Voted out of kindergarten

Five-year-old Alex Barton was voted out of kindergarten class by his fellow students in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Before the vote, his teacher told classmates to say what they didn’t like about Alex: He was labeled “disgusting” and “annoying.” They voted 14 to 2 to kick him out of class.

The boy apparently has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism that’s linked to poor social skills. Children can learn how to function in a group but they need to be taught explicitly and they may always be awkward, withdrawn or odd.

Alex has had disciplinary issues because of his disabilities, Barton said. The school and district has met with Barton and her son to create an individual education plan, she said. His teacher, Wendy Portillo, has attended these meetings, she said.

I’ll bet the plan doesn’t call for public humiliation and isolation.

Barton said after the vote, Alex’s teacher asked him how he felt.

“He said, ‘I feel sad,'” she said.

He hasn’t been back to class since the vote. When his mother takes him to school to drop off his sibling, he starts screaming.

Barton filed a complaint. The teacher “confirmed the incident did occur,” says a police spokeswoman. The state attorney’s office decided not to file charges for emotional child abuse. Apparently, the school district has taken no action. The mother is considering filing a lawsuit.

This is the equivalent of putting a slow child at the front of the class and asking students to vote on whether he’s too stupid to be in the class. It doesn’t have to be a criminal case of emotional abuse for it to be cause to remove the teacher from contact with children.

Thanks to Cardinal Fang and Daily Kos diarist MaccaJ.

Update: The district has reassigned the teacher to a desk job while the incident is being investigated.

Update II: Melissa Clouthier, mother of an Asperger’s child, links to a CBS interview in which the mother says Alex’s best friend — the only friend he’s ever made — didn’t want him kicked out of class but when the teacher asked him a second time he changed his vote to side with the majority.

Update III: The teacher says she only meant to kick Alex out of class for the rest of the day, not permanently. He’d been removed by the school resource officer for lying under a table and kicking it with his feet; she thought he should stay out longer.

Update IV: Slate has the police report.

About Joanne


  1. I salute the two kindergarteners who voted to keep him in class. They had more kindness and compassion that the “adult” in the room.

  2. superdestroyer says:

    But how many times will the students in Alex’s class be asked to pay the “IEP” tax while they are in school. Do the children of Senator Obama have any students in their class who have Asperger’s Syndrome? Why should the rich and elite get to send their children to schools where no one have an IEP, yet the children of the middle class have their education’s negatively impacted by children such as Alex?

  3. ucladavid says:

    I sort of wish the kids could do that with some of my 7th graders. I have classes where some of the kids just cause problems for the rest of the students in that class. In a class of 30-35, you have 4-5 of kids who “infect” the other students with their talking and the “I’m too cool to learn attitude.” Classes would be great until these knuckleheads came into the room and there is no place you can put them because the classroom is full already. I have students in those classes who are happy when they are not in the room because they can concentrate and actually learn.

  4. While I think there should be a way to remove disruptive students from a class, this is not it. Perhaps there should be a meeting, which she would be required to attend, at which the parents are allowed to vote, with time for them to express their opinion of her, on whether she gets to keep her job or not.

  5. Let’s see: one count of child abuse without great harm, 14 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A maximum sentence (though not a realistic possibility) of 15 years in the St. Lucie County Jail. The State may have declined to prosecute (for now), but how I would LOVE to put that teacher up for the vote of a jury.

  6. This was a deliberate attempt to humiliate a child into obedience. One does not get obedience from humiliation or manipulating 5 year-olds to give the result the teacher wanted (which is probably what happened given that most 5 year-olds are just learning what proper behavior is themselves no less how to judge others).

    That the child was a discipline issue should have been dealt with earlier and, if required, he should have been removed from the class quietly.

    This is typical of the group humiliation and punishment often used in elementary class-rooms. Other examples include the white-yellow-red pass that is posted on the board, and the ‘everybody put their head on the desk’ group punishment.

  7. Andromeda says:

    Superdestroyer: I teach in a prep school and, while we certainly have more leeway to remove kids than the public schools do (and to decline to admit them in the first place), there certainly are kids with behavioral problems and learning disabilities, including Asperger’s, in the private schools, some of whom do make it quite difficult to maintain a positive classroom climate and teach other students (and some of whom are perfectly delightful people, and some of whom count for both).

    Obama’s kids have likely encountered fewer such kids than they might have in the public schools, but not none. Then again, if they were in honors classes in the public schools in a strong district (or, eg, a Chicago magnet), maybe not.

  8. Cardinal Fang says:

    Even in honors classes, I would expect some Aspergers kids. I have a friend with an Aspie son, a very bright kid. He’ll be at Caltech this fall, having turned down MIT. I’d be surprised– no, I’d be astonished– if he were the only Aspie at Caltech.

    But to return to this teacher, she was astoundingly cruel. There’s no excuse for her to haul any student in front of the class to be criticized by his peers, but it’s especially mean to do that to a kid with autism, because the autistic kid will have no idea what he’s doing wrong.

    It’s not a matter of disobedience. The autistic kid doesn’t get the social signals. He doesn’t understand classroom instructions — he’ll interpret them literally, not understanding the actual meaning. An autistic kid gets plenty of rejection in his life– he doesn’t need his teacher egging his classmates to pile on more.

  9. What an incredibly cruel stunt this teacher pulled. There have to be different alternatives given to the teacher to remove an unruly student. I hope this teacher never becomes the parent of a disabled child. How cruel.

  10. There are two horrors here:

    1) A teacher that did a horrible thing to a child. That was truly low-class and I’m not quite sure why it isn’t grounds for removal. (A charter school in our area uses a kind of public humiliation as discipline.)

    2) A frustrated teacher and students that have had to put up with a very young kindergarten boy all year long (it is the end of the year now) with no respite or true solutions. The article says that the boy spent the entire day in the nurse’s office so I’m sure that the principal knew of his banishment, and, by not doing anything, endorsed his removal from the classroom.

  11. Tom West says:

    I shuddered when I read this. My son has Asperger’s, and in a different reality, this could have been my child. Instead, with great teachers and amazing administrative support in primary school, he’s now happily ensconced in high school with friends and no special treatment.

    For grade K-2, he was probably not unlike this child. In grade 1, by 2:00 each afternoon, he’d blown through all he had. Luckily, the teacher was flexible and had strong enough classroom discipline that she could simply say to the rest of the class that my son had to run around the back of the classroom while they had work they needed to do, and they accepted it. In fact, by the end of the year, many of the children in the class were acting as interpreters for my son to the few staff or visitors who weren’t familiar with him. But agreed, it took a 99th percentile type of teacher to handle that situation. (We’re still counting our blessings.)

    For most teachers, it’s hard to tell what a child *won’t* do, and what a child *can’t* do. It’s easy to see autistic issues as behavioural issues, and believe, somehow, that if the child simply wanted it enough, they *could* behave. Nothing enrages like a child who *knows* what your rules are, but simply refuses to obey them. (It’s why a lot of such children were simply beaten to death for disobedience in times past. Sort of like beating a blind child not reading.)

    My heart goes out to that child. Not only has the teacher terrified the child, but she’s solidified in the minds of his peers at this school that he’s the “bad” kid and made it clear that it’s all right to persecute him. I can understand what drove her to this insanity, but I’d hate to think she ever teaches another difficult child.

  12. My son is on an IEP. I have had to threaten to sue the school on numerous occasions to get someone to sit up and listen that he is having problems. I moved when he was in third grade into a better school. The ENTIRE class was understanding of his special needs and the little tics he has. I made a GRAVE mistake less than a year ago due to financial reasons to move again. Now he is back to having numerous problems. The Special Ed teacher has been very difficult. I understand he is in 5th grade, but he has to be followed like a 2 year old at times. I can’t seem to get him more testing as I think he has Asperger’s Syndrome with the different fits and tics he does have. I can sympathize deeply with this situation and hope you can find him a better environment where kids will accept him. This teacher has taught our young minds the very thing we have been fighting to get rid of — prejudice! SHAME on her for fueling and encouraging this very teaching. I am sad criminal charges can’t be brought. She has violated her job duties to be unbiased and fair to her students. The school board should punish her. We can’t teach eeligion in school. How DARE she teach prejudice to an already hate breeding world.

