Will they come for you, too?

I’ve been gone for the holiday and apparently missed the hubbub about Alex Barton.

For anyone who’s not in the loop on this, here you go: Alex Barton’s story. Basically, a kindergarten teacher played Jeff Probst and let her 16 students vote one of their classmates out of their class–after they each got a chance to openly level ‘charges’ at him, stating to this five-year-old still in diagnostic process for ASD all the things they didn’t like about him.

This is all after he was sent to the principal’s office for appropriate discipline. The teacher, Wendy Portillo, took it on herself to humiliate the child further when he returned, and forced the children to denigrate their fellow student. She admits this happened.

Alex apparently screams now when he thinks he has to go back to school, and he hasn’t returned. Who could blame him?

His mother attempted to file police charges for emotional child abuse, but they were rejected by the state attorney’s office because they didn’t meet the criteria.

All of us with diagnosed children have days when we worry about how our child’s behavior will be viewed by whatever educational institution he or she is assigned to. Granted, we know they don’t always act like everyone else. That’s why we have IEPs and other documents that force the schools to treat our children fairly, taking into account whatever issues they might have.

But the rest of you shouldn’t sit back, complacent, thinking this can’t happen to you. Anyone have a seven-year-old boy? Think about those wild and wacky behaviors and the antics boys en masse can get up to on the playground. Think about the way girls are dressing “sexy” even younger and younger, and how even kindergarteners now have their own “Mean Girls.” Think about children in wheelchairs. Children of Latino heritage. Black children. White children. Children. Children in school to be educated about everything, including the differences among us.

It would be well to remember the words of Pastor Martin Niemoeller, very apropos, here modified by me to provide a jumping off point for discussion:

In our school they first came for the AIDS students,
and I didn’t speak up because I didn’t have AIDS.

Then they came for those on the ASD spectrum,
and I didn’t speak up because I didn’t have autism.

Then they came for the hyperactives and those with bipolar,
and I didn’t speak up because I didn’t need medication to participate.

Then they came for those of different skin color and heritage,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a white student in the majority.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.


Interview with Alex’s mother

For more support for Alex and his mother, see this. For thoughtful reflection on avoiding this situation with your own child, be reminded here.

And yet another good take here, on tolerance for teachers who cope with an awful lot on a daily basis.

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9 thoughts on “Will they come for you, too?

  1. I was wondering where you were on this. Once more, this is proof that the “possibly related posts” don’t work. Check out my post on this – http://lastcrazyhorn.wordpress.com/2008/05/25/the-golden-rule/ to see who is participating in this so far (all I can find anyways).

    I just got wind of an email from Melissa Barton, Alex’s mother. She said that the thing to do here is to contact:

    Office of Governor Charlie Crist
    State of Florida
    The Capitol
    400 S. Monroe St.
    Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

    Citizen Services Hotline: (850) 488-4441
    Executive Office of the Governor Switchboard: (850) 488-7146
    [Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time]

    Fax: (850) 487-0801

    For individuals with hearing loss or speech disability:
    1-850-922-7795 (TTY)
    OR
    711 (Florida Telecommunication Relay)

    ASAN – Autistic Self Advocacy Network has also issued a statement on this. In particular, I highlight this section:

    Please be polite yet firm in your comments, pointing out the unacceptability of such actions when aimed at any student, as well as the need for this school to adopt policies to prevent this from happening in the future. This is an opportunity to drive home the message that we will not stand by while one of our own is abused. We ask that you please cc: info@autisticadvocacy.org in your e-mails to the school district so we can keep track of the strength and sources of this response. Remember: abusive messages hurt our cause – please be respectful in your comments.

  2. Pingback: The Golden Rule « Odd One Out

  3. With a most level head you approach this. It’s horrible, but it’s true. It could be anyone.

  4. You can also file a complaint at the Office of Civil Rights website- it’s at ed.gov (can’t remember the full link). This teacher makes me so upset, it makes me sick to my stomach. This happened to me when I was in kindergarten. UGH.

  5. I really liked your offshoot of the famous quote…”first they came for the Jews…” Well done.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I am not sure if I will stay on WordPress, but I am on Blogger, have been for a long while, and like it.

    If you get a chance, visit my main blog, I talk about autism in a few different posts….you might like this one:

    http://casadecruz.blogspot.com/2006/04/if-it-looks-like-duck-and-sounds-like.html

    and related to it:

    http://casadecruz.blogspot.com/2006/04/why-i-am-only-mostly-sane.html

    Thanks for reading, I have you RSS’d and I will be back.

    TLC

  6. And this reminds me, too, of the banning from church of Adam Race in Bertha, Minnesotta. My heart bleeds when things like this happen to children. In a country that strongly defines itself by the twin virtues of liberty and equality, these things should not be allowed to happen. Where does this end?

  7. Pingback: Whitterer on Autism » Blog Archive » Alex Barton

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