Melissa Barton said she is considering legal action after her son’s kindergarten teacher led his classmates to vote him out of class.
After each classmate was allowed to say what they didn’t like about Barton’s 5-year-old son, Alex, his Morningside Elementary teacher Wendy Portillo said they were going to take a vote, Barton said.
By a 14 to 2 margin, the students voted Alex — who is in the process of being diagnosed with autism — out of the class.
This was one of the few instances the whole autism community spoke as one to voice their outrage.
Anyway, time has moved on and today it has been announced that Alex Barton has won $350k damages. Good for him.
And I do believe that. It will be good for him. However, I wonder if it is good for the issue of wider autism advocacy. Whilst I believe it is right that he should win this award I notice that:
The teacher who held the vote, Wendy Portillo, was originally suspended a year without pay. The school board has reversed the decision and has reinstated her.
How does this help future autistic children coming through this teachers classroom and who will be exposed to her (to use a very kind word) strange ideas about what autism is and how best to deal with it?
It’s my opinion that she should’ve continued to be placed under suspension (with or without pay) until she had completed a course in autism awareness. That in fact should’ve been the very _least_ that should’ve happened.
Portillo is an educator. An educator at the prime point in a pupil’s life. The lessons and attitudes she shares with them will stay with them for the rest of their lives in some shape or form. At the point she decided to ridicule young Alex Barton she had an opportunity to teach her class the _right_ way to deal with the issue of behaviour in the wider world and also to provide a ‘teachable moment’ to her pupils about what autism was and the nature of autism. She elected to do neither and instead decided to make a mockery of Alex Barton.
The lesson of this incident must stay with the autism community. Autistics are prime targets for ridicule and bullying – even from adults who should know better. We must strive as a whole community to find ways to ensure this doesn’t become any more common than it already is.