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Quickie: More abuse in schools

December 21, 2011

I can’t help but include this one again. For a bit of sorely-needed cathartic comic relief.

Warning: Abuse of an autistic child in an educational setting

Fuckery of the Day:

Petition to Board of Education of Mercer County, Kentucky

In Mercer County, Kentucky, nine year old Chris Baker, an Autistic student, was told by his special education aide to climb inside a gym ball bag for punishment to “control his autistic behavior” in mid-December 2011. He was placed in the bag with the drawstring tightened and left in the hallway in the school. When his mother, Sandra Baker, was called to the school to get her son, she demanded that he be removed from the bag right away. The teacher struggled to undo the drawstring, and Chris emerged sweaty and non-communicative. According to the teacher, this had been done several times over the last year, but Sandra didn’t know until this latest incident. While she met with state officials on Monday 19 December 2011 before a possible meeting with school officials, there is no guarantee that those meetings will prevent this kind of abuse from happening again — either to Chris or to other students.

If you think it’s wrong to tell an Autistic child to climb inside a bag intended for gym balls and tighten it with a drawstring, which could potentially have led to serious injury or death, as punishment, then please sign this petition. This is wrong. This is abuse. It needs to stop.

Yes it is, and yes it does. (And every single fucking day, something like this shows up. And these are only the incidents where someone is able/willing to effectively raise a stink.)

However, I cannot agree with the first demand for action–and wonder about the effectiveness of many of the rest, by extension:

1.) That the teacher(s) responsible for placing Christopher Baker in a gym ball bag be dismissed from position for abusing a vulnerable person (a person with a disability) OR be required to successfully complete extensive continuing education professional training in interacting with and educating Autistic students and students with other disabilities, not to be fewer than at least the equivalent of a semester-long graduate level course developed using existing standards and best practices in model state systems, and which shall specifically include techniques for appropriate de-escalation and crisis intervention;

It does not take specialized training to know that closing a child up in a drawstring bag is WRONG. Any child, under any conceivable educational circumstance. All the training in the world is not going to help the kind of abusive jerk who wants to treat other people this way. The adults involved should not be spending any time around–much less working with–any children, disabled people, elderly people, animals, and no doubt other categories of people they might abuse and unfortunately have a reasonable expectation of getting away with abusing. Period.

ETA: I forgot to mention the strong possibility of at least an attempt at child abuse by proxy here, too, besides the humiliation value. Leave a kid out on display in a school hallway closed up in a sack, and everyone passing by is going to resist putting the boot in? *scratches head* /ETA

Goodness knows that de-escalation* and crisis intervention are useful skills if you plan to deal with other human beings–in a professional capacity or no–but in this context? Christ on toast.

Honestly, I’m not sure that the kinds of training special ed teachers might get is going to help for prevention of this kind of shit. Training in acting like a decent human being who shows respect to those around you? Sure. Not the same thing at all.

4.) That use of any type of restraint or seclusion on any student be explicitly prohibited except in brief, temporary, and emergency interventions when there is imminent and immediate threat of harm to self or others, that are carefully and completely documented and reviewed with a full debriefing including the student and parent(s) or guardian(s) afterward.

Better than what is already happening, to be sure. But, things have still broken down to the FUBAR point if this even becomes relevant at all. (And, no, do not pull out the NLMC shit. “Your” child also deserves respect.)

_____________

* I want to get back to that post and its followup, at some point.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2011 9:12 pm

    I’ll forward this to Lydia, she has been very involved in this.

    • urocyon permalink*
      December 24, 2011 3:05 pm

      Thanks, I see you have.

  2. December 22, 2011 1:40 am

    (Here, directed from Savannah.)

    Speaking as an Autistic person, I ask that this type of training be mandated for teachers — both special education and non-special education — because a shocking number of teachers, including special education teachers, know very little about appropriate ways to interact with Autistic people. Even the most well meaning teachers (which the teacher in this incident was NOT by any stretch of the imagination) may not have received accurate information prior to assuming their jobs or after having assumed their positions.

    I spoke just two months ago with a special education teacher in Maryland who didn’t realize that making unexpected physical contact with one of her Autistic students (patting on arm, shoulder, and the like) was exacerbating this particular student’s extreme tactile defensiveness. She was confused about why the student seemed to express feelings of physical pain whenever she did that, and insisted that she wasn’t hurting him (because of the normality of that type of physical contact among many non-Autistics) until I explained. This is a teacher who is working in a classroom with several Autistic children, expressed a genuine desire to be a good teacher, and who did not know something basic about appropriate interactions that most of us do.

    In regards to this particular incident and in others where there is clear evidence of abuse, I do not harbor any illusions that the mandate of such specialized training and awareness for teachers (which ought to include Autistic adults and material from Autistic adults) will prevent people who are naturally inclined to abuse others from doing that. If the system were perfect, no such people would ever be placed in positions of authority where they could abuse people in their charge.

    What it will do is provide a better foundation for the (majority of) teachers (who are not the type of people naturally inclined to abuse other people) so that a.) if another teacher (in ignorance, not malice) suggested doing something to or for an Autistic student or a student with another disability that could exacerbate overload, anxiety, or sensory defensiveness, an educated teacher would know to stop it; and b.) they would know from the start not merely how to treat Autistic people and people with other disabilities as human beings like anyone else, but also how to effectively teach and interact with them in their capacity as teachers. That’s what I hope to see accomplished — to see how much good can be gained out of a horrific situation, rather than to spend my time thinking about how much good can’t be gained.

    • urocyon permalink*
      December 24, 2011 3:13 pm

      Good points. This post was more an immediate ranty reaction than anything else. Training of the types you mention would, indeed, help a lot in cases where people are doing unhelpful things out of honestly not knowing better. And I am all for educators–not just in special ed–learning more useful ways of dealing with a variety of disabled students (along with cultural competence).

      That’s what I hope to see accomplished — to see how much good can be gained out of a horrific situation, rather than to spend my time thinking about how much good can’t be gained.

      Indeed. That is also what I want, when anger is not temporarily getting the better of me. ;) Education in working with people with various disabilities would do a lot to improve the situation.

      • December 26, 2011 5:45 am

        “And I am all for educators–not just in special ed–learning more useful ways of dealing with a variety of disabled students (along with cultural competence).”

        I agree completely. The petition demands that there be extensive education for special education teachers, and at least basic education (not to be less than eight hours of their time) for non-special education teachers.

  3. December 23, 2011 8:48 am

    If this was my child, I would simply walk up to the person who did this from behind, grab his/her chin and pull it back and then slice their throat enough to enable me to crack the neck and take their head off.
    This would ensure the person would never repeat this again.
    And yes I know 2 wrongs don’t make a right, yes I know my child would have one less parent who’d be in jail. But I also know there would be one less child terrorist using my oxygen and a lesson to others.

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