By Mike Hyland, Venture CEO
It has taken far too long but we finally see a sustainable movement in this country to call out and overcome the biases and outright hatred that have harmed generations of people, people who have been intentionally marginalized and left out of so many opportunities. All around us in workplaces and society, initiatives are underway to systemically embrace and promote the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is fair to ask, “What took so long?” It is also worth noting that Venture and organizations like it exist because people with disabilities have always been among the people who have been marginalized and dismissed. And even now, it still happens with too little uproar.
People should pay attention to Morgyn Arnold because her story, while interesting, is not especially unique. What a shame that is. Morgyn is a 14-year old girl in Utah with a developmental disability who has a love of cheerleading. As such, she naturally became the manager of her school’s cheerleading team and learned all the cheers so she could support her teammates and school at every event. Rather than do likewise for Morgyn, her school made the conscious decision to exclude her from a typical school tradition. In fact, the people in charge of the school went out of their way to exclude Morgyn. After taking the yearbook picture of the full cheerleading team, the school inexplicably took a second picture of the team but did so without Morgyn in it. The school then chose to publish only the second picture in the yearbook and on the school’s social media platforms. Morgyn found out she had been excluded when she picked up her yearbook. Take a moment and try to imagine how she felt when she realized she wasn’t in the yearbook with her friends.
The school has apologized and the reaction to the story has been largely one of outrage but this type of exclusion is nothing new. In fact, something similar happened previously to Morgyn at the same school! The reality is that people with disabilities have always been marginalized and left behind. If this country is to evolve and become truly inclusive, we all have to remember what happened to Morgyn Arnold and be appalled by it. And we have to remember how common her story is. The Disability Law Center of Utah receives over 4,000 complaints each year of a similar nature to Morgyn’s story. That is 4,000 in a single state and only the incidents that are actually reported. Multiply that number across 50 states and you will see we still have a very, very long way to go when it comes to accepting and including people with disabilities.
Morgyn’s very gracious family has said that rather than focusing on condemning the school and its decision, people should use the event as a rallying cry to ensure that people with disabilities are remembered in all D.E.I. initiatives. Morgyn’s teammates are victims of this bias as well since it wasn’t their decision to exclude Morgyn from the yearbook picture. Hopefully, something good can come out of a terrible thing done to a teenager with a disability. In order for that to happen, everyone should make it a point to remember Morgyn Arnold.