  13. Margo/Mom says:

    This was a hideous thing for a teacher to do. Yet, I believe, only a degree of difference from what takes place all the time–removing the unfit cases from the classroom by vote of the adults who would rather not acknowledge them as a part of society.

  14. This teacher should be fired! Nation wide schools are opting for passing children without real learning skills for fear of hurting their feelings. Teachers can’t acknowledge a student for doing well or encouraging excellence for fear of hurting someone’s feelings but the children can vote someone out of class because they don’t like him. I wonder what race the child is? No teacher would dare do this to a Muslim or African American child. I am so glad that my grandchildren are all being home taught.

  15. Tom in Oregon City says:

    There is another subtext in this tragedy, of broader implications: schools teach our kids that we live in a democracy, and that’s what the teacher cruelly utilized: a democratic vote. That vote highlights the problem with unrestrained democracy: people think that because they CAN vote on anything, that it’s OK to vote on anything.

    Ben Franklin, it’s recorded, responded to a woman who asked what sort of government they were devising, “A Republic, madam, if you can keep it!” A nation formed around a Constitution limiting the function of government, and an acceptance of significant personal moral restraint was then, and still is, an ambitious and rare thing.

    When school-age kids use democracy to implement a majority tyranny, Franklin’s bones must quiver in his grave. Some things simply should not be voted on, and doing so anyway is simply evil.

  16. @Superdestroyer: your mean-spiritedness is ugly.

    1. “Kids with IEPs” are not necessarily disruptive.
    2. I’ve been associated with the independent-school universe for the last 25 years as a parent. You had better believe that kids with learning disabilities and differences (even Asperger’s and ADHD) are in independent schools.

    @Mollo: Alex Barton had only been in Ms. Portillo’s classroom since January.

    @Sue: judging from Ms. Portillo’s photograph, she is African-American.

    @Tom West: I’m glad your boy is succeeding. You might want to read this article:

    According to the local paper (TCPalm Post), Ms. Portillo had been teaching for 12 years. In other words, not a rookie making a rookie classroom management mistake.

    She should lose her credential over this, just as she should if she’d physically struck the child.

  17. The very first article on this matter that I read a couple days ago did not say that he had Asperger’s but that they were getting a diagnosis and suspected it. However, all the articles now say that he does have it. But this probably means there was no effective IEP all year long and the school was just floundering as they tried to deal with the situation.

    How long does it take to get an Asperger’s diagnosis? How long before you notice the symptoms in your child and start to worry?

  18. Margo/Mom says:


    We aren’t talking about a skin rash. Aspergers, like many diseases that are diagnosed behaviorally, may take some time (I am talking months to years)to diagnose. The mother had in fact requested an evaluation. Frequently symptoms first become obvious when a child enters school. This kid was in kindergarten. Many schools, as a matter of unwritten policy, either refuse or discourage evaluations of kids in kindergarten. Compound this by the fact that a multi-factored evaluation (through the district) cannot really diagnose–only determine if a kid fits one of the legal categories that qualifies for services under IDEA. Districts legally have 90 days to complete an evaluation from the time it is requested. That doesn’t mean it takes that long–but usually there is a wait to come to the top of the list, and then if it’s the end of the school year the district can either convince the parent to sign off on an extension–or they just tell the parent that they don’t have to test during the summer (not true). Isn’t Washington DC in trouble because they are about two years behind in testing? Two years!

    Of course a parent with money (and it usually takes money because this is the kind of thing that insurance doesn’t cover–they consider it an educational service) can have their own outside evaluation done–if there is a psychologist available who does them, and they can rise to the top of that waiting list. But the school will still insist on doing its own.

    So, maybe the pediatrician can make a stab at a diagnosis–and ADD or ADHD is the one most likely to be tried first–with an attempt to confirm the diagnosis by a trial of medication. If the kid responds, the diagnosis was right, if not, well, there are lots of meds to try. There might be a pediatric behavioral health clinic with some more sophisticated diagnostic methods, but the whole thing is still very touch and go–there are lots of overlapping symptoms in the diagnostic manual. Usually it is a matter of looking at lists of possible symptoms and determining if the kid has five out of ten that last over a period of two weeks or more, or some such–and occur in more than one setting. Since school and home are the two most common settings for kids, even diagnosis is going to require some cooperation from the school.

    I can only guess that this teacher is either one of those who discounts the possibility of any behavioral conditions other than bad kid/bad parent; or that she had some very misguided ideas about the appropriate uses of peer pressure. Most likely both. It says that there were meetings between the district, teacher and parent to develop an IEP (there’s nothing that says you have to be diagnosed in order to have a plan), which sounds like at least the district and the parent were on the right track. Clearly the teacher had her own ideas. I was glad to see that she had been removed from the classroom.

  19. My younger son, who is 11, has been best friends with a child with Asperger’s since they were in first grade together. I think it’s because they are kindred spirits, since my son has some learning disabilities that could be classified as a milder form of AS.

    We have vacationed with the family for several years, and I have coached my son’s friends in soccer for several years. I completely understand my son’s friend, so I make little allowances for him. But, he has run laps for me because he hasn’t been paying attention at practice, so I don’t let him off the hook.

    Some of my assistant coaches didn’t understand his behavior when their son/daughter joined my team, but by the end of the season they did. At no time did they embarass the young man, as this teacher did.

    He will never be socially adept, but he may be my boss one day. He’s a very bright, nice kid who I, and my son, like a lot.

  20. Russ Goble says:

    Mollo: I can’t really add to what Margo/Mom said, I’ll just share our experience. Our son (who is now 7) was officially diagnosed with Aspergers (Austism spectrum) when he was 4. We knew he was different fairly early on (between 1 and 2) and with hind sight can think of things now that may have shown an indication (lack of steady eye contact, no propensity to mimic behaviors of others, very delayed speech, etc). We had him in the state’s early intervention program (“baby’s can’t wait”) and was able to get him speech therapy and occupational therapy. He also has seizures that we have to treat on top of this. But, it should be noted that it could be real easy to delay seeking diagnosis because we still think so many of these kids are just “rambunctious” or “ill mannered” or just ADHD, which is more a symptom than a diagnosis in my opinion where Aspergers is concerned.

    Cardinal Fang has it correct to a point. There is disobedience. Our son does have intentional disobedience like any kid, its just the way it manifests itself is a bit different and probably more frustrating because discipline tactics for “normal” kids don’t work in solving it. That is why this story is so horrifying to a parent of a kid with Aspergers. These kind of kids really don’t “get” the social landscape. In our son’s case, he doesn’t understand personal space at all, is still learning the intricacies of conversational speech beyond yes/no questions. This all has to be explicitly and constantly taught.

    For my son, school is one of the most important things in his life. He has been stressed out for a month knowing that summer break was approaching. He’s the one kid who fears school getting out because it gets him out of his routine and a place he’s fairly comfortable in. Routine is very important to the autistic person. I shudder to think what this teacher’s tactic would have done to him.

  21. I am utterly horrified for this little boy, utterly livid with the teacher and principal at the school, utterly sympathetic to this child’s family, and utterly grateful for the wonderful experience my own Aspie son has had in education so far.
    I just can’t explain how damaging this kind of thing would have been to my son at that age. Diagnosing my Aspie took most of his kindergarten and first grade year after which, with the right occupational and speech/language therapies, he’s made wonderful strides in learning the social cues that are just impossible for a kindergarten Aspie.
    I hope this teacher is let go – not because she did this to an Aspie, but because she did this to any kindergartener. That was just plain mean.
    Those other kids will eventually learn, as my son’s classmates have, to see the signs of an impending outburst and alert either him or his teacher that he needs a “time out”. Most times now, he recognizes it before anyone else and excuses himself from the classroom to the special education room to ease the sensory overstimulation that’s usually the problem for him. In the meantime, this is sad and Alex will never forget it.

  22. People are voted out all the time in life. Why do you think people get fired? Or not hired, or picked. Why do some products gather dust on shelves or car dealer lots and others fly off?

