Saturday, January 17, 2009

Does this look like a hardened criminal?

Increasingly, we are seeing educators and parents using police to handle their discipline problems with kids. The latest example comes from Sandpoint, Idaho, where 8-year-old Evelyn Towry, who is autistic, was arrested, handcuffed and hauled off on a battery charge because she got out of hand and combative when teachers refused to allow her to wear a special sweatshirt her mother had made for her to a school assembly. Evelyn was put in a separate classroom, apparently didn’t like that and got into a confrontation with teachers. I understand that educators are afraid to put their hands on children these days for fear of lawsuits, and that’s a legitimate concern, but was it really necessary to arrest an 8-year-old? And it’s not just schools that are taking this extreme and unnecessary approach. It’s not uncommon at the paper for us to hear on the police scanner a call for an officer to come to a home because a parent can’t control his or her young child. The police have real work to do. Supervise your own kids. And, at the risk of being called a child abuser, I’ll state that there are times when I believe a swift swat on the backside can do wonders when it comes to correcting improper behavior.



Blogger PRIguy said...

Many autistic people are "tactile defensive." That means that they are very sensitive to things like the way their clothes feel on them, the way food feels in their mouths, and most often, having others touch them. This is often misunderstood, and in this case ignored. This is why many of them don't like to be hugged - and as a parent of an autistic daughter, that's heartbreaking.

As a parent on the inside, if you will, I can tell you that the parents of this girl most likely gave her that special sweatshirt so that she felt comfortable and calm, in other words, so that she'd be well behaved for the assembly. (I'm assuming that the photo is of the girl and the sweatshirt.) Who among us, as parents or recalling our own childhood, did NOT have a favorite thing to wear? My son wore red rubber boots everywhere from the time he was two until about three and a half. My daughter, now 22, is tactile defensive and will wear only two different pairs of jeans, and only a select variety of shirts.

The school and the police in particular screwed up royally on this one. First, the school's special education department should be aware of at least some rudimentary facts about handling children with autism. I can assure you that all of the things they did to her only exacerbated the situation, and when she had enough, she reacted. The teachers should have known that. All they did was terrify that girl. And I just can't believe that any cop would be so stupid as to arrest this girl.

I'm a big advocate of personal responsibility. In this case, I'm going to assume that the parents were trying to make things easy for their daughter and the school. I also despise frivolous lawsuits over hurt feelings, but in this case, I think they ought to file as many lawsuits on as many people and institutions as possible.

Brant, regarding the swat on the butt, a man who saw me give my unruly son a whack on his tail once said, "If you don't spank them society will." Amen.

January 18, 2009 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I have such a softspot for autistic and otherwise disabled children... while interacting with them is often frustrating, they are often the epitome of innocence. When they are happy, they are practically enchanted... when sad, they are devastated. It's such a pure outpouring of emotion... not put through the filter of how they think others perceive them. If I could wave a magic wand, that little girl would be able to live her entire life in the cow shirt... blissfully unaware of the evils of the world... :-(

January 18, 2009 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

You said it, ellipses!

January 19, 2009 at 10:30 AM  
Anonymous dg said...

This is certainly one of those stories that begs to have the other side told but it never will be. The parents can say whatever they want but the District is forced to protect the privacy of the student. I grabbed this from the ABC News site:

Bonner County Police Lt. Ror Lakewold said the police report indicated the child -- who he declined to name because of her age -- "hit, kicked and spit on teachers."

Lakewold said there was also a complaint that the child grabbed a teacher in a "sexually sensitive place," not in a sexual way, but to cause pain.

Towry said that complaint stemmed from Evelyn pinching her teacher's breast, but she believes Evelyn wasn't aiming for any spot in particular. She was just fighting to be let loose.

"Teachers and the principal wished to pursue charges because they felt there were ongoing problems and this was the only way to resolve it," Lakewold said.

But Towry said her daughter thinks she got into so much trouble simply because she didn't want to take off her cow costume.

There has already been some speculation on this story so let me add some of my own. Tell me there isn’t a history of violence and defiance from this student in school. I'm sure there have been many IEP meetings with administration and the special education department, they're at the end of their rope. They have how many other kids' needs to deal with?

A student won’t stay in a room so you just let her walk out, maybe even outside? What is the administration to do? Shouldn’t a teacher have the right to expect to go to work and not be spit upon, kicked and hit? There is also an obligation to protect the other students in school. Do you want this student with a hair trigger sitting next to your child?

And then there’s the father who says his daughter thinks she got into all of this trouble because she didn’t take off her cow costume. Give me a break. He’s not doing his daughter any favors with that attitude.

I certainly feel for those with disabilities but can’t see subjecting others to these tirades and then defending their actions. PRIguy says he's a big advocate of personal responsibility. Does it also apply to the student in this case?

January 19, 2009 at 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just another case of someone wanting entitlement and special treatment. That's why I favor school uniforms. I'll rsik the occasional outbreak of Hitler youth for order's sake.

January 20, 2009 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger Richard Dirt said...

wait...that, that photo?

- -


January 21, 2009 at 1:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What needs to be done is to return control of the classroom to the teacher, and have government, N.E.A., N.T.A., P.T.A., stay the hell out of the schools. If this autistic child was attending school in a normal classroom setting, then this needs to be eliminated, also. Teachers have a difficult time, today, with the many issues that they face, daily, and we must free them of these worthless, time-consuming, non-productive issues.

Give the control back to the teachers, PERIOD.


January 27, 2009 at 4:40 PM  

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