Our schools are suffering. Because our schools are suffering, our children are suffering as well. While there are some that stand out and truly make a difference, there are also schools that fail on such a monumental level that one can’t help but be justifiably enraged. Such is the case of Rio Calaveras Elementary School and Stockton Unified School District in Stockton, California.
Now, I ran across this story just today on Cafe Moms of all places. I was in the process of datamining on a story about a second-grade teacher in Rockland County, New York that told her students that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.(1) Well, one link led to another, and I ended up reading an article in “The Stir” on Cafe Moms about young Michael Davis, a five-year-old in Stockton, California.(2) It seems that Michael suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and has been difficult for teachers to manage in a mainstream classroom. These reported difficulties include fighting with other students and throwing classroom chairs.
In a (rather misguided) “behavior modification” attempt by the school, LT Frank Gordo, a resource officer with the Stockton Unified School District was called in to speak with young Mr. Davis. According to the boy’s mother, Thelma Gray, this was an effort to “scare him straight.”
At some point during this tete a tete, LT Gordo put his hand on Michael’s. According to reports, the boy reacted to this by batting the officer’s hand away, shoving some papers off of a desk and kicking the officer in the knee. As a result of this outburst, ziptie cuffs were placed on Michael Davis’s wrists and ankles, and he was subsequently taken into custody by the officer. LT Gordo then took the boy to Stockton Kaiser Psychiatric Hospital for evaluation. (Basically, LT Gordo “5150’d” the young man.) Charges were filed against Davis for battery on a police officer, however they were subsequently dismissed by a juvenile court judge.(3)
The story however, does not end there. It seems that as a result of these latest difficulties, some new evidence has come to light. The school district, the elementary school and Stockton Unified School District Police are now being investigated by the San Joaquin County Grand Jury, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. In amongst the contributing factors cited is information which indicates that the school district delayed evaluating Michael Davis and enrolling him in resource programs to which he is lawfully entitled, simply because it would cost the school district money. (Resource programs such as “504” are mandated under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.(4))
(SOAPBOX=ON) Now, the author of the Cafe Moms article seems to have taken the side of the school, without exercising due diligence in researching all of the facts. She jumps to the support of the school and police with no consideration for the fact that, had young Michael Davis been enrolled in a resource program and had a “504” plan or IEP in place, none of this might have occurred or even been necessary, let alone that he suffers from ADHD in the first place. Regrettably, the author does not seem to be aware of the unique challenges of managing children with special needs. (If she is, she did not allude to this within her article.) Other parents meanwhile, are looking at this and crying “police brutality” without digging deeper into the reasons why Michael Davis had to be restrained.
If we are to be justifiably disgusted about this situation, by all means let’s be disgusted for the right reasons. We should be angry with the school and school district, for failing this young man miserably, right from the git-go. They violated his rights under federal laws, deprived him of federally mandated services and programs, and dragged law enforcement into the quagmire. We should be angry with the Stockton Unified School District Police for being complicit in this kind of misguided, improper and unprofessional “behavior modification.” I highly doubt that any of the officers assigned to the SUSDP have extensive training in Special Education, or in the needs of the “learning challenged.”
I hope the Stockton Unified School District gets its proverbial “ducks in a row.” I hope the SUSDP does a top-down reassessment of its procedures and policies where addressing children with learning disabilities is concerned. In short, I hope this becomes a “teachable moment” for all concerned.
“…because evils being once recognised, are half way on towards their remedy.” (Elizabeth Gaskell, 1810 – 1865)