I just wrote a blog about this exact same situation, and now, within a week, there are at least two more heavily reported incidents. Keep in mind that those are “heavily reported” incidents. There is no way of knowing how many incidents never made national news, how many were never discovered, and how many were brushed under the carpet.
Now, I began outlining this blog before I read about the second incident, but much of what I want to say applies to both situations.
In the first situation, a teacher’s aide broke a student’s arm.
In the second situation, a teacher shoved a student. (The teacher denies it, saying that she might have accidentally brushed the student with her elbow, but the video apparently shows her shoving him, and she also then fought with another teacher about the phone she had confiscated from the student.)
That said –
Reasonable people know not to break someone’s arm. It isn’t something that we do that surprising. It takes force. It takes effort.
To work in a special education setting, you must go through training and certification. Yes, the teacher receives far more training, but the aides must also get a certificate.
If someone “accidentally” broke a student’s arm in a general education class, it would be considered unbelievable. Because it doesn’t seem to happen. If a teacher can avoid breaking a student’s arm in a general education classroom, why can’t a teacher’s aide avoid breaking a student’s arm in a self-contained special education classroom?
Many student in self-contained classrooms are there because of behavior issues and other problems that would make it difficult for them to learn in another setting. But the people working with them in the classroom know who their students will be. They know that the students will need extra help and redirection. The people who work in those classrooms choose to work in those classrooms. And, again, they are certified to do so.
Also, keep in mind that it’s not like only special education students refuse to listen or cause trouble in their classrooms. I think anyone who has been in any middle school, junior high, or high school can attest to the idea that there is never a class that is perfect. In these classroom settings, would you still find a way to excuse it? Would you say, “well, it was obviously an accident” or “this is a good chance to provide more education [for the person who committed the crime]?”
While I can provide many reasons why the students may have failed to comply with what their teachers and teacher’s aides may have requested, I have no included them in this blog because *none* of those reasons are an excuse that can make their actions acceptable.
It is a crime, and it needs to be treated as one.
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 had a bad morning. Which seems fair because I had a bad morning, too. I seem to have picked up the stomach flu that’s going around, and I woke up with a serious headache, severe nausea, a stuffed-up nose, and a sore throat. Fun!
But still more fun than Simon had.
Apparently, starting at about 8 a.m., he began throwing a fit at school, demanding that his teacher call us because we would “take him to the zoo.” He told her to “call mom and dad” and that “mom will take you to zoo” and “dad will take you to the zoo.”
Uh. No. Nope. There had been no zoo discussions. No mentions of the zoo. No idea where the zoo concept came from.
But the argument about the zoo lasted.
I was still asleep and trying to feel better when the teacher tried to call me, so I didn’t hear my phone, but she called Patrick next, and he answered. Then he had to get on the phone and explain to Simon that no, no, we were not going to pick him up from school, and he was not going to the zoo.
That phone call happened at 9:30.
An hour and a half after Simon started wanting to go to the zoo.
At 10:15, he finally calmed down.
Let that sink in. It was over two hours of Simon freaking out because he got it into his head that we were going to take him to the zoo.
His teacher sent home an ABC page. (For those not in the know, ABC = Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence. In other words, what happened to cause the behavior, what behavior was it, and then what happened because of his behavior.) The page goes into great detail about everything she tried to calm him down. It includes instructions, prompts, redirection, social stories, counting, alternative behavior techniques, squeezing a ball, and breathing. That’s a lot to do, especially when you consider that he was screaming at her and then getting physically aggressive with her, including scratching and pinching her.
It spanned going from the cafeteria to the classroom to his independent work time to group work time to quiet time to independent computer work.
And this is why we all need to be appreciative to special education teachers. Because this is what they deal with. This is what their days are like. This is what they are trying to help with.
At the same time, I also wanted to point out that while the teacher wasn’t enjoying herself, neither was Simon. That had to be a truly stressful time for him. He spent over two hours completely wound up. He couldn’t calm himself down, and he couldn’t get anyone else to do it, either.
Imagine, if you can, what it would be like to spend two hours completely freaking out. You are trying to get a message to someone, but you can’t. You are trying to get something you need, but you can’t. You are stuck, unable to communicate, unable to calm down.
He was better after that. He found a way to calm down, he had a good afternoon, and then he fell asleep on the school bus coming home. He got to go horseback riding at SIRE, and then, when he got home, he went to sleep.
But not before mentioning that he was going to “have fun” tomorrow “at the zoo.”
I told him that there would be no zoo tomorrow – he could go to the library, though, which he agreed would be a good replacement. I am thinking, though, that Sunday might be a day at the zoo now…