Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Under Arrest: The New Timeout?

My sister sent me a link today to an article about the arrest of ten-year-old John Benjamin Heygood who has Autism. Reportedly, he scratched and kicked a paraprofessional and a school board member and there was a warrant out for his arrest. You are not misreading this. They actually arrested an Autistic ten-year-old boy! 

The mom recorded the whole thing. The video is heartbreaking. It shows the boy repeatedly crying out that he doesn't know why he is being arrested. Seriously, I'm with him. When did arresting a student become the go-to move for educators? I can understand if he brought a gun to school and began waving it around but really??? 

I went to college twenty years ago and all my professors preached "best fit" for special needs children. Hmmm....at what point did those educators decide the best fit for that kid was in the back of a squad car? You know this seems surreal and perhaps an isolated incident but I think this call the sheriff first and ask questions later is a new trend. I've even seen it at my little school in Oklahoma. 

I am not an expert on Autistic children, but I've taught a few. They don't process the world the way other kids do. Sometimes it's system overload for them and that is the way they deal with it. Walk a mile in their shoes or their parents. Isn't it our responsibility as educators to help those kids cope? Every educator and child has a right to feel safe but how does arresting a child help any situation? Is this the direction we want education to go? Think about it. Given the right circumstances, that could someday be your kid crying for you in the back of that squad car.