Author Archives: Taylor

April Is Autism Acceptance Month

This year the Autism Society of America, along with leading disability organizations across the country, announced that it is formally shifting references of “Autism Awareness Month” to “Autism Acceptance Month” because “inclusion begins with acceptance.”

According to the CDC, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less…ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, but is about 4 times more common among boys than among girls.” (How ironic, then, that two of the most famous individuals with ASD are Temple Grandin and Daryl Hannah.)

Though there is no curative treatment for ASD, and no solid explanation for its cause, the internet can be a treasure trove of information and opportunity for anyone whose life has been affected by ASD.

Pathfinders for Autism works to support and improve the lives of individuals affected by autism through expansive, customized programming, and by providing resources, training, information and activities free of charge. They provide Maryland families with everything from help understanding health insurance to how to interact with police

The Autism Society of Baltimore-Chesapeake recorded its discussion with Behavior Specialist Joy F. Johnson, Black & Autistic: A Focused Discussion on Being Prepared and Allyship, held June 19, 2020, to explore the unique needs of the Black autistic community. 

Autism Speaks identifies resources by state and life stage.

Closer to home, Baltimore County has a Special Education Resource Center, and this website even highlights a handful of resources.

Plus, the Hillcrest PTA’s Special Education Liaison Rachel Didovicher ( is an invaluable resource. Anyone looking for help translating the alphabet soup of ASD, ADHD, IEP, or any of the acronyms that can make navigating through the school a challenge should email her. If she doesn’t have an answer already, she’ll help you find one.

Celebrating Laylat al Bara’at

Laylat al Bara’at is a Muslim holiday celebrated at night, which is associated with the descent of God from heaven and the generous forgiveness of sins. It is regarded as a night when the fortunes of individuals for the coming year are decided and when Allah may forgive sinners. Therefore, on this night every year many Muslims pray and fast the next day. This year, the celebration begins at sundown on March 28.

Also called Mid-Sha’ban, Laylat al Bara’at falls in the middle of the month Sha’ban, a month before Ramadan.

Laylat al Bara’at is important to many Muslims, but not for all the same reasons:

  • In the Shia view, it is the date when Imam al-Mahdi was born. Shias believe him to be the twelfth, final and current Shia Imam and also the Mahdi, a very important Islamic figure who is believed by all Muslims to bring absolute justice to the world by establishing Islam as the global religion.
  • In the Sunni, view Mid-Sha’ban is a night of worship and salvation, commemorating when Allah saved Noah’s followers from the deluge. It is also when Allah prepares the destiny for all people on Earth for the coming year. For this reason it is sometimes called the “Night of Emancipation” (Laylat al Bara’at).

What Is Holi?

Holi is a Hindu festival that celebrates spring, love, and new life. It also celebrate the Hindu god Krishna. This year, Holi begins March 29, but celebrations begin the night before.

After sundown, at the Holika Dahan, people gather to perform religious rituals in front of a bonfire, and to pray that their internal evil be destroyed the way Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, was destroyed by fire. The next morning is celebrated as Rangwali Holi, a free-for-all festival of colors.

For more on this festival of colors, check out BBC Bitesize.

Equity Discussion Groups Are Coming!

The Equity Committee has officially revamped the format of its Book Club: it is now the Equity Discussion Group! Our hope is that this new format will be more accessible to members of the community who haven’t attended in the past because they weren’t able or didn’t want to read the books. There is “suggested prep work” listed for many of the groups below, but it is just that: suggested. You can review the resources ahead of the discussion or following it, or never. Each discussion is intended be valuable on its own.

April 7 @ 7:30 pm – Critical  Race Theory and Interest Convergence. Mark Williams will lead this meeting. His presentation will discuss Interest Convergence in a historical context of American Society. Critical Race Theory is a body of scholarship steeped in radical activism that seeks to explore and challenge the prevalence of racial inequality in society (Rollick and Gillborn, 2011). Interest Convergence – Bell (1980) contends that “the interest of blacks in achieving racial equality will be accommodated only when it converges with the interests of whites”

Suggested Prep Work:
Faces at the Bottom of the well: The permanence of racism. Bell, D. 1992
Critical Race Theory: An Introduction  Delgado, R. & Stefancic, J. 2001
Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement
Critical Race Theory: An Introduction
Just What Is Critical Race Theory and What’s It Doing in a Nice Field Like Edication?
Critical Race Theory: An Annotated Bibliography Essay

April 28 @ 7:30 pm – Affinity Groups. An affinity group is a group formed around a shared interest or common goal, to which individuals formally or informally belong. On this night, the Hillcrest PTA will host a racial affinity group. Check our facebook event in mid-April for more details and some questions to get you thinking ahead of the conversation.

May 26 @ 7:30 pm – Appropriation or Appreciation? Cultural appropriation is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from minority cultures.

Suggested Prep Work:
SNL skit: Wakanda Forever
How Braids Tell America’s Black Hair History
Cornrows Don’t Belong to Bo
Dig into the Jeremy Lin / Kenyon Martin controversy from 2017
Question: My white son loves rap and wants to wear a do-rag to school. Is this ok?

June 30 @ 7:30 pm – LGBTQIA+ at Hillcrest. Hillcrest Elementary served as ground zero not just for students’ BLM activism in the spring of 2020, but also for a Love Is Love counter-protest held in response to hateful anti-gay messages being shared in front of the school. The discriminatory group was not affiliated with or endorsed by Hillcrest in any way. In fact, many members of the Hillcrest staff were part of the counter-protest. But what is life at Hillcrest like for the children of gay or lesbian parents? What about for the very youngest children in our schools already struggling with identity? What do we, or should we, expect from our administration and educators? 