    Funny how people want to have the best, reject inferior goods or services for themselves, but when they encounter rejection it’s some unknown event that should be banished, but only for them. This is why the highest rates of ‘self esteem’ are in incarcerated males. It’s all about them.

    I rather like the idea of kids be socialized that there are limits and people have choices.

    Government schools are mass serving organizations. If you don’t like riding the government bus, get a car. Send your kid to private school, or home school. One child should not deign the educations of the many, just as one criminal should not ruin a neighborhood. It’s called limitations of resources and is reality.

    It seems as if the kids understood the concept of them having to control their individual desires for the good of the group. Too bad so many adults cannot. Further, the kids feel/think that this kid is capable of doing more. Of course they are too young to have been inculcated with various lefty ideologies. Obviously it is they that need to be worked over and ‘taught’ an Orwell type, politicaly correct ‘Right Think’.

  23. Was the teacher wrong? Of course she was. Do people do wrong things out of frustration? Of course they do. I tell you what. All of you that want to lynch or imprison the teacher should teach a kindergarten class for one year in which one child creates total chaos. One child keeps everyone else from learning. One child sucks all of the oxygen out of the room. One child who demands 99% of the time as well as physical, mental and emotional resources in the classroom. Why was this child in a mainstream classroom? Why did the school allow him to disrupt everyting for everyone else? Oh and did you notice that the parents are thinking about suing the school. Its not enough that most of the resources in the class were already being consumed to handle their child. Now they want to get more. I feel sorry for the kid as he is apparently not responsible for his condition. But I also feel sorry for the teacher who stressed out after a year of putting up with him.

  24. My Son has an IEP (BTW there are often certain physical signs of ADHD that are not behavioral). Thank God we have found a school with wonderful teachers (I won’t talk about the Principal, she and I don’t mix – she treats parents like children). This teacher should NOT be teaching any child, never mind one with an IEP. Would she vote a child, say on crutches out of a classroom because they could not run at recess? Or a colorblind child out because they could not tell the red sign from the green sign?

    IF that child already had an IEP (as some have said, there is a question on that), or even in evaluation for an IEP, the parent has a GOOD case for a “Hostile workplace act” case

  25. Seems like a better idea would be to use this as a learning experience for the class. There’s probably a way the teacher could have worked it so that the class learned about a disability and how it affected the child. A teachable experience. Plus, if it was worked right (a tricky–but not impossible–thing) the class would probably end up feeling protective of their classmate, and help him fit into the wider school better.

    My wife works at a day treatment school that is filled with these sorts of cases, and is hoping to get a position with a new offshoot autism treatment center next year. I’m hoping I’ll have a chance to meet some of her students if she does. Every autistic person I’ve ever met is a delight to talk to (at least the ones who could/would talk…not a problem with Aspergers). They will DEFINITELY let you know EXACTLY what’s on their mind. You just don’t find that level of honesty and forthrightness in “normal” people.

  26. I had a similar experience in first grade. My father was a junkie; when she wasn’t busy chasing after him, my mother was emotionally abusive. I was by nature shy, and was further distanced from my classmate by a mid-130s score on Stanford Binet.

    My not-too-bright teacher didn’t know what to do with me; when I finished my work before the rest of the class she’d “punish” me for “lying” by sending me to the corner with a book, which alwasy backfired because I clearly enjoyed it. Fortunately for her I was physically clumsy, so during recess she’d stand me before my classmates, tell them nobody wanted to pick me, and *encourage* them to make fun of me (the idea I suppose was to humiliate me into being graceful). Fifty years later and I feel that pain like it was yesterday. My parents’ response: “reassure” me that I was just like them, a freak and an outcast. There is a special place in hell for such adults. There is a special place in heaven for parents like Mrs. Barton.

  27. Ms. Portillo was well aware that the child had problems. She was there when the IEP was being drafted, and I am sure that she had input into the plan. She was not being “forced” in any way to teach that child.

    A mature adult, which obviously Ms. Portillo is not, would have quietly asked the administration to place the child into another classroom if she could not deal with the added stress. Instead, she decided to humiliate this child for her own sadistic pleasure. I’m sickened by the thought of how much she must have gotten off on hearing the other children say how “disgusting” that student was. It was uncalled for and beneath the dignity of any professional educator.

    I only hope that my sweet little niece with Downs Syndrome never ever has to deal with a gratuitously cruel monster like Ms Portillo when she goes to school.

  28. Cardinals Nation says:

    Cruelty towards those who cannot defend themselves is unpardonable. Cruelty towards a child is simply unforgivable. This premeditated act of barbarity which encouraged mob rule against the perceived “lesser” should serve as grounds for immediate termination of the teacher in question.
    Yet, on an encouraging note, since the vote was 14-2 there are at least two children who have been taught the value of compassion, the worth of the individual and the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Want to bet they learned that at home and/or their family’s house of worship and not in the government’s pantheon to mediocrity known as the public school system?

  29. I have a great story talking about this.

    My son when he was in 2nd grade had an Asbergers student in the class. The boy had a very hard time following the teacher and could be a bit disruptive.

    My son on the other hand was a very bright boy who can not sit still and gets bored quickly.

    So the teacher did something incredible. She taught the lesson quickly the first time, made sure my son got it, and then went over the material for the other children to make sure that they all were following.

    While she was doing this, my son worked with the AS boy 1 on 1 till they got it.

    And what is great, everyone won. The AS boy got the attention and learning he needed. My son was kept occupied doing something instead of getting bored and into trouble. The teacher also was able to have a calm classroom for the other children.

    She is a hero to us all.

  30. Just remember, without high-functioning autistics, the tech world would probably grind to a halt. Douglas Coupland pointed out the Asperger-like demeanor of many coders 15 years ago!

  31. Well, the good news is that the proceeds of the lawsuit will pay for this child’s treatment and probably any higher education as well.

    Obviously an appalling action for a teacher to take. Just appalling. Bet she doesn’t get fired over it, however.

  32. This is just pure evil.

  33. Big Mike says:

    Speaking as a 62 year old who suffered from Aspergers, and I have a 23 year old son who had problems with Aspergers and those problems were exacerbated after he suffered a hemorraghic stroke as a high school freshman, I need to challenge a few assertions.

    First, Aspergers isn’t all that hard to diagnose — you just have to be willing to try it. A very diagnostic test is to show a couple slides where a girl puts a toy in a certain drawer, then leaves the room. A second child enters the room and moves the toy to a different drawer, then leaves. The first child reenters the room. Which drawer will she look for her toy in? A normal child will nearly always say that the girl will look in the drawer she originally put the toy into. An Aspergers child will *always* say that she will look in the drawer where the toy actually is, because an Aspergers child simply cannot put himself (and we’re mostly men, by a ratio of about 4:1) in another person’s shoes. A couple other easy tests can pretty much confirm the diagnosis. (I’m speaking as a mathematician, not a psychiatrist, but I’ve been motivated to study the syndrome in depth, as you might imagine.)

    Generally speaking, adults like Aspergers children — it’s their peers who despise them — so I suspect that the boy had other issues. On possibility is that he is very bright in some area, possibly mathematics (Aspergers often are unusually good at science and math, hence the geek stereotype). My younger son — the one that doesn’t have Aspergers — is currently working a Ph.D. in mathematics at a prestigious university, in analysis (which I struggled with). Periodically through elementary and middle school he struggled with teachers, especially his first grade teacher, who deliberately set out to sabotage him. For instance there was the middle school teacher who conveniently “lost” his homework and insisted that it hadn’t been turned in. Uh huh. Then why was it in his backpack in the morning when he left for school and not there when he came home? Was I supposed to believe that *he* pitched it in the trash can? Apparently it’s perfectly okay in the modern educational world to hate bright white males. Do the teachers go through a 40 minutes of hate routine every morning to make sure that they have a good head of hatred built up for bright, white males? That seems to be the case from the 1990’s onward.

    By the way, you can grow out Aspergers. Eventually you do learn how to read body language and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Now that I’m only a few years from retirement I’m pretty good at it. It just takes a while.

