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DENVER & ATLANTA (August 22, 2014) – The Global Down Syndrome Foundation and the National Down Syndrome Congress are outraged and saddened by recent public comments by the British author Richard Dawkins.

In response to a question from a concerned woman about the possibility of having a child with Down syndrome, Dawkins strongly argued for the elimination of people with the condition.

“…The decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare,” Dawkins wrote on his blog.

Global Down Syndrome Foundation executive director Michelle Sie Whitten responded: “It is amazing to me in the 21st century that there is so much misinformation and discrimination against people with Down syndrome. I would hope the world is as appalled by Richard Dawkins’ statements as it was by the recent case of twin baby Gammy, where his Australian biological parents abandoned him to his surrogate in Thailand. The fact is people with Down syndrome can and do live long, happy and productive lives.”

“We firmly believe and advocate that ‘We’re More Alike Than Different,’ and statements like Richard Dawkins’ promote division instead of unity,” said David Tolleson, executive director of the National Down Syndrome Congress. “People with Down syndrome should not be treated like second-class citizens, and anyone making that argument sets back the great progress that has been made in terms of equality for all people.”

The Global Down Syndrome Foundation and the National Down Syndrome Congress strongly advocate for the availability of current and accurate information about Down syndrome. Below are specific facts about the condition in the United States:

Lifespan – Today, the average lifespan of a person with Down syndrome is nearly 60 years.

Termination rates – The best available statistics in the U.S. are that an estimated 67 percent of women who receive an amniocentesis resulting in a positive test result for Down syndrome choose to terminate their pregnancies. But over 95 percent of pregnant women don’t even elect to receive an amniocentesis.

Medical care & research – There have been great strides in medical care and research that have doubled the lifespan of people with Down syndrome over the last 30 years.

Educational opportunities – People with Down syndrome are included in public schools. Many complete high school, and increasing numbers are going to college or get vocational training.

Voting & Employment – Many people with Down syndrome work, volunteer and vote.

Marriage, Siblings & Self-advocates– Despite potential challenges, personal accounts and studies show most families that have a child with Down syndrome are stable, successful and happy, and that siblings often report having increased levels of compassion and empathy. One major study on marriages and Down syndrome shows that the divorce rate among parents of children with Down syndrome is lower than the national average.

For the most current, accurate information and resources associated with people with Down syndrome visit www.globaldownsyndrome.org/facts or www.ndsccenter.org.

About the Global Down Syndrome Foundation
The Global Down Syndrome Foundation is a public nonprofit 501(c)(3) dedicated to significantly improving the lives of people with Down syndrome through research, medical care, education and advocacy. Formally established in 2009, Global has the primary focus of supporting the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, the first academic home in the U.S. committed to research and medical care for people with the condition. Fundraising and government advocacy that corrects the alarming disparity of national funding for people with Down syndrome is a major short-term goal. Global organizes the Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show — the single-largest annual fundraiser benefiting people with Down syndrome. Programmatically, Global organizes and funds many programs and conferences, including the Dare to Play Football Camp with Ed McCaffrey, the Dare to Cheer Camp with the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders, and the Global Down Syndrome Educational Series. Global is an inclusive organization without political or religious affiliation or intention.

About the National Down Syndrome Congress
Founded in 1973, the National Down Syndrome Congress is the oldest national organization for people with Down syndrome, their families, and the professionals who work with them. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit advocacy organization, the NDSC provides free technical support and information about issues related to Down syndrome throughout the lifespan, as well as on matters of public policy relating to disability rights.  Best known for its annual convention – the largest of its type in the world – the National Down Syndrome Congress is a grassroots organization recognized for its “family” feel, its “We’re More Alike than Different” public awareness campaign, and its outreach to individuals from diverse backgrounds.

 

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Chess Capt American EditedT. Chess Mitchell: Staff member at NDSC and Expert on Movies

Chess has recently reviewed Amazing Spiderman 2 for our friends at NDSC. These are his findings:

NDSC: How many stars would give Amazing Spiderman 2 out of 5 stars for excellence?

Chess’s answer: 5 stars = Action Packed!

NDSC: Why did you want to see Amazing Spiderman 2?

Chess’s answer: I love action movies and seeing action movies with my girlfriend. Spiderman is awesome.amazing-spider-man-2-reviews-more-focused-on-franchise-building-than-storytelling

NDSC: Which part of the movie did you think was the most interesting?

Chess’s answer: Don’t want to give it away but there was a cool part with a Rhino.

NDSC: Did you like Emma Stone’s character in this movie?