Suggested Prep Work:
Being Jazz
Raising My Rainbow
I’m Just Me
Red: A Crayon’s Story
Heather Has Two Mommies
Watch Both My Moms’ Names Are Judy

It’s Time to Hunt!

By now, we hope you know very well that we have a website designed to inform and support the Hillcrest community. We post fairly regularly, with an emphasis on bringing attention to ways we can call out inequity in our school and community, as well as how we can try to support vulnerable members of our community. In March, we asked you to become more acquainted with our site by participating in a virtual scavenger hunt to complete four tasks:

  • Task 1: March is Women’s History Month! Did you know that there are all kinds of ways to learn about amazing women, both contemporary and in history? Explore our site and pick one. Then send us a a sentence or two summarizing what you learned.
  • Task 2: Sometimes, we all need a little help. Whether it’s for yourself or for a friend, you can check our website for some great resources about dealing with many of the issues and obstacles young people struggle with. Explore our site to discover one resource that interests you. Investigate that resource, then write down a sentence or two summarizing what you learned.
  • Task 3: When people talk about activism, the word “intersectionality” sometimes gets used. Basically, “intersectionality” is a big word that means “something that falls into more than one category.” So, Mae Jemison is an important figure just because she’s a Black astronaut, and just because she’s a female engineer, but because she’s all those things we can understand her contributions through many different lenses. Click around our site and find three more examples of people’s whose experiences and contributions are important to multiple communities or identities. Then, write a sentence or three summarizing what you learned about intersectionality.
  • Task 4: We’re always looking to do more, and be better. Now that you’ve had some time to familiarize yourself with our site, what else would you like to see? How else can we be helping our school and community? Share a thought or two, and let us know if it’s OK to get in touch with you if we’d like to hear more.

Once you have answers for all four challenges, send us an email with everything you learned from, and thought about, our site. We can’t wait to hear from you!

And hurry! Everyone who successfully complete all four tasks by the end of March will be entered to win a gift certificate to Catonsville’s own Better World Imaginarium.

Celebrating Deaf History

Today, March 13, is the beginning of Deaf History Month, commemorating the achievements of people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Running through April 15, the dates were chosen to commemorate three important moments in deaf education history spanning a century and a half:

  • March 13, 1988 – Deaf President Now! protest (above) at Gallaudet University, a college for the deaf and hard of hearing, which culminated in the naming of the institution’s first deaf president.
  • April 8, 1864 – President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of Gallaudet’s charter.
  • April 15, 1817 – Opening of the American School for the Deaf, the first permanent public school for the deaf, in Hartford, Connecticut.

First introduced in 1997 by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), no aspect of National Deaf History Month has yet been federally recognized, despite advocacy efforts.

To dive deeper into deaf history and culture, check out The Fascinating Origins of Deaf History Month; Los Angeles Public Library’s Celebrating an American Community; five role models whose stories illustrate the power of activism, education, and perseverance; or deaf culture with Library of Congress primary sources.

UPDATE The 2021 “I (heart) Hillcrest” Hedgie Gear Contest

New date! We’ve extended the deadline for Hedgie Gear design submissions to April 23! All entries must be emailed or postmarked by April 23 to be considered.

This past year has been a rollercoaster ride. Through it all, our school has been there to support us and to help us feel like things are as close to normal as possible. We want to see what that kind of special attention looks like to you.

Grab your pencils, markers, online illustrators or whatever you use to create, and show us your Hedgie pride! One entry from each grade (K-5) will be selected by a panel of judges, and those designs will be available for sale on our Hedgie Gear shop. The artist behind each selected design will receive a t-shirt with their design on it, to wear proudly and to spread the Hillcrest love!


  • The Hedgie Gear contest runs March 26-April 23, 2021.
  • The contest is open to all Hedgies in grades Kindergarten through Fifth.
  • One entry per student. In the event multiple entries are received from one student, the panel will review the last design submitted.
  • Entries must include the student’s name, grade, and homeroom teacher.
  • Entries can be emailed to or mailed to 108 Wyndcrest Ave. Catonsville, MD 21228. Emailed entries must be received by 11:59pm on April 23; mailed entries must be postmarked by April 23 and received by April 30.
  • You MUST be the creator of the work you submit. Please don’t use anything “borrowed” from online or any other source. We want YOUR art.
  • Don’t sign your work! The judging panel will review each entry “blind.”

Winners will be notified by May 7; the winning designs will be available on the Hedgie Gear shop on May 14.

In the meantime, you can shop our existing Hedgie Gear online. Remember, every purchase helps support the work the PTA does to support our school.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. Celebrated for over a century in one way or another, International Women’s Day is now a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and also serves as a call to action for accelerating gender parity. 

With roots in the Socialist Party, the first Women’s Day in New York City was February 28, 1909. Inspired by that, German delegates and others at the 1910 International Socialist Woman’s Conference proposed that “a special Women’s Day” be organized annually. After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia (1917), March 8 became a national holiday there.

The day was predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted by the feminist movement in about 1967, and the United Nations in 1977.

Borrowing the colors of the 1908 Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the UK, purple, green and white are the colors of International Women’s Day. Purple signifies justice and dignity; green symbolizes hope; and white represents purity (admittedly a controversial concept).

The theme for 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. To show solidarity, strike the Choose To Challenge pose (see below) and share on social media using #ChooseToChallenge #IWD2021 to encourage others to commit to helping forge an inclusive world.

Want more ways to celebrate?