PD*Poll: Students vote autistic 5-year-old out of class

Filed under: Big Kids, In The News, Day Care & Education, Special Needs

It sounds like somebody has been watching too many reality shows. Namely, Wendy Portillo, a teacher at Morningside Elementary in Port St. Lucie, Florida. She turned her kindergarten classroom into a cruel version of Survivor by allowing her students to vote a fellow student out of the class.

The banished child is 5-year-old Alex Barton, who is in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning type of autism. Not uncommon to his condition, Alex has had some behavioral issues and as a result, spends a lot of time in the principal's office.

After returning to Ms. Portillo's classroom after a recent visit with the principal, his teacher decided to punish him with humiliation. She had Alex stand at the front of the class while his fellow students listed off what they didn't like about him. After informing him that they found him "disgusting" and "annoying", the class was instructed to vote on whether or not Alex should be allowed to stay in the class. By a 14 to 2 margin, they voted him out.

Alex hasn't been back to school since then, but his mother, Melissa Barton, says he is still reliving the incident. The night after it happened, she says she overheard him saying "I'm not special" over and over.

Incredibly, an investigation by the state attorney's office concluded that Alex's treatment did not meet the criteria for emotional child abuse and no charges have been filed. I don't know what the criteria for emotional abuse is, but if this doesn't meet it, what does? My heart breaks for all the children involved in this incident.

Should the school be charged with emotional abuse?
Yes; what happened in that classroom was clearly abusive.53880 (93.2%)
No; the teacher was clearly at her wits end with this kid.3908 (6.8%)

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.