  34. As an “aspie” that was diagnosed by my kindergarten teacher (in 1980, before “aspergers”found its way into the school system but thousands and thousands of years after higher functioning autism showed up in the gene pool. Now the thing is, the first event i have described that i remember was at the age of 7 days. If that is so, do you think i am going to forget 1st, 2nd, 4th 6th grade and 90% of the 7th and 8th grade faculty? Even though i may not have understood it at the time, i remember ever word and every intonation that “revved” me up as a kid. I also remember the person and the time and the place and the situation where i was shown a new trick as to how to overcome a problem. I had a good grandfather that encouraged thinking outside of the box when solving problems that probably left me in tears, because i didn’t truly understand the task at hand as a kindergartner with a pair of scissors in my hands. Hooray grandparents!!

    In high school, i was allowed to sit in the back of the classroom and be quiet. No forced participation, because the teachers had figured it out. Just through study alone i went from a D to an A student over the course of freshman year. I was getting threats from students for setting the curves in earth science, biology, chemistry, so much so i even made purposeful wrong answers to even the space between me and number two in the cases where my grade wasn’t thrown out by the teacher. History and english weren’t so good, as i hadn’t at that time developed the means to store and process that level of quanta within a reasonable time.

    Somewhere in there, at 16, i discovered music. That changed everything. I ended up asking to take part in jazz band because they were short the instrument i naturally gravitated to. First practice, and i realized i wasn’t the only person going through this. Geeks are geeks, but are encouraged to do something with it.

    Age of 32, i finally figured out how to database history and science and foreign languages, fluently play strings, trombone, french horn, soprano and alto sax. I own a collection of 4 drum sets and about 200 cymbals and engage not only in being an owner/operator of a mobile recording facility, provide drum backline and teching in recording circles. I could write a book on it, but nobody would understand it that couldn’t figure it out on their own. I got an diagnosis (congratulations, you have aspergers) at 28 mostly for my own sanity, confirming what i knew all along from day one.

    I just started reading shinichi suzuki’s Nurtured by Love for the first time yesturday, and it is a veritable “who’s who” of middle fingers i would like to cast at a number of authority figures (teachers and parents). I myself didn’t “come into being” until around 30, so i would say it is completely impossible for a 5 year old to rationalize every aspect of human existence. The fun thing is, now i can spot a potential aspie in the 3-6 age range, before they have a chance to learn to figure how to cover it up. Good parents figure out how to divert energy into something focused, like collecting, sorting and organizing something that is of interest specifically to the individual child. Don’t need parents messing it up for the kid that is going to be fixing your computer at best buy or creating cold fusion tony stark-style in his basement and selling it on amazon at the age of 20. Wish i had google and wiki and youtube as a kid. Would have been better than getting yelled at for reading the encyclopedia rather than looking up the class assignment. I hate you, Mrs W. Although i see your kind are still plentiful.

  35. In this case, maybe the administrators are at fault as much as the teacher. I teach Sunday school to fourth graders and every year I have had two to three special needs kids out of about 24 students. Trying to manage a class of 24 and still accommodate these kids is nearly impossible. Each special needs kid seems to be special in his own way and how can a teacher deal with his individual needs and still keep the class on task? Luckily I had teaching assistants and that made all the difference. Did these administrators give this teacher any assistance with this student?

  36. cacimbo says:

    Wow, I have not seen one comment questioning how this went down. In every article only the mothers interpretation of events is presented. It amazes me that the same people who comment that five year olds should not be given the power to vote in class are ready to fire a teacher over what a five year old says occured. Why is this even news worthy? Seems to me the mother really knows how to spin the media. I could find no mention in any news articles of previous complaints against this teacher who has apparently been with the school for ten plus years. How about a reality check here. The mother has the recourse of going to the pricipal/school board- appropriate. Case tried in media with one side of story-inappropriate.

  37. This is obviously is a sad and unfortunate story. However, disruptive students often have a way of punishing the entire class. It isn’t right to sacrifice every student to the needs of one.

  38. One can easily distinguish the theoretical from the practical here: Haven’t been in a class room since el-hi attendance, the poor kid……have taught in el-hi recently, why is the individual more important than the group? Public el-hi today is a war-zone, disrupted without consequences by a few bad eggs and some SpEd kids.

  39. Bill Roberts says:

    My youngest son has Asperger Syndrome. He wasn’t diagnosed until 5th grade. Before that we struggled in pre-school and elementary with his behavior. We never understood and neither did his teachers. He spent an entire semester sitting in the hall by himself in preschool. Only after he said something to my wife did we go in and confront the teacher. Needless to say we removed him from that pre-school. With a lot of help and support, he graduates from high school this year. We don’t know what the future holds for him–but we are hopeful. He’s had a one-on-one aide throughout the last 7 years of school. Not all teachers are as bad as this one in your article. Tell the parents to hang tough and get (demand) help from the school district.

  40. There is only one choice here: homeschool versus private school. Public school continues to be shown as lacking. Hopefully this event does not live with the child for a long time. Unfortunately, most adults have no idea that what they do to or around a child has enormous impact. Not only did this teacher harm the one student, she harmed the entire class for a long time.

  41. “Barton said her son is in the process of being diagnosed with Aspberger’s, a type of high-functioning autism”

    According to the linked article, the child involved has not been diagnosed with Aspergers. I’m not saying he doesn’t have it, but I’ve also come across a lot of parents that are all too eager to attribute their child’s bad begavior to some disease or disorder.

    That said, I almost want to see lawsuit so the teacher can explain her handling of the situation. There’s no question public humiliation can affect behavior, but I’m skeptical it would work in this context. Any teachers have thoughts on this?

  42. Elroy Jetson says:

    Bill, you and your wife must be special people. So is your son for conquering this syndrome. I pray for you and your family today.

  43. If the child had an IEP earlier in the year, it was probably being violated with the teachers behavior. Violating an IEP is illegal in Oregon, and I presume it is in Florida, also. Kids that young are difficult to diagnose with asbergers. Asbergers usually gets diagnosed closer to the teen years, as the social concerns become more evident then. Unfortunately, the child is sometimes mislabled as a disruptive/problem child by then. More severe Autism SHOULD be picked up or at least screened for by the time the child is 3. Having been through a couple IEP’s, I can also see a fairly naive parent getting railroaded into a bad IEP, where the school district has few, if any, measureable goals or directives. My wife is more experienced, and now works as a parent representative in IEP metings, to help the families and districts come up with the best plan for that child. We got blindsided by the first IEP, and my child would have struggled, but we had a new meeting, and things are going well. My child has an adult inclusion assistant that works with my son on a one to one basis, in a regular classroom. He and the class is doing well.

    The teacher should be reprimanded, and made to go to classes on special needs children to learn how to work with these children. The parent may need to threaten a lawsuit to get things fixed. That child will probably never do well in that class this year, and may need to start over with a teacher with experience, and hopefully, some compassion.

  44. The sad thing about a lot of Asperger kids is that they realize they’re not fitting in–they just don’t know why. They long to be a “regular” kid, but their conversational habits, inability to control their behavior at times, etc., puts people off. It’s particularly cruel of this teacher to do this to an Asperger kid. It’s cruel of her to do it to any student, of course, but to do it to a kindergartener with a developmental disability? Boggles the mind. I’m not saying that every class has to be structured around the most needy child, but there are so many other ways to handle this. For one, this would have been an excellent chance to show the other students how to be compassionate and flexible. Instead she appeals to the basest, Lord of the Flies group mentality. She should be fired.

  45. Superdestroyer says: “…yet the children of the middle class have their education’s negatively impacted by children such as Alex?”


  46. Fair is fair. The teacher had a vote on whether this child should be allowed the same opportunity granted “normal” children. Well, looks like we had a vote on whether she should be fired, driven out of town in shame for abusing a little boy, and made to face a judge and jury for her actions.

    Sorry for your situation, Ms. Portillo, but if you feel it is fair to humiliate a child in front of his class like this, it is at least as fair for us to decide your professional future and personal consequences. And if you spent a decade in prison for what you did, it still seems less cruel to me than the deliberate harm you inflicted on an innocent boy.

