures in my life. They could have absolutely be done, and it's no hindsight is 20/20. That's just excusing something that was blatantly obvious at the time.
 

Hog's Big Ben

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as a father to a 1 year old. If I was in this mans situation, seeing your childs class photo where your child who you love with all your heart is just set off to the side I would cry too. I too like how he admitted that it wasn't intentional. If you fucking animals could put your assholery aside for just a moment, no father wants to see their child like that. no father wants to see their kid have a difficult childhood.
Does the kid look the slightest bit unhappy? He's grinning like a...well, you know.

Who even looks at that picture and thinks that the kid is being isolated somehow? That wheelchair couldn't be any closer to the bench. Would one more kid on the bottom row make Daddy Dewy Eyes happy so there's not 12 inches of empty bench next to Ol ' Stale Celery Spine? I don't see what they could've done differently.

"He’s leaning in, he wants to be included," Ambridge said.

No, he's leaning in because he has spinal muscular atrophy. They don't call it "floppy baby syndrome" because those afflicted exhibit stellar posture. Stop looking for shit to be pissy about.
 

fletcher

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Come on, fletcher. The teacher can't say "hey, we are not putting my student who is in a wheelchair off to the side, photographer. Figure it out"? Stop it. I've taken plenty of class pictures in my life. They could have absolutely be done, and it's no hindsight is 20/20. That's just excusing something that was blatantly obvious at the time.
Im giving the teacher the benefit of the doubt and assuming she was oblivious of what was going on. The photographer probably didnt even think twice about the kid being a foot to the left of the furthermost student and snapped the picture. Class goes out, new class comes in, life goes on.

As far as the kid goes, I doubt he gives a single fuck about the shit storm that this picture is causing. The kid I knew had pictures like this for his entire grade school and high school life, he never had any problems because of being excluded or shunned either because of his handicap or the resulting class photos. This is a simple act of overreaction and there is no fucking way the media should be involved in this if the kids father wanted to have the picture reshot.
 

Neon

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Im giving the teacher the benefit of the doubt and assuming she was oblivious of what was going on.
No. If you teach kids that age for a living, you do not get the benefit of the doubt for being oblivious about something like this. You? Maybe. But not a teacher.

The photographer probably didnt even think twice about the kid being a foot to the left of the furthermost student and snapped the picture. Class goes out, new class comes in, life goes on.
Exactly. That's why I blame the teacher.

As far as the kid goes, I doubt he gives a single fuck about the shit storm that this picture is causing. The kid I knew had pictures like this for his entire grade school and high school life, he never had any problems because of being excluded or shunned either because of his handicap or the resulting class photos. This is a simple act of overreaction and there is no fucking way the media should be involved in this if the kids father wanted to have the picture reshot.

When I was in grade school, my parents had screaming matches with my teachers and principle on more than one occasion over stuff that not only didn't bother me, but I couldn't even comprehend at the time. But you know what? Looking back, they were 10000000% in the right.
 

Lord Zero

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#18
It's better than the picture they wanted to take of Professor Ex-Person rolling into a pool.
 

fletcher

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No. If you teach kids that age for a living, you do not get the benefit of the doubt for being oblivious about something like this. You? Maybe. But not a teacher.
He was there and next to the bleachers, not rolling into traffic. She didnt know the kids father was going to be on his period when he saw the end result. She aint to blame.
Exactly. That's why I blame the teacher.
Agree to disagree I guess.
When I was in grade school, my parents had screaming matches with my teachers and principle on more than one occasion over stuff that not only didn't bother me, but I couldn't even comprehend at the time. But you know what? Looking back, they were 10000000% in the right.
And then didnt take their arguments with the faculty to the 6 o'clock news. Right or wrong the dad is a pulling a douche chilling publicity stunt over what should have been a phone call to the school and a second photo being taken.
 

Neon

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He was there and next to the bleachers, not rolling into traffic. She didnt know the kids father was going to be on his period when he saw the end result. She aint to blame.
You don't do that to head off possible parent anger at the pass. You do it because you are attuned to children, and being put off to the side because you are in a wheelchair is a textbook bad thing to do as an educator. Not noticing something like that is equally bad because teachers need to pay attention to such things.

And then didnt take their arguments with the faculty to the 6 o'clock news. Right or wrong the dad is a pulling a douche chilling publicity stunt over what should have been a phone call to the school and a second photo being taken.

This we have no argument over. I'm not saying he's right to pull some media scandal over it, but I definitely wouldn't blame him for feeling upset over it.
 

ironman25dc

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#23
The photog should have put two more kids in the front row, have two of the taller kids stand next to the kid in the blue shirt in the second row, have the tallest kid stand in front of the teacher. So by eliminating the third row, filling out the first row, creating a wider second row on the wheelchair side; the kid is naturally included in the picture with his classmates.

You're welcome; that's what gays are for.
 

Hog's Big Ben

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#24
So for everyone that thinks this is so horrible, what would you have them do differently? It's impossible to rearrange the kids or compose that shot any differently without The Kid in the Wheelchair being the first thing you notice.

The father eventually had the picture retaken with his son out of the wheelchair and propped up on the bench with the other kids, so apparently that's his "acceptable" solution, at the expense of pretending is child isn't disabled. Now all of a sudden the shoot is all about the kid. He has to be lifted out of his wheelchair and placed on the bench. Someone has to get the wheelchair out of the way of the new picture. All the while, the kid is being constantly reminded that he's different. When he's older and other people look back at this class picture, they will say, "Oh, you could walk back then?" "No. My dad just didn't want me to look crippled even though I have to deal with it every motherfucking day of my motherfucking life."

I'm sure in the original picture, the kid was able to maneuver himself into position without help. The entire photo shoot didn't revolve around him. But no, daddy has to make a spectacle of everything.

In the end, which scenario is worse? Your picture is taken with your classmates while you're in the wheelchair that has become a part of you over the course of your short life, or you disrupt your entire class for a reshoot without the wheelchair while the original picture is plastered all over every news channel and blog in the country because daddy cries a lot?
 

Ego

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#25
The photog should have put two more kids in the front row, have two of the taller kids stand next to the kid in the blue shirt in the second row, have the tallest kid stand in front of the teacher. So by eliminating the third row, filling out the first row, creating a wider second row on the wheelchair side; the kid is naturally included in the picture with his classmates.

You're welcome; that's what gays are for.
But that teacher kind of looks attractive, so it's a good thing no child is in her way.

That's a nice big wall behind them. Maybe he could have been taped to it.
 
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