Friday, May 14, 2010

The World Gone Crazy!

The story describes a middle-school boy who drew a picture of two stick figures. One of the stick figures is the student holding a gun and pointing it at the other stick figure who is labeled as the teacher. The mother of this 14 year-old boy claims that he has autism and a documented I.Q. of around 75. If this is true, then he most certainly should be in the special education system and have an Individual Education Plan. The school is refusing to confirm anything about his case, so at this point we only have the information from the mother. If her statements are true, then I have no idea what this school system is doing!? The school district has this boy scheduled for a "tribunal" and charged with terrorism! Apparently the drawing goes against the districts "zero tolerance" policy. What are people thinking!!??

So, we are to believe that charging a 14 year-old with terrorism charges is going to help the situation or somehow prevent others from drawing pictures!? Obviously the student was upset with his teacher about something and if he has autism, then probably lacks the ability to appropriately express his feeling. He also might be simply drawing something that he saw on TV! Who knows! That is the whole problem with Autism Spectrum Disorder, of course. We often do not understand why the stereotypical behaviors, verbalizations or acting out are occurring.

It would be nice if school administrators with their misguided, although well-intentioned, rules (i.e., zero tolerance) would step aside and allow the trained therapists and diagnosticians handle cases like this. Now that there is all this publicity it will probably make the situation worse and this student's education and learning will end up taking a back seat on the priority list.

I hope you will share your thoughts about this. I am obviously a little outraged, but maybe there are other circumstances we do not yet know about. It should make us all, however, try to think critically about the rules and standards in our public schools. District superintendents get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in salary. I question their value when they lack the courage to take a look at individual cases instead of deferring to blanket rules and standards.

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  1. Daniel, all great questions. Seems odd that they would even think that an individual with an IQ of 75 would be able to think in terms of terrorism and plan something. I guess it could happen but it definitely seems odd. I personally don't feel out of school suspensions or zero tolerance is the answer. Why are we not taking these moments for teaching moments?!

  2. I couldn't agree more! Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. At a similar age I believed I would happily see some of my teachers dead. However, I would have been shocked had anything actually happened to any of them. School was, and for many children still is, an adversarial, them-and-us environment. (I also fantasised about arriving at school on a Monday morning to find it burned to the ground. It never occurred to me to draw the scenario but that is neither here nor there - it was still a 'thought-crime'. I never struck a match.)

    As a teacher I might feel upset to come across a crude drawing of me being shot. I like to think I would see it as an indication that I needed to work at my relationship with this particular student. I may ultimately decide that I couldn't teach the child and follow the necessary procedures but I believe the onus is on the teacher to try to make it work.

    What I am reminded most of in your post are the Salem witch trials and the McCarthy era hysteria. Or perhaps I am just lacking in imagination and everyone who hates school really is a potential terrorist.


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