  47. On the other hand the school district may not be able to fire the teacher. Why? The Teacher’s Union… has made it so difficult to fire teachers that they almost never can be. Then add in the potential for EEOA lawsuits (female, African-American) and endless reviews, and you have a train wreck that cannot be prevented, ameliorated, or fixed.

    This is an endemic problem in American public education today. Add in that the school district must hire teachers that may have no competence to begin with – no training in any subject matter areas (just an Education Degree), lack of certified teacher’s available for hiring (who wants to put up with teaching and dealing with “problem” parents and children when one can make double or triple in private industry).

    Then the school districts get huge subsidies from government to build fancy schools, build bureacracies that contain 50% teachers, do fancy sports, and not worry about academics. They can focus on continuing to get the grants from government by teaching to SOL exams only. We then wonder why 30% of all students drop out before completing High School? Wonder why there are literacy rates of 65% today. SOL scores go up the more students that are removed from class or drop out – a self fulfilling prophecy. But not a road to literacy like in the 1950-1960s of 95%.

    So what is the fix?

  48. And, by the way Ann, you did not close the parentheses or end your sentence with a period. I know that it was a trivial error, but just thought to point it out to the self appointed spell checker. And as for DJ Drummond, ten years in prison for humiliating a child is too little.
    Hang the teacher. That’ll show her. Oh, I forgot. Exactly what was the crime she committed?

  49. This was obviously totally inappropriate.

    So was forcing a teacher and the remainder of the students to deal with a student whose conduct is distracting and inappropriate, for the whole duration of every single day class is in session.

    Those who decided to “mainstream” students who shouldn’t be in regular classes, everyone else in the class be damned, should be punished.

    The teacher should probably just have a different job. Teaching in public school is not for her. Or anyone, really.

  50. Steffan says:

    The answer to the “too cool to learn” kids is to let them know what faces them when they enter the job market.

    Employers will *not* put up with the “too cool” attitude. Those kids had better memorize one of two phrases: “Yes, Drill Sergeant!” or “Do you want fries with that?”

  51. Tootsie says:

    This situation makes me sick. I have two grandchildren that are in the Autism Spectrum. One was diagnosed in pre-school at the suggestion of the teacher. She has had the help needed and is an A student. She is now 8 years old and will tell you herself that she has problems and has to be good, as she puts it. The older sister was just diagnosed at 11 years of age. I guess that the older one was better had covering for herself at times. I am thankful that she is getting help now. One of the things that I did find out is that there is a federal law for persons with disabilities as to how they should be treated and what they are entitled to. Excuse this Grandma for not being able to quote chapter and verse.
    Re this teacher…….I do wonder if she has children, had problems in school in the past herself, is just plain stupid and unfeeling or is lacking as a human being. I don’t care what the situation, one does not give 5 year old children the power to vote anyone out of a group. I do hope that she is not allowed to have any contact with children as she will only cause more damage………

  52. torn: “Exactly what was the crime she committed?”

    Child Abuse, for starters. Assault (in the literal definition) would apply, and so would Child Endangerment.

    Your hyperbole seems ill-suited to the discussion, so I would advise you to avoid further attempts at sarcasm.

  53. I tried to submit earlier – apologize if this is a dupe – my son has Asperger’s and we removed him from a school after a few abusive incidents. I had repeatedly confronted one of his teachers about bullying and abuse in school and then the lying and excuses started flying at warp speed. It turns out one of the teachers children was one of the primary abusers. We were only able to get the school to address the issue with threat of a law suit. The principal, teacher and teacher’s child all transferred out of the school. after another incident the following year we had to have our city councilor interven to have our son transferred out of the school. I repeatedly asked why the principal and teachers would permit any teasing or abuse of a child with a brain disorder but I never could get a straight answer. I guess that’s why they’re in the “caring” prefessions.

  54. TheOldMan says:

    Clearly the school system needs more money. That’s the “solution” that the NEA and AFT always states. Funny how those Catholic schools do such a good job with far less money per student. Anyway my son doesn’t have any syndromes or learning problems other than being an energetic 6 year old who would much rather be at home than at school. His teacher worked with us to figure out things she could do in the context of the classroom to keep him calm.

  55. Cardinal Fang says:

    In <a href=””a subsequent article we learn that the teacher has been removed from the classroom until further action is determined.

    Here’s an article on the teacher’s side. She says the students were only voting the boy out for the day, not for the rest of the year. The boy has now been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and ADD.

  56. Cardinal Fang says:

    Sorry about that. I wish this blog had a preview option. Here’s the first article, about the teacher being reassigned.

  57. Barbara says:

    OK, three words…..FIVE-YEARS-OLD.

    Seriously, five. This is how we treat 5-year-olds in government schools? I don’t care if he has autism, or is dumb or smart or a total and complete jerk. He’s five. They cry when a cookie breaks or when ice cream drips on their sneakers. This kid was repudiated, in very cruel and harsh terms, by both his classmates and an “authority” figure. SO not only have you probably set his treatment back months, but you’ve now taught 16 other impressionable 5-year-olds that it’s OK to be pointlessly cruel to other humans who are different than you. Not to empathize, or symapthize, or help or protect, but bash them over the head with how much you dislike them until they leave. Which fabulous ed school did this moron get her credentials from?

  58. tom, the teacher’s crime was cruelty toward the innocent and helpless, and teaching a kindergarten class to ostracize those different than themselves. There’s just no excuse for traumatizing any five year old this way.

    I’ve known a few kids with Asperger’s. It’s rather amazing to me that in an age when we so obsess over the value of tolerance and celebrating diversity, they are labeled as having a disorder because they naturally communicate and think differently than others. True, there isn’t always a sharp cutoff between Asperger’s and autism (which clearly is a disability), but a fair proportion of these people just need to be treated with the same consideration we’d try to give anyone who comes from a different background or has a different way of thinking. Imagine the fallout if a teacher ridiculed a kid for talking jive, or acting gay!

    It’s worth asking just whose behavior in this scenario has demonstrated poorly developed social skills, the Aspy or the teacher?

    Anyway, I won’t rant any further because Cardinals Nation has said it all.

  59. MPH makes a legitimate point:

    “This is obviously is a sad and unfortunate story. However, disruptive students often have a way of punishing the entire class. It isn’t right to sacrifice every student to the needs of one.”

    But my question is: why do teachers spend years in school if not to learn to handle problems like this more delicately (not to say less maliciously)? Even if we strain credulity by assuming she meant well, a teacher who behaves like this is incompetent. A kindergarten teacher who cannot handle a disruptive five-year-old without resorting to abuse ought not be teaching kindergarten.

  60. The ‘one day’ excuse, Cardinal, is as lame as the abuser who says he ‘only’ hit her once.

  61. This is a difficult issue for me. It does seem that the teacher’s action was cruel and will leave indelible scars on all involved. Clearly this was a morally reprehensible action.

    But I have two girls in catholic school. Their classes are routinely disrupted by such students. Further, my girls are often put to work by the teacher in various ways to control their behavior. Their education is being significantly impacted by this.

    No doubt their daily acts of service are helping to build Christian character. But I wonder to what degree I should push back as a parent to help guarantee that my kids get the proper education; especially since I am paying (double) for the privilege.

    It is not the job of my girls to serve as babysitters.

  62. Why do teachers spend years in school if not to learn how to handle difficult situations like this? THEY DON’T!

    I spent 4 1/2 years getting my elementary ed. degree. I can assure you that dealing with difficult kids is NOT what teachers-in-training are taught. Instead they’re taught how to create instructional units. Over and over and over again I had to create a unit on something; whales, frogs, the planets, etc.

    I had ONE class on special ed. kids. ONE.

    I taught upper elementary one year, then my principal decided to move me to kindergarten (which, BTW, I was not certified to teach). Luckily for me, I was in an unusual situation where I had a partner teacher with me, and she had 20+ years of experience. Nearly half of our class was special ed kids. We had kids with hearing impairments, learning disabilities, and a few with both. And one with Downs Syndrome (who was incidentally one of the meanest children I have ever known).

