Letter suggests grieving mother using son's death to fuel FCAT exemption



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - As an Orange County woman's 11-year-old son was dying, she had to prove he was too sick to take the FCAT.

Now, Ethan Rediske's mother is fighting to keep the same problem from happening to other severely disabled children.

Andrea Rediske is defending herself against accusations she's trying to use her grief to push a political agenda. 

Ethan died last month from cerebral palsy and brain damage, but his young life could now help others, Channel 9's Kenneth Craig has learned.

Local lawmaker filed a bill that would make severely disabled students like Ethan exempt from taking the FCAT, but Florida's commissioner of education sent a letter Monday that said all students should be tested.

A strongly worded two-page letter from Pam Stewart, Florida commissioner of education, went out to all teachers on the matter.

Rediske said it turned her day upside down.

"I just can't believe it," said Rediske. "I'm hurt, I'm shocked, I'm dismayed."

As Ethan was dying, Rediske was forced to prove it to continue getting a medical waiver for the FCAT test.

In response, last month, a Maitland lawmaker filed the Ethan Rediske Act, which in part would allow severely disabled students a complete exemption from the test.

In an apparent response, Stewart sent her letter out to all teachers on Monday suggesting the grieving mother's quest was political and that "she was using her tragedy to fuel that," Craig said.

The commissioner didn't name Ethan but defended the state's alternative assessment.

Rediske told Channel 9 the commissioner's letter couldn't be further from the truth.