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A Florida kindergarten teacher prompted her students to vote out a fellow student who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome. Alex Barton, as all rational human beings would expect of a 5-year old, particularly one coping with an autism-spectrum disorder, is traumatized:

Alex hasn't been back to school since then, and Barton said he won't be returning. He starts screaming when she brings him with her to drop off his sibling at school.

Thursday night, his mother heard him saying "I'm not special" over and over.

Barton said Alex is reliving the incident.

The other students said he was "disgusting" and "annoying," Barton said.

"He was incredibly upset," Barton said. "The only friend he has ever made in his life was forced to do this."

Of course, there is always another side of the story. The horrors for which the teacher though it licit to traumatize a sensitive boy? Fighting? Stabbing with scissors? Bullying? No:

“I asked (Alex) what the students said, and he said the students said he eats paper, picks boogers and eats them on top of the table and bites his shoelaces,” the report said. “He told me Mrs. Portillo said, ‘I hate you right now. I don’t like you today.’”

Alex was made to endure a scarring humiliation for being goofy and a little gross. Talk about disproportionality.

I couldn't care less for the teacher's rationalizations - that Alex had to be made to understand "how his behaviour made the other children feel" (the treacly language of therapeutics, as is often the case, here invoked to justify cruelty), and that the vote was only intended to keep him out of class for one day. While a child with an autism-spectrum disorder may not be suited to the routines of a standard kindergarten classroom, this form of discipline - hazing, really - is utterly inappropriate; I can attest from personal experience that the callousnesses of teachers inflicted at that age leave enduring marks on the psyche. Somehow, moreover, given a legal system in which, rightly or wrongly, education is posited as a right, I don't believe the democratization of this decision would fly. In a just world, ie., one in which teachers' unions were somewhat less powerful than they are in this one, the teacher would lose her job. Were I Alex's father, I'd have to settle for slapping her with a civil suit and hoping that it proved financially and socially ruinous.

Comments (10)

Y'know, I don't even think the autism thing should be decisive. I mean, even if he were just a naughty little boy who was disruptive because he felt like it, this would be out of court. In all honesty, for the principal to be allowed occasionally to paddle children (as he was, by parental permission, at the Christian school I went to as a child) would be more appropriate than for a teacher deprived of more normal and straightforward means of male-backed-up discipline to use this sort of psychological manipulation and nastiness. I can see the teacher's speaking privately with the principal and saying, "This isn't working out. He's too disruptive. He's constantly distracting them by moving the table and so forth. He's persistently disobedient. I'm not able to teach the other kids," and proposing that he be taught outside the classroom. That's only fair to everyone involved. In fact, I'm a big advocate of teachers' not being forced to keep all kids in their classrooms even if it prevents others from learning. Well and good. But what she actually did is outrageous. In fact, it's perhaps unfortunate that the "disorder" angle should have to be brought in to demonstrate this. The teacher behaved unprofessionally and cruelly regardless of whether the child can be formally classified as having a disability.

I couldn't care less for the teacher's rationalizations

You and me both!

The facts of the matter are simple enough, and a decade into adulthood (knowing enough education majors) I am only confirmed in how very unimpressed I was with the "teaching class" and more confirmed still in homeschooling which puts the care of our children in the hand of families... not functionaries of the state who are as often as not childless and motivated by lifestyle and income choices.

Before anyone says a damn thing about the magnanimous self-giving service of the "teaching class" and how "underpaid" they are, I will assert right here and right now that this 30something who has run his own business and paid his own employees regrets that I didn't opt for a career option that would have started me out at $32K a year, with GREAT benifits and 3 months a year off, at the age of 22. I know already that 90% of the folks coming out of teaching colleges believe themselves worthy of $50K+ for a 9-month work year - spare me the nonsense about summers being reserved for academics, I have drank myself silly during the summer with enough of them to know better.

So I am sorry, my personal experience as a student and later as an adult with the "teaching class" precludes my sympathy for so many of these self-annointed martyrs that seem to think that having a masters in education entitles them (and damn the culture that disagrees!) with a more lavish lifestyle. If you have the means - no matter the sacrifice - pull your kids out of public school and teach them yourself. Chances are you can teach them far better and sheild them from the traumas of crap like this.

Were I Alex's father, I would probably just plain slap her. Good thing I am not.

Speaking as a member of the "teaching class", I found the teacher's behavior bizarre - more than a little frightening, assuming the veracity of the reports.
Disciplinary action would be more appropriate than a law suit. That seems to be a very American solution.

Graham Veale

Disciplinary action would be more condign, although the school district and local authorities have apparently concluded that no abuse was actually committed. Hence, she has been subject to nothing more onerous than a transfer. Again, confronted by the inadequate response of the authorities to the abuse of a child, I'd have to hope, were I the father, that a civil suit could send her to bed in the backseat of her car in a parking lot somewhere.

I must say that I think the involvement of the police was over-the-top and was a reflection of the fact that schools seem to have lost all ability to police themselves. I can't really imagine being a police officer and having to investigate *as a crime* a child's being voted out of his class. There is enough plain old crime in Florida to keep all the cops busy chasing down the bad guys. What the teacher did was bizarre and cruel, and to my mind it was a manifestation of that "bad juju" that one often gets between a teacher and a particular student and that is yet another reason for home schooling. In the frustrated, hot-house atmosphere of a classroom, even when we aren't talking about gang violence, sex, or anything like that, teachers get crazy working with particular students they can't stand and do things of which, one hopes, they are later ashamed. It's entirely unprofessional and wrong, and it certainly deserves disciplinary action, but it is hardly a police matter.

It isn't really a legitimate police matter at all. Unfortunately, when confronted by the intransigence and hindquarters-protecting mentality of school districts and teacher's unions, taking the matter to the courts is often the only means of obtaining satisfaction. I was a victim of a lot of bad juju as a child, and to this day, my parents and I wish that we had played hardball with the schools and teachers; not only should teachers be disciplined for such conduct, but when they are not, they repeat the behaviour: teachers who tormented me went on to torment my brother and other students.

But no, it isn't a police matter. Sometimes, though, one has no choice but to take it to the courts.

On the surface it looks like 2007->Ch0827->Section%2003#0827.03">felonious behavior to me.

FDOC will leave the light on for her.

I hope I'm not the only one observing political correctness imploding in on itself (and being disgustingly amused by it). The parents of this poor child may have a chance to sue on grounds of discrimination and insensitivity against a person with a disibility. Then, teacher and school have a chance to defend their postmodern power play to determine what is unacceptable behavior in an obviously values-clarified environment. Excellent.

"(1) "Child abuse" means:

(a) Intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child;

(b) An intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child;"

Dan makes a good point; as with spousal abuse and drunk driving, a societal attitude adjustment may be in order.

Child Abuse seems to be pushing things a little too far.If one the children of the class had thrown an eraser at the teacher, would this have counted as an assault?

Graham Veale

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