    It was rough sometimes. For months one boy would routinely throw temper tantrums under a table, disrupting the class. Nothing we could do about it. The assistant principal in charge of our grade level refused to do anything to help us, and the kid’s mother was unable to control him either. It was just tough luck for us all.

    Training for dealing with special kids? HA!! Again and again in teacher in-service training classes other teachers would ask the instructors for help with the special ed kids. Beg for strategies for coping with their quirks, for figuring out how to manage time so one kid didn’t suck all the teacher’s energy and time. Every time we were told that if we had a problem with a special ed. kid it was OUR FAULT. We just had a bad attitude and we needed to be more accepting. No tips. No suggestions. No sharing of successful strategies, books to read, nothing. Just told to be quiet and fix our own bad attitudes and then everything would be fine.

    We’d wind up asking each other for tips, but we were all struggling, all at a loss.

    Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not blaming the kids here. I’m saying that the training for dealing with different kids is sadly lacking and very much figure-it-out-for-yourself, and support from administrators can be really slim. The principals don’t want to hear about 5 year old Billy’s temper tantrums and disruptions as long as he’s not drawing blood; they’ve got to be lunch monitors and worry about who will cover the classes of the absent teachers and making sure they have all their endless mounds of paperwork under control and hassle with implementing all the changes the new superintendent (the 3rd in 5 years) wants to make. If the kid isn’t physically harming other kids, or if his parents aren’t breathing down the principal’s neck, helping a teacher figure out how to handle a disruptive kid is a loooooooow priority.

    Sure, SpEd evaluations are supposed to happen within 3 months of the request, but sometimes it takes 6 months just to amass all the paperwork and preliminary stuff necessary to even turn the thing in. I’ve seen requests drawn up and then not dated – just to get around the 3 month rule. Especially if the district is full of ESL kids and there’s a shortage of bilingual testers.

    Training…. what a laugh. Sorry for the rant, but you really hit a sore spot for me. I tried very hard to make my classes work and do the best I could by my students, but after 2 years I was exhausted and burnt out.

    I can’t think of anything to justify what this teacher did, but I can damn sure understand how she could feel so driven into a corner and totally at a loss with a student to WANT to throw him out of her class. She was stuck with him; no other teacher was going to volunteer to take him off her hands, and the principal sure as heck wasn’t going to remove him. The teacher was cruel and wrong to do what she did, but I have to admit I feel for her.

  63. There have been some very interesting comments here, along with some startlingly ignorant ones. Do those of you who have family members on the autism spectrum (my son and daughter both) feel as angry/frustrated/saddened by some of the comments here (superdestroyer, paul, tom, etc.)?

    Autism is a disability, not an affectation. You don’t treat polio by kicking the crutches out from under its victims. You don’t tell a burn victim to “man up” and take a bath. You don’t tell a blind woman she’s just not trying hard enough to see. As has been remarked upon repeatedly, autism is a disorder that affects socialization skills. If the teacher or the school had a problem with Alex’s behavior, the school should have taken positive steps to address them. Instead, the teacher punished him.

    Hey, how about we start pushing people in wheelchairs down stairs? Blind people into traffic? They’re just getting in everybody’s way, and they’re a drain on public resources. Why the heck do we need wheelchair ramps anyway?

    Before you start mouthing off about the cost of an IEP, consider what it will cost you when a growing population of uneducated, non-functional, non-productive autistic people become adults. Education is a public good because it helps alleviate the burden of a persistently uneducated underclass. Compare the records of educational attainment and per capita incomes across the developing and developed world. Take note of the significant differences.

    My children are nearly fully functional, non-disruptive, and test out above grade level; but we had to fight hammer and tongs to get them the education they needed. I have little or no sympathy with the bloated public education bureaucracy (sometimes combined with an incompetent and/or diffident staff of primary educators) in this country. I hope Alex’s mother successfully sues that school into penury. Those people need an education in humanity before they presume to instruct children in reading and writing and arithmetic.

  64. Margo/Mom says:


    I don’t have a child on the autism spectrum, but I do have a child with disabilities and, yes, some comments are purely ignorant and mean-spirited. Like you, there has been plenty of effort expended on advocacy in exactly the environment that Amelia describes. Although, I have to question her assessment of training. While there might have been a single class “on special ed kids” in the required curriculum, I am guessing that there were some required classes in psychology and sociology–just as part of the core curriculum. And there was likely some room for electives that might have been filled with appropriate learning.

    On the one hand, while I have heard over and over that teachers don’t have the “special training” that they need to work with my child–I haven’t seen any great clamoring in over a decade to ensure that teachers get any more learning. Some years I have begged that the teachers who work with my child get some inservice in my child’s particular disorders. But the attitude is that they are all “special ed” teachers and already know everything about everything (except content–that’s something that THEY don’t get training in).

    Contrast this with the parents I have known who burn up the internet looking for helpful information (and print it out and hand carry it to school to show the teachers). Kids with learning differences don’t arrive with a set of directions. I have never had anywhere near the resources that my district has. But somehow, I am always expected to be the problem solver. I have given up trying to suggest helpful strategies to write into the IEP, because teachers don’t seem to be able to implement things that they don’t come up with themselves. If they actually set measureable goals, implemented strategies and revised based on the outcome, we might make some progress. Instead, an IEP is something to be rushed through, signed and then filed.

    What I have seen over and over again from the schools–particularly from those on the general ed side of the divide (and why is there a divide, I wonder) is at best a kind of benign neglect aimed at showing that they can’t “handle” kids with different needs, so that they have to be served in a more restrictive environment. I spent some time today reading the report of the school resource officer (one of the articles above had a link) on this case. One thing that struck me was that the resource officer (this would be a cop placed in a school) was the one who seemed to be spending one-on-one time with this little boy. He commented that he had helped him on his schoolwork when he was sent to his desk in the office. The kid tore up his work when he was ignored. You gotta ask yourself–why is a cop providing tutoring for a kindergartner? Maybe our resources aren’t as well allocated as they should be if we have a cop defaulting to being the kindergarten aid.

    That one behavior (tearing up papers) was among the worst cited in the report, which was based on interviews with classmates, teacher, assistant principal, nurse, student and parent. Apparently the other behaviors included kicking a table, lying on the floor, eating crayons and eating boogers. These behaviors are annoying, to be sure, trying, wearing, frustrating, possibly disruptive. They do not fall into the category of dangerous, violent, volatile–the kinds of behaviors that might require another setting for education. One would want, certainly, for the teacher to have some assistance (hopefully not from a cop). But it does appear to be pretty small class (fourteen plus two plus one). I don’t think the teacher is a terrible person–but she did do something pretty inexcuseable. I don’t know if it is appropriate to hold her personally responsible given the overall environment of an education system that still–for the most part–believes in excluding kids with disabilities from the “regular” kids.

    Reading today has been encouraging. I don’t generally see so many comments that express sympathy for the child with disabilities.

  65. The teacher set a pitch-perfect example of boorish behavior and ought to be ashamed.

    On the other hand, unlike those who said they pray she never have disbled children of her own, I tend to think people like her should, just so they can experience the anguish and heartache that others inflict on those kids.

    Between the cost of private schooling and the incompetence of much of public schooling, the home schooling idea is more appealing with each passing day.

  66. Last year my third grade child was in a class with two seriously disturbed children. One boy regularly discussed having a sex change and brought pornography to school. On several occasions, another girl threw her desk at the teacher, hit several children and, threatened to burn down the school (with particular children inside) and made teaching/learning difficult to impossible.

    That being said, if my child’s teacher had done to either of these children what Ms. Portillo has done to Alex, I would have been appalled and pulled my child from that class. What she did was wrong.

    But, I wonder, why was it so difficult to get children who need help some help?

    I was/am frustrated that my daughter went to and came home from school scared about what was going to happen in class. I felt sorry for the teacher who had to face that classroom everyday. I felt sorry for the children who needed help.

    It is very hard (or maybe it is easy and I just can’t do it) to find a solution. The normal kids need to learn, the bright kids need to learn, the slow kids need to learn. The kids with disabilities need help and they can fall into the normal, bright and slow categories.

