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Autism Aggression and Arrest

Posted by on Apr. 24, 2017 at 1:41 AM
  • 16 Replies

BY: DAVID PERRY

The 10-year-old boy cries, mostly quietly, "I don't want to be touched, I don't like to be touched. ... Please don't touch me," as the officers handcuff him and walk him toward the car.  His mother, who is capturing the exchange on her smartphone camera, tells the officers that he has autism and that he is scared, but they tell her she can't ride in the car with him. The officers close the door, so they can drive a crying child to jail.

If the video shocks you, and it should, imagine how often children with autism or other disabilities are being arrested in situations where there's no video, no parent present and no viral outrage. If teachers, administrators, and cops continue to criminalize children for violating what I have come to call a "cult of compliance," punishing them for acting in ways that come naturally, how can we decriminalize disability?

    At the time of the third incident on November 1, his aide decided to press charges. Recently in a statement, the aide said that he only pressed the charges to "get [John's] mother to realize he needs additional help." He's indicated that he may drop the charges, claiming the lesson has been learned. But the trauma resulting from the arrest, charges or not, won't quickly fade. It is unclear why the 10-year-old was now being arrested, six months after the incident. His mother said that she was not notified of any charges or warrants out for her son's arrest.

    The events that occurred sound bad, of course. No one wants their child to be hit by a classmate, but the job of educators is to assess how to create the least restrictive environment for children with disabilities to learn. Behavioral meltdowns happen, especially for autistic children, but educators can de-escalate tough situations and use their knowledge to avoid escalation in the future.  The fact that John articulated, after the first incident, that he was upset because he felt like he wasn't getting enough help from his teacher's aide should have resulted in a different response -- not repeated calls to the police.

    As the video went viral this week, I called up several experts. Matthew Dietz, a disability rights lawyer in Florida, told me that disabled students being arrested for disciplinary offenses are all too common.
    For example, "I represent a 6-year-old who was arrested and held in a psych unit for 72 hours and placed in seclusion," he said. "So the only thing surprising is it (the Florida incident) was on video."
    Dietz said he is worried about the school-to-prison pipeline. "For many children," he told me, "use of police and detention facilities for minor behavioral issues leads to a life involved with the criminal justice system."

    Finn Gardiner, a graduate student who is autistic and studying at Brandeis University's Heller School, similarly emphasized how common these incidents are.  "Usually," he said, "when you hear about these kinds of cases, (the kids) are black or Latino." He said that disabled youth of all races are disproportionately "more likely to get suspended, likely to be expelled from school, likely to have negative contact with school resource officers (cops in school) and more likely to be sent to 'juvenile justice.'"

    The data backs this up. A Center for Public Integrity study found that although about 14% of all Florida students have disabilities, they make up 19% of all arrests.  However, the state is far from having the worst percentage. Disabled students in Delaware make up nearly 17% of the school system but amount to 34% of arrests. Nearly 20% of New Hampshire students are disabled, but they represent 39% percent of arrests.

    Disabled children of color are especially likely to experience arrest rather than a more appropriate response.
    Samantha Crane, a lawyer and director of public policy for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, said that schools should at least develop "behavior intervention plans" to ameliorate situations like this, although often such plans are too "coercive" in design.

    Why are schools so reliant on law enforcement? Crane told me that she and other disability rights advocates are worried that schools are using law enforcement to sidestep compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was passed to ensure that students with disabilities received appropriate services and education.

    She said, "By referring a kid to law enforcement, the school can bypass IDEA's procedures for suspension and expulsion of kids with disabilities."

    If a behavior is determined to be disability-related, the school must address it as an educational issue. But, she said, "There's no such requirement when referring a kid to law enforcement. Schools are actually telling teachers and paraprofessionals to press charges against students, in order to get the students out of their class."

    John apparently didn't like his aide and threw paper, then it escalated into a full meltdown where he responded violently. That's no excuse for arresting the 10-year-old.

    Lydia Brown, a well-known autistic writer, told me that the teachers must do better.  "You're an adult. Being hit (by paper) is not going to kill you. And if you think that being hit means some kid needs to be handcuffed, you're in the wrong job. No one said teaching was going to be easy. But you don't punish somebody when they're panicking."

    Let the video shock you. But know that this is not an isolated incident. If you look around your school, your neighborhood, and your community, you will find disabled children being criminalized for their inability to follow the often arbitrary "norms" of society. No child should be made a criminal for just being themselves.


    by on Apr. 24, 2017 at 1:41 AM
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    Replies (1-10):
    Ralgj
    by April on Apr. 24, 2017 at 8:10 AM
    This really upsets me. The para pressed charges to prove a point!! That's just nuts.
    MamaLauri
    by Silver Member on Apr. 24, 2017 at 8:18 AM

    Tragic but common. Unfortunately this article offers no real solutions. Telling teachers they need to act more mature will have a small impact when awareness and training is nearly non-existent, motivation is low, and other pressures are high.

    mrswillie
    by Member on Apr. 24, 2017 at 8:36 AM
    Well said.

