Sunday, June 1, 2008

First Adam, Now Alex

First Adam Race is told he can't participate in Mass and now Alex Barton is voted out of Kindergarten! What does this say about inclusion in our culture?

Alex Barton, a 5 year old who had been attending Kindergarten at Morningside Elementary School in Port St. Lucie Florida, was voted out of his class in an overwhelming 14-2 election, this past week. It would've been 12-4, but the teacher bullied two of his friends into voting against him.

Apparently, Alex, who is in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (basically a high functioning form of Autism), has been a bit of a behavior problem in class. So, in an unprecedented act of classroom management, his teacher, Wendy Portillo, brought Alex up to the front of the classroom and proceeded to have each of the students tell him what they didn't like about him. Then she had them vote to determine if Alex could stay in the class.

Alex lost.

In my opinion, they all lost because no matter how difficult a child is, your child has to learn how to deal with him if you want your child to grow up into an adult that can handle the realities of living in a diverse culture. Apparently, Ms. Portillo never learned that lesson. I sure don't want my kids to grow up to be like her!

So, now Alex, who was so shaken up by the incident he was sent to the nurses office where his mother retrieved him, has been sitting around his house saying, "I'm not special". Apparently he was told he was "annoying" and "disgusting." I don't think the educational experts of Florida, really understand just how cruel and injurious being humiliated in front of your peers actually is.

When I was in 7th grade, my lovely school, Howland Junior High School (North Eastern Ohio), held a pep rally. The day before we were instructed to to wear orange and black, the school colors, or we would not be admitted to the rally. That night I laid out my clothes. I didn't own any orange clothes, so I laid out some that were blue and black. Blue and black were not good enough for our spirit-filled school. So, instead of denying me entrance to the rally, they had me and a handful of other kids walk in front of the entire junior high class body-- while the other 200-plus kids booed us. It was incredibly humiliating, and I have an inkling of understanding for what Alex is probably feeling.

Another incident it brought to mind was when I was doing my student teaching, many years ago, at Roberts Paideia Academy (a gem in the Cincinnati Public Schools). During recess one afternoon, I stood by and watched as the special education teachers laughed at a developmentally handicapped boy who was trying to figure out how to jump rope. His big brown eyes were just sparkling with excitement as he tried to figure out which way to move his arms over his head to move the rope. He looked at his teacher for encouragement.

"Come on, idiot" she said, "Just put your hands up and flip the rope over!"

Then she and the other teacher stood there and laughed at the "idiot" who was too much of a "dumb***" to figure out how to jump rope.

Yes, the very people who were supposed to be advocating him, encouraging him to try new things, and celebrating his successes were instead calling him names and making fun of him.

And, yet, people wonder why I won't send my kids to public school!

The school system should be all over this, but, of course, they won't be. In addition to the fact that if she's a NEA member, she's nearly impossible to fire (remember: there are no bad teachers -- not even one's that vote kids out of the class!), they won't be because the fact of the matter is that this teacher crossed this line because she hasn't had the training or support necessary to understand how to work with a student who has behavioral problems -- be it from a disability or for any other reason -- and they know it. It's the same thing as Adam Race's priest. Those working with these kids aren't equipped and no one in charge cares enough to equip them.

In the meantime, it would be beneficial for the Morningside School District to understand that some day cute little Alex will be a 13 year old boy who, hopefully, will have had the appropriate interventions necessary to have a healthy happy life. The current road they've sent him down is sure to produce the opposite, and somebody will be dealing with that.

1 comment:

Mrs. C said...

Oh! I just gasped and my heart hit the floor on your description of the jump rope incident! That poor child - how old would he be now?

BTW for what it's worth Ms. Portillo is black and probably has experienced some sort of racism in her life, don'tcha think?? How mean to do the same sort of thing to another person ESPECIALLY when you know how it feels? I'm still affected by that story you wrote about your sweet chubby-cheeked daughter and *her* having to deal with racial stupidity and ignorance. Bleh. I can tell by your blog you're teaching her MUCH BETTER.

I think there are many, many more stories like this out there. In fact, we did start homeschooling after Elf was locked in a closet many times. It's awful to know that the school district has ALL THE POWER and they can hire lawyer$$$ at taxpayer expense and good luck getting justice.