    It seems that all the options/solutions involve helping one group at the expense of the other.

  67. Hi Margo:

    I don’t doubt Amelia is writing accurately about her experience in her pursuit of an Ed degree (MA?). You’re right, there are elective elements to the tertiary Education degree (or certification). It varies by state. I also believe Amelia was put in a position which demanded more of her than her education equipped her to deal with. Still, I don’t feel sorry for her at all: Education students seem to be predisposed to having their world organized for them rather than being proactively involved in the education process. They are, in that respect, least suited to teach to begin with.

    Much of my world view was molded by inspired (and inspiring) teachers who considered teaching a calling; a calling that carried them beyond the material to a place where students learned to think for themselves.

    Amelia should never have been a teacher in the first place.

    I’m sorry to say you’re also right about the attitude of special education teachers; but it extends to many traditional primary teachers as well. Whole Word Learning may have passed, but “New” New math has pitched American innumeracy to a “New” (and frightening) low. While my son aces his math homework, I’ve had to work overtime (after we’ve worked on homework) just to undo all the things he THINKS he knows. Especially, I have to explain that numbers don’t normally have little red dots on them.

    As parents, WE are ultimately responsible for our childrens’ education. I would NEVER rely on the public school system for more than structure and material. I’m not going to hand internet materials to teachers: I have no idea what they might do with them. I’d rather teach my kids to find it themselves.

    We also had “rushed” IEP meetings. Advocates and threats of lawsuits slowed them down considerably… Oh! It also delivered participation from required participants (who had previously been strangely called away at the last minute).

    At some point, we do need to step away from moral equivocation. At some point, we need to say “this is wrong, and this is the reason why.” I think it is fair to call Ms. Portillo a terrible person. Whatever I may think of the lesson plans and programs organized by the public education establishment, her actions exceeded her responsibilities. Significantly.

    Bull Connor enforced the law. “I was doing my job” was not a very good excuse.

    I am convinced many modern American primary school teachers are ignorant. I would like to be proven wrong. I have lost my confidence in that system. I live next door to primary school teacher (who teaches in a reasonably good California school district) who gets drunk on the weekends and complains loudly to her friends about the n—–s and c—-s in her class.

    She makes me shudder at the prospect of my children entering into the “normal” school program here Thankfully, they are in decent ASRD programs and are prgressively being integrated into regular classes (which we monitor CLOSELY).

    To care for my family, I spend most of my year teaching at a college in Pennsylvania while they stay in California. That’s what we have to do. We can’t engage in the same (four years of) battles all over again just to make sure they get the education they need.

    The complaints of the teachers in this thread are insulting.

    They should quit, teach, fight for changes or shut the hell up.

  68. Jane:

    You’re right up to a point: There ought to be more done for all children, but it ISN’T a “zero-sum game.”

    Education for autistic children needn’t be introduced at the expense of education for “normal” children. In fact, there are postings in this comment board that point out the value of integrating (or, occasionally, reverse integrating) students with disabilities into a traditional educational environment.

    My grandmother spent most of her adult life working with children with Down Syndrome. She never met a Down child she didn’t like. She never met a Down child she couldn’t work with to make their life better. In the process, she said, her life was better.

    If there are problems with developmentally disabled children, they are either in the wrong educational program or (as is true of normal children) they don’t have sufficient discipline in their home life. The former demands a different educational program, the latter demands calling in the parents for their failures to enforce basic parental discipline. In many parts of the country, support and education services exist to help parents with the latter problem.

    The more serious problems are people like Amelia, who combine the excuse of bad administration with student disabilities to excuse their own failings as teachers. No one is asking teachers to substitute for parents in the lives of their students, but many teachers seem uninterested in being proactive in addressing the problems of their students these days.

  69. It’s real easy to judge someone when you haven’t seen the entirety of their situation.

    Admitting you don’t know what to do with a special ed. kid is kind of like admitting to postpartum depression; admit you have a problem and so many people just sit in judgment on you and blame you for not automatically divining the solution.

    Yup. I had failings. I often didn’t know the right thing to do. I was a sorry noob. I did the best I could with what I had, but I didn’t think my best was adequate. It really bugged me that I felt so often like I was improvising, because kids’ education is so important. I was afraid it would take too many years for me to progress beyond mediocre, so I quit teaching. Relax.

    And for the person who says I just want to use kids’ disabilities to excuse my own failings, you miss my point. I knew I didn’t instinctively know how to handle everything, so I asked for help. Often. I admitted I had problems and asked more experienced teachers and the special ed. teachers for ideas and suggestions – because I wanted to do better. And, like you, so many of them said it was my own fault – my attitude, my laziness – that I didn’t know what to do, and left it at that. Not helpful.

    My point is that I sought help and didn’t get it, and my experienced is co5mmon. Training is inadequate and a mentor is hard to come by. That doesn’t excuse screwups – but if you want to make things better you have to identify the problem. Sorry training is a problem.

  70. Oh, and just to clarify. I wasn’t completely useless. Tantrum-under-the-table boy eventually quit once he realized that his tantrums didn’t get him what he wanted. It just took months for him to accept that he would still get time outs even if he made it difficult for everyone in the room to hear anything besides him. When I said we couldn’t do anything, I meant we couldn’t do anything to make him *immediately* quit his bawling and rolling.

  71. DJ Drummond,

    Thanks, but I will not take your advice. No, It is not assault in the literal definition. Rude, hurtful, disrespectful words are not assault. The unlawful touching of another human is an assault, or in some places a battery. Also, please show the legal child abuse and child endangerment. These things also have very specific legal definitions, and being a bad teacher is not part of those definitions. Just because an action disturbs someone does not make it illegal, no matter how much you would like it to be so. You are the one engaging in hyperbole, either intentionally or through ignorance.


    You should not feel angered at what I said. My heart goes out to the child. As previously noted, I realize he is not responsible. My posts were directed toward the fact that most everyone wants to lynch the teacher and criminalize bad teaching. And I do not retract my assertion that mainstreaming is not always the answer. When a child is so disruptive that it impairs learning and functioning for the other children, then what is gained? I do not know what the solution is, but it seems evident that something else needed to be done in this case. If one of your college students disrupted one of your classes to the extent that teaching could not take place, what would you do. I find it very easy for you to be so judgmental about other teachers who are in the classroom 30 hours a week handling problems that you never face.

  72. Nathan,

    I was referring to engaging in a specific act that violates a clearly defined law. Crimes are thing that violate laws, not just reprehensible
    behavior. If a teacher ridiculed a child for talking jive or acting gay, it might be rude behavior, but not a crime.

    Look, it seems that you are trying to have it both ways, in that you assert that there is no disability, just a different way of thinking. If so, why should any special allowances be made for the disruptive behavior. Also, using your example of the jive talker, I would not ridicule him. I would also not allow him to communicate in this way in the classroom. What we do not need are more people that can’t communicate with standard English.

  73. Cardinal Fang says:

    Some people, here and elsewhere, say that an Aspergers child shouldn’t have been mainstreamed. Maybe, but nobody knew he had Aspergers when he entered kindergarten. And that’s no one’s fault– Aspergers isn’t always so obvious in a young child, especially if the child is a first-born.

    Lots of disabilities (dyslexia, Aspergers, sometimes ADD) won’t be diagnosed until the child goes to school. Therefore, a school needs to be able to deal with kids who later will be found to have disabilities. If they can’t, they are not competent at their job.

    I disagree with those attacking Amelia. New teachers are thrown in the classroom without mentoring support. How could she be expected to know what veteran teachers know? Schools need to provide a structure where teachers can exchange tips and techniques of teaching and classroom management.

  74. Mom's thoughts says:

    What this teacher did is horrible.

    But I will guess she is a young teacher with no children of her own in that age group. My oldest is 26 my youngest is 9. I have seen young clueless teachers do these kinds of things to kids over and over again.

    If a parent attempts to get help for a child with special needs the schools do — as little as possible. The concept in schools is push them through and eventually they will pick up the information they need.