Chess’s answer: Yes, she’s cute. ;)

NDSC: Final thoughts from Chess on Amazing Spiderman 2 . . .

Chess’s answer: “Like Father, Like Daughter”

Chess PhotoT. Chess Mitchell: Staff member at NDSC and Expert on Movies

Chess has recently reviewed Rio 2 for our friends at NDSC. These are his findings:

NDSC: How many stars would give Rio 2 out of 5 stars for excellence?

Chess’s answer: 5 stars = Funny, Funny, Funny!Rio 2

NDSC: Is Rio 2 a movie option to watch for a Family Night?

Chess’s answer: It’s for kids and a family movie so it’s a good choice for Family Night.

NDSC: Did you like the singing in the movie?

Chess’s answer: Yes, but I like the funny parts best.

NDSC: What kind of food do you recommend when watching the movie?

Chess’s answer: Popcorn and Candy, no Chicken or bird food.

NDSC: Final thoughts from Chess on Rio 2 . . .

Chess’s answer: “I love it.”

Chess Capt American EditedT. Chess Mitchell: Staff member at NDSC and Expert on Movies

Chess has recently reviewed Captain America for our friends at NDSC.
These are his findings:

NDSC: How many stars would you give Captain America out of 5 stars for excellence?

Chess’s answer: 5 stars = Action Packed!!

NDSC: Why did you want to see Captain America?

Chess’s answer: USA – RED, WHITE & BLUE baby! Proud to be an American and wanted to see the movie about Captain America.CaptainAmerica

NDSC: Which part of the movie did you enjoy the most?

Chess’s answer: Return of Captain America’s old friend.

NDSC: Is Captain America a good movie to watch for a Family Night?

Chess’s answer: Good for grown ups and teens but not for little kids. Action packed violence might be hard for little kids.

NDSC: Final thoughts from Chess on Captain America . . .

Chess’s answer: True friendship can survive anything!

The-LEGO-Movie-WallpaperT. Chess Mitchell: Staff member at NDSC and Expert on Movies

Chess has recently reviewed The Lego Movie for our friends at NDSC. His findings are a bit surprising! Read to find out why.

NDSC: How many stars would give The Lego Movie out of 5 stars for excellence?

Chess’s answer: 1 star = not so good

 

NDSC: The Lego Movie has been pretty popular. What made you give it only 1 star?

Chess’s answer: I was not impressed with the main character Emmett. Also was not a fan of “Bad Cop” character.

 

NDSC: Was there a part of the movie you did like?

Chess’s answer: When the master builders and superheroes showed up in the movie.lego-movie-1

 

NDSC: Would you recommend The Lego Movie for younger children?

Chess’s answer: Yes, better for kids rather than grown-ups.

 

Final thoughts from Chess?

Chess’s answer: Believe in your heart is something good from the movie.

 

Chess Photo

T. Chess Mitchell: Staff member at NDSC and Expert on Movies

Chess has recently reviewed RIDE ALONG for our friends at NDSC. These are his findings:

 

NDSC: How many stars would you give RIDE ALONG out of 5 stars for excellence?

Chess’s answer: 5 stars = It was so Funny!

NDSC: Who was your favorite in the movie?

Chess’s answer: Kevin Hart, for sure the best one. Ride Along

NDSC: You saw this movie with your friends as a group. Did they like the movie too?

Chess’s answer: Both guys and girls liked the movie.

NDSC: What about you? Would pay money to see the movie again?

Chess’s answer: Well, yeah! :)

NDSC: Final thoughts from Chess on RIDE ALONG

Chess’s answer: Great action film, great for those who like police movies and cool car chasing.

Chess PhotoT. Chess Mitchell: Staff member at NDSC and Expert on Movies

 

Chess has recently reviewed Muppets Most Wanted for our friends at NDSC. These are his findings:

NDSC: How many stars would give Muppets Most Wanted out of 5 stars for excellence?

Chess’s answer: 5 stars = Excellent & FUNNY!

NDSC: Who did you go see the movie with?

Chess’s answer: My mom and my dad when I was in Florida. Muppets-Most-Wanted-wallpapers-3

NDSC: Which part of the movie did you like the best?

Chess’s answer: Seeing some of the famous actors and singers that show up in Muppets Most Wanted. 

NDSC: Would you recommend seeing Muppets Most Wanted in the theater or renting it on DVD later?

Chess’s answer: It’s a great movie to see either way. Some enjoy seeing in the theater, others prefer home. 

NDSC: Final thoughts from Chess?

