Imagine, if you will, a kindergarten teacher and your five-year-old son in a classroom.
Imagine, if you will, your five-year-old son is doing what five-year-old boys do and is touching himself through his clothes.
Imagine, if you will, that his teacher “thumped” him on his head, hard enough for him to cry, hard enough for a teacher’s assistant in the room to report the “thump,” and hard enough for the police to issue a citation, charging the teacher with assault by offensive contact.
Now, being charged with the crime does not make her guilty of the crime, but witness testimony is pretty strong, and according to the witness, the teacher thumped the student “because she didn’t like what he was doing.”
If the teacher had paid her fine, it would be admitting guilt, and she’d lose her teaching license, so she went to court over it.
And the jury decided it was cool. The jury’s job was to decide whether the physical contact was justified under Texas law, which lets teachers basically do whatever they need to in order to maintain discipline.
This teacher can now continue teaching, can continue “thumping” students, and can continue to mete out justice against her students however she thinks she needs to (or apparently wants to).
Now here’s the thing: the five-year-old child had a disability.
Do you think that played at all into the jury’s decision? Because I sure as hell do.
We know from government data that suspension and expulsion rates for students with disabilities are about two times higher than their non-disabled peers.
Our kids needs to be in school. They shouldn’t be forced out through “discipline” that is not appropriate and that would not be used on their non-disabled peers. They should not be hit by teachers. They should not be punished at different rates.
This is only one instance at one school, but I doubt it’s an isolated incident. It’s just one of the few that is reported.
How many times did a teacher’s assistant keep quiet? How many times did another teacher “thump” a student? How many times did the issue not get pressed or get dismissed within the school system?
The jury sent a clear message – kids with disabilities can be hit by their teachers, and it’s okay. If a child without a disability had done that in class, and if he had been hit by a teacher, you can be pretty sure that the teacher would have been found guilty.
Because there is no consequence for the teacher’s action, these issues will continue to be underreported and continue to happen.
Because there is no consequence for the teacher’s actions, other teachers may do the same.
Because there is no consequence for the teacher’s action, parents will be scared to send their children to schools.
Because there is no consequence for the teacher’s action, we need to make it known that this happened. That this isn’t acceptable. That there *should* be a consequence.
We need to make this news that is shared, news that is known by parents, news that causes outrage among not just parents, but educators and administrators at schools.
We can’t go back and change what happened, but we can work to make sure that the next jury that gets a case like this understands that these are not acceptable actions against any student and that just because a student has a disability doesn’t make them fair game for abuse.
Hitting a five-year-old student is wrong. Why do we even need to say this?
Simon came home from school happy about school, which is his normal status about school.
School is an amazing place, or at least he thinks that while he’s at home. (While he’s at school, it’s often a different matter and he can get mad at things not happening on schedule or teachers not being there.)
But today, it was happiness.
From the moment he got off the bus, he said school was fun.
I asked what he did at school. “Fun,” he said.
I asked again, emphasis on “what” he did…
“What did you learn about?”
Okay, maybe that’s actually a “where” response, but close enough that I’ll take it.
These feelings about school didn’t fade away. He ran through his usual “script” about going to school and when he goes back to school (tomorrow morning).
But that wasn’t enough today. He kept repeating himself and wanting me to repeat it back to him.
So I came up with a social story on the fly and told it to him.
“In the morning, you wake up, then you get dressed, then you eat breakfast, then you get on the bus, and then you get to school.” I held up a finger for each step, numbering them one through five.
He nodded along, so I went for the repetition.
“What do you do first?” [One finger held up]
“Then what?” [Two fingers held up]
“And then?” [Three fingers held up]
“And next?” [Four fingers held up]
“Take the bus.”
“And what’s the last step?” [All five fingers held up]
“Get to school.”
“Do you feel better now?”
“Great, so can you please get out of the bathroom? Because I kind of need some privacy now.”
(This blog got caught up in the massive storm that was too many things scheduled, so I wanted to finally get it up. Because it does matter.)
Before each class, I told them that they were my captive audience, and that they had to listen to me get up on my soapbox.
I went into my spiel about spreading the word, tell them about the term ID, and asking them to check out the website and take the pledge.
In my second class of the night, I had a 14 year old student. When I told delivered my speech to him, he said. “Wow. Uh. I’ve said retarded like a dozen times so far today.”
Did I do that, too, when I was 14?
I don’t remember doing it, but, then again, I also don’t remember the time that I answered every test question with the word “frog.” (I apparently did that. One of my friends reminded me about it. I still don’t remember doing it, but it definitely sounds like something I would have done in high school)
I asked my student to think about it and check out the website. Maybe even share it around.
And I thought – what if this website, and this idea of respect for those with disabilities, had existed 30 years ago?
What if it’d seen something like it?
Would it have affected my word use?
My friends and their word use?
Will it affect him?
When I hear it in movies, I cringe every time. Doesn’t matter if it’s an old movie or a new movie. Doesn’t matter if it’s appropriate to the character’s personality.
I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to get rid of the stigma and the insult based on intellectual disabilities, but we can spread the word to end the word.
And maybe that will reduce the number of times I cringe when I read Facebook posts, watch movies, read books, or talk to strangers and acquaintances.
One of the first things the pediatrician pointed to was Simon’s lack of speech. He was a year old, and while he’d babble, for the most part he just pointed at things he wanted. He didn’t say Mama or Papa. She asked if we would mind if he got examined by Early Childhood Intervention when he was 15 months old if things hadn’t changed. We agreed.
He didn’t talk by the time he was 15 months old.
He also didn’t talk by the time he was two years old.
Eventually, through the use of videos, he learned American Sign Language (ASL).
Then he began speaking, also through the use of videos. His first word, which he said when he was almost three years old, was “bear,” and he said it after watching a Baby Bumblebee video.
For a long time, we worked with sign language and English. He slowly picked it up and began expanding what he said.
He taught himself to read.
He learned how to write.
Then, earlier this month, not long after he turned 13, he discovered the language options on those old Baby Bumblebee DVDs. He’d never stopped watching the videos. I guess he still liked the word repetition they feature.
We realized that he was watching the Spanish option, repeating all the words. We asked him to tell us things in Spanish, and he did. He knew dog was perro and cat was gato.
Next up was French. I guess he thought that he’d already mastered the Spanish parts of the DVD.
Of course, when we went out to lunch with a friend, I tried to get him to show off. I asked him how to say dog in French. He looked at me like I was an idiot and said, “poodle.”
After a lot of laughing, I asked him for it again and he said, “chien.” I asked him for it in Spanish, and he said, “perro.”
So, yeah, he took to those languages.
Then, not even a week ago, he began learning German. His favorite word was “augen” (eyes).
A few days ago, he swapped to the final language option: Japanese. (Dog is inu, by the way.)
If you’d asked me ten years ago what I thought Simon’s “special skill” would have been, I might have guessed his art work. He’s awesome when he draws. I never would have guessed that he’d be into languages. I’m not sure that he’ll stick with them, but he obviously has quite a talent there, and maybe this will be where he goes in life. It goes to show you that ten years can be quite a long time and quite a lot can change.