    Teachers and administrators do not really care about children learning – they care about teaching to test – getting the kids top get good grades on standardized tests so the teachers and administrators can continually ask for more money. Look at their salaries, pensions and retirement benefits.

    Check out

    I (and many other parents) in our middle class junior high were told my teachers and shown how the teach to test at a Curriculum Night. The principal received lots of phone calls – but that is how our school district does do well on standardized test the teach the children HOW TO PAST those tests so the teacher and school look good. It has nothing to do with getting a REAL EDUCATION. We are teaching our kids how to fill out forms and past tests. Not how to be creative thinkers.

  75. cowgirl says:

    This is the 956,768th reason we homeschool our son.

  76. So much codswallop flying here, I feel I should respond.


    PPD is an unavoidable consequence of birth for some women. I don’t know of anyone who argues the solution to PPD is entirely internal (except for scientologists). Post partum, there really isn’t a solution to the basis of the problem, only therapy (and possibly medication) to provide relief from the symptoms.

    You didn’t have to stay in the education environment.

    If you found yourself incapable of teaching, you should have stepped away. You did, and that is to your credit. That you equate PPD with your situation isn’t.

    I was the one who suggested you were using excuses for your failure; and what does it suggest that you didn’t bother to read the commentor’s name before you remarked upon my posting?

    You gave the kid time-outs. You ignored his problem until it went away. Wow. How proactive.

    No one likes to hear it; but did you consider the possibility that your critics were right? That you were/are lazy? Do they continue to do the job you found yourself incapable of doing (and presumably wanted to do)? What do you do now?


    I suppose, in the end, there is no prosecutable crime. What is your point?

    Is it actionable? Absolutely.

    People don’t get imprisoned for slander, but they do get sued. People don’t spend time in the pokey for their “oontributions” to the Superfund sites, but they are liable.

    Megan Meier is dead.

    I’m tired of hearing excuses for people who behave badly and/or incompetently.

    Yours’ seem particularly interesting:

    “One child sucks all of the oxygen out of the room. One child who demands 99% of the time as well as physical, mental and emotional resources in the classroom. Why was this child in a mainstream classroom? Why did the school allow him to disrupt everyting for everyone else? Oh and did you notice that the parents are thinking about suing the school. Its not enough that most of the resources in the class were already being consumed to handle their child. Now they want to get more.”

    I can see how your “heart goes out to the child.”

    His fellow students criticised him for picking his nose.

    What do you know about the circumstances of his experience in the classroom?

    People like you dismay me. I spend most of my time in the classroom working to unwind the bullshit and received “wisdom” of years of public school education. I tell my students again and again to think for themselves, to look at the numbers and reach their own conclusions. Most of the time, I get a book report.

    You’re reciting a litany of talking points from the AFT. You’re an ass.

    “I find it very easy for you to be so judgmental about other teachers who are in the classroom 30 hours a week handling problems that you never face.”

    When you’ve spent a year teaching 300 students at three different universities in Tashkent for the CEP, organized Central Asian student and faculty conferences and set up web pages for the same, and managed publications… you can tell me about your problems. What is it, exactly, you find easy about my life that you know nothing about (setting aside the immediate issue of having two autistic children)?

  77. p.s. 30 hours a week?!?!?


    Explains a lot.

  78. Sasha,

    Don’t you dare to presume to judge me. You know nothing about me. You may choose to disagree with what I have written, but don’t ridicule my compassion for the child. You are so busy patting yourself on the back for being such a great example of what teaching should be and bashing other points of view that you are insufferable. My point about there being a crime was that many of the contributors to this thread called for the criminal punishment of the teacher, when as you say the was no prosecutable crime. As to what I know about his experience in the school room, I don’t know much, AND NEITHER DO YOU. You can play the martyr if you choose, and attack an argument I did not make about your having an easy life. I said you find it easy to be judgmental. I stand by that.
    OK, if it is more than 30 hours a week, you reinforce my point. I also thought your ad hominen attack calling me an ass tells a lot more about you than about me. I do not know what the AFT is, so I can’t be reciting their talking points, unless by coincidence. Yeah, Megan Meier is dead. Since I had nothing to do with her death, I wonder why you chose to write it. BTY, who am I excusing for bad behavior or incompetence? I do not excuse what the teacher did, but I see how it could happen to someone not as steeped in perfection as you seem to be.

  79. Krysten says:

    I commend the 2 children who voted to keep Alex in class. I take care of an autistic child and he has changed my life. He is so wonderful and full of love. My heart goes out to this family.

  80. I’ve had better things to do than peruse these comments, but since Ms. Jacobs linked back to them today (and I find myself increasingly drawn to her very interesting blog posts) I guess I should follow up.


    Or what? You’ll stick me in the corner? Prosecute ME? You presume to judge the behavior of the teacher and student in this case on the basis of what little you’ve bothered to read in the press, but you take insult at someone judging you on the basis of what you write regarding your position on an issue you know little about? What a bizarre concept. Of course, what you probably mean to say is “how DARE you be critical of me, now let me criticize you for being judgmental!” Did I happen to mention you’re a hypocrite? Perhaps I should define the term for you.

    I made no mention of a need to criminally prosecute the teacher, I merely pointed out that your defense of the teacher on the basis of what was known was inexcusable. I mentioned Megan Meier because you trot out the same shopworn moral equivocation that was used to defend HER persecutors. You can take issue with my judgment if you choose, I honestly don’t care; but why are you so concerned with what I think of you? It seems to me you should spend less time worrying about that and more time buttressing your outrageous claim that your “heart goes out to the child.” Nowhere in your posts do I find any evidence of sympathy for Alex. Moreover, you’ve already drawn conclusions based on information that isn’t in evidence. That, by the way, is why I called you an ass: you are led by the nose to beliefs based on OTHER people’s beliefs and not on the facts (AFT is the American Federation of Teachers, by the way).

    My point about the amount of work I do (and have done) wasn’t to lay claim to some higher moral authority. Rather, my intention was deflate yours. I don’t claim to be perfect, far from it; but it would still be inexcusable for me to treat ADULT students in the way Ms. Portillo treated this kindergardener.

    In the shadow of the looming edifice you’ve built to commemorate self-esteem (yours, not Alex’s) and being “fair” to all sides in an argument (ditto), I reiterate my prior assertion:

    You, sir, are an ass.

    There, I’ve dared.

  81. I did leave something out…

    With respect to Tom’s post:

    It just didn’t register because it seemed completely irrelevant. That’s probably because I read Krysten’s post before I started writing.

    Martyr? In what way did I express myself as a “martyr”? I do what I have to do for my family. I do what I have to do because it is the most important work I can do in my life. I do it because I am most happy and most fulfilled caring for the people I love. I have never been happier in my entire life.

    My actions are entirely selfish. They have always been selfish, but they now encompass the lives of people I can’t live without. Every day I wake up next to my wife, I help my children off to school, I greet them upon their return and help them with their homework: those are perfect days. There are many and varied perfect days, but they are always about my family. They are always about my wife and my two curious, furious, dedicated and frustrated children who are SPONGES of knowledge for the world around them. Krysten would know, but it is apparent you don’t: my children are the greatest gift I’ve ever received, and they’re the surest proof I’ve ever received of benign deity in the world.

    I am unhappy when I’m away from my family. I am unhappy when I have to fight for what’s best for them, or argue with nitwits who don’t undertand autism. I am angered by people and circumstances that don’t fully appreciate what autism is and means. I am infuriated by a system that seems indifferent to distinctions that are becoming more and more relevant as time goes by; and that’s not just for me, but American society in general (review the figures of autism diagnoses over the past thirty years).

    And Tom, you just annoy me.

  82. I know this is going to sound cold , but I as a parent with three children in the school system am tired of the small minority getting all the attention and the amount of tax money that goes towards educating some of these children. I do not agree with the way this child was disciplined but having seen the way these children behave over the years I am sure it was a long year of disruptive behavior. Then none of us wants to say anything for fear of looking insensitive at the expense of the majority of children’s education. It is time we stop being so politically correct and take these children on case to case basis. If they are not capable of socialization their PARENTS NOT THE GOVERNMENT are responsible for them.


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