Chess’s answer: Muppets Most Wanted had two Kermits—“One good, one evil” says Chess. Fun to watch both of them.

 

T. Chess Mitchell: Staff member at NDSC and Expert on Movies

Chess has recently reviewed Robocop for our friends at NDSC. These are his findings:

 

NDSC: How many stars would give Robocop out of 5 stars for excellence?

Chess’s answer: 5 stars = Very Excellent! So Awesome!

 

NDSC: Which part of Robocop was especially cool?

Chess’s answer: The Motorcycle & Robocop is a cool actor too.

 

NDSC: Which part of the movie did you like the best?

Chess’s answer: Lots of Action and shooting of the bad guys. Rated PG 13 so not too scary but best for older kids, 13 and up.

 

NDSC: Would you recommend seeing Robocop as a date night or as family night?

Chess’s answer: Totally a Date Night movie! I took my girlfriend.

 

NDSC: Final thoughts from Chess:

Chess’s answer: Family is Important! Watch to see what Robocop does for his wife and son.

 

In December 2012, a Fulton County Grand Jury returned an eleven count indictment against former special education teacher, Melanie Pickens, for allegedly abusing children in her care. She was charged with Cruelty to Children and False Imprisonment in connection with the physical abuse of five Hopewell Middle School students.

The alleged abuse occurred between 2004 and 2007. According to the investigation, the victims, most of whom were non-verbal, were either pushed, shoved into lockers and/or left in isolation for hours on end. The alleged abuse of one student was discovered in 2007 by school officials and then reported to the Department of Family and Children Services. The case was initially handled as a human resource matter, centering on the abuse of that child.  A civil suit involving that single victim led to the discovery of four other potential victims. The case was eventually brought to the attention of law enforcement and a criminal investigation was launched. The case was forwarded to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in May 2012.

According to the indictment, Pickens restrained and isolated students in a dark room, slammed students face-first into lockers and walls, and screamed into their ears. Pickens allegedly loudly played back a recording of one child’s cries directly into his ear. The Professional Standards Commission revoked Pickens’ teaching certification and Pickens resigned in 2007.

On February 4th, 2014, Judge Henry Newkirk granted immunity to Pickens, after hearing three days of testimony from people who witnessed her actions at the school. Judge Newkirk acknowledged the allegations, but said Georgia law protected teachers who were disciplining students.

At the National Down Syndrome Congress, we are stunned by this week’s ruling. Both the leadership and membership of our organization are outraged by Judge Newkirk’s decision.

As we followed news reports of Melanie Pickens alleged abuse of students in her care dating back to 2004, we applauded the Fulton County School System in investigating and removing her from Hopewell Middle School, and believed the revocation of her teaching certification was appropriate.

Then, following a criminal investigation and indictment, we looked forward to justice being served in a criminal court. We are truly shocked at the decision to dismiss by Judge Newkirk, and find it hard to fathom the decision he made.

As the oldest national organization advocating for people with Down syndrome, the National Down Syndrome Congress is deeply disturbed by this decision, and the ramifications it can have for all students with disabilities.

Clearly, the abuse inflicted upon these students would not be considered as appropriate disciplinary techniques by any reputable behavior expert. As the school system’s physical therapist who worked with the victims noted, the abuse of the children was not protocol for disciplining students with disabilities.

Just as blood-letting is no longer an accepted medical practice, it is beyond our imagination that these acts could be considered “carrying out her teaching duties” in good faith. For Judge Newkirk to rule in this manner, despite expert testimony, gives the impression that he considers individuals with intellectual disabilities to be less than human and not deserving the same protections afforded others.  All students have the right to be safe in their school environment. We believe this despicable conduct must be addressed criminally. We hope and trust that a higher court will overrule Newkirk’s outrageous decision.

Chess recently reviewed “The Grudge Match” for our friends at NDSC.  He is  excited about this movie. Check out his findings:

NDSC: How many stars would you give “The Grudge Match” out of 5 stars for excellence?
Chess’s answer: 5 stars = so funny!

NDSC: What was special about this movie that you enjoyed so much?
Chess’s answer: The tie in to the ROCKY movies was cool.

NDSC: Which part of “The Grudge Match” did you think was the best?
Chess’s answer: Kevin Hart wrote the movie and I liked that a lot.

NDSC: Would this be a good movie to see over the long holiday weekend?
Chess’s answer: Yes, it’s a good movie so it should still be at the movie theaters.

NDSC: Final thoughts from Chess on “The Grudge Match”. . .
Chess’s answer: Old guys got it done right! ?