In January of 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law, in an effort to reform education with a standards-based approach. Since then, both positive and negative effects of NCLB have been noted in our schools. On the other hand, little has been done apparently to prevent schools nationwide from abusing and mistreating our children, especially children with special needs. From Stockton, CA, where five-year-old Michael Davis has been deprived of his legal right to educational assistance programs, to Missouri where Aleczander Fujimoto, a 14-year-old with Down’s Syndrome was suspended under questionable circumstances, now to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and the story of Christopher Baker.
This past Wednesday, nine-year-old Christopher Baker, a student at Mercer County Intermediate School in Harrodsburg, Kentucky was placed inside a duffel bag with the drawstrings pulled closed as a form of restraint and punishment, resulting from an outburst in class. Christopher Baker suffers from Autism, and is enrolled in a 504 program. Christopher’s mother was called to the school to pick him up, and upon her arrival, found Christopher inside of the closed duffel bag, with a teacher’s aide standing close by. Ms. Baker demanded that her son be removed from the bag, and according to news reports on the matter, the aide was not able to capitulate to this demand without some difficulty in opening the bag. Upon being released from his bonds, Christopher was wide-eyed and sweating, according to his mother.
When asked for comment on the issue, Mercer County Schools Interim Superintendent Dennis Davis stated that confidentiality laws would not allow him to comment, but did have this to say in defense of his teachers;
“The employees of the Mercer County Public Schools are qualified professionals who treat students with respect and dignity while providing a safe and nurturing learning environment.”
Response to this instance of abuse has been widespread, with most condemning the school’s actions. San Jose, CA resident Landon Bryce, himself a former teacher and currently an internet blogger on Autism-related issues, stated that Christopher’s treatment at the hands of his teachers was indeed, contrary to Mr. Davis’s statements, “careless and disrespectful.” Bryce also stated that, “A lot of the damage that we do to students with all kinds of disabilities is by treating them as though they deserve to be treated in a way that’s different from other people.”(1) (2) (3)
(SOAPBOX=ON) First of all, I think it’s ridiculous and borderline criminal that Kentucky has no laws on the books that preclude this kind of abuse. What kind of a school district official says that his teachers “treat students with respect and dignity,” after people in the teaching staff abuse a special needs child like this? If I were a parent in the Mercer County Schools system, I’d be thanking my lucky stars right about now that this man is an interim superintendent, meaning that hopefully his arse gets replaced, and soon!
This brings us to my next important point, my fine young readers, which is that if you have school-aged children with special needs, please be as engaged in their education and classroom environment as you possibly can. Get to know the teachers and other staff that your children are around every weekday. If something doesn’t seem quite right, don’t be afraid to question it, no matter how high on the chain that you have to go to get a satisfactory answer. No one knows your child and their reactions to situations better than you, the parent. The schools can’t tell you any different, and if they try doing so then they’re not worth their bricks or mortar, or the money they’re paying their staff. If the school is worth anything, the staff will make every honest effort to work with you, for the mutual benefit of your child’s success.
In my honest and not-so-humble opinion, the teacher and aide that placed young Christopher in that bag need to be fired and have their credentials revoked, never to teach in any school or have the chance to abuse any student…ever again.