    Quoting MamaLauri:

    Tragic but common. Unfortunately this article offers no real solutions. Telling teachers they need to act more mature will have a small impact when awareness and training is nearly non-existent, motivation is low, and other pressures are high.

    Gloria1025
    by Silver Member on Apr. 24, 2017 at 11:57 AM

    This story upsets me on many levels....what is a parent supposed to do????

    The law says that the child must attend school (and parents are threatened with truancy etc.)

    Schools are not able to handle students (detentions, suspensions etc.)

    Parents fight for IEPs for appropriate programs and staff

    Even "trained staff" unable to handle situation and calls law enforcement

    In the end - child is the one who loses and all of this makes the situation worse.

    UGH!!!

    I have first hand experience where the behaviorist will instruct the paraprofessional to purposely do things knowing it will cause the child to react in order to "address behavior" and will say they don't care about the child will react because it is just part of a "extinction burst".  I bet in this situation the para knew full well how the child would react to what he did - yet he did it anyway - where is his accountablity in all of this????  I am sure there are other ways he could have handled the situation - he is supposed to be the "trained professional" who obviously can't be trusted......

    judykay3232
    by on Apr. 24, 2017 at 4:03 PM

    IT is time for these kids to have their own schools and not be in with the other children. I have seen these :melt downs; in person and even as an adult being bit kicked by kids is no fun. WHY ,tell me why the kids that are violent like this are even alllowed in regular schools?? I am sorry but I will be damned if my kid has to go to school with kids with problems and get beat up and they have no punishment.They just let it go because of some mental illness?  My friends daughter has a masters in SE and teaches these kids along the other kids and it is a nightmare. They interrupt classes throw things have melt downs and the other kids have to sit there and take this shit and not learn a damn thing at school because of these :interruptions, I am sorry you have these kids but it not my kids responsibility to try to go to school with them and take the chance of being hurt.My friends daughter was beaten badly by a 16 autistic boy and not the first time he had hurt someone but  "we must over look these things?? WHY?? I didn't have this kid,  my child is just trying to learn and she can't because of the interruptions. This woman spent hundred of thousand of dollars to be able to help these kids and she got beat kicked in the head for it..these kids belong in their own schools and  they need to be locked up the very first time they hurt someone else.  These kids have no PUNISHMENTS because their parents do not take care of this crap and the schools get berated for turning them in for violence. I am sorry they do not like being touched but how come when they are violent and touch others that doesn't seem to bother them,???  WHY do the other kids have to walk a tight rope because YOU had these kids?? Why do they have to go to school and take the risk of being beat up kicked or punched?? WHY???? I am sorry you have these kids I am sorry for these kids but I will be damned if my kid is going to go to school with this kind of nonsense going on. The firsts time violence happens with these kids they need to go to a school full time and live there until they have it under control. NO more are they going to be treated as 'special'; they need to be trained and live with other students with the same problems and the other kids should not be afraid to school.  I personally knew a woman who taught SN kids and as the years went on she started teaching high school. This  was in Detroit.  She was attacked after school in the class room by 2 Autistic boys. Even after the plastic surgery  she was unrecognizable and of course there was all kinds of  fuss going on, How dare they arrest these 180 # 6;'1 boys?? They are SN??  How dare they do this and that to them.  They also we NOT black so no boo hooing over race again either. I can use Anitas name now because she is dead, never to enjoy her little grand kids never to see her great grand kids and she devoted her life to helping children and this is what she got.  But that is ok right?? I mean they are SN and should never be punished for this right?? They should be slapped on the wrist at first then holly hell broke lose . The public demanded justice for this woman .  She was also a juvenile police officer who went to bat for these kids.and this is what she got . NO matter if they are SN or not they hurt people they go to jail, things need to change and right now. If they are violent there needs to be a place for them to go to school to learn where the other children are the same as they are. No more sticking these kids into the same classes and blaming the police for arresting them NO MORE.  Our kids should be safe at school. No more boo hooing about my poor kids..my kids matter too and they need to be safe at school and if the SN child is violent having screaming melt downs they do not belong IN public schools They need to be where they can be controlled and the other kids are safe from them. GO off on me all day long I don't care I am tired of it always being about the SN kids and to hell with the other children, The money it cost the tax payers for these kids is -plentiful and there needs to be special schools with hard core teachers to control these SN violent kids we should be  building schools just for these kids. There seems to be no cure for these children?  So what do we do for them when they become adults? Besides support them and make sure they have free medical dental food rent?? What are we going to do to really help them ? Keep on blaming society for them being arrested for violent actions?? What are the plans to help these people when they become adults because we certainly are not doing much to educate them on how to live with other people. WE are allowing them to do violent things to others with NO repercussions and I want to know why this is ok? Why are we not training these kids from day one that they cannot do violent things with  out paying a price for their actions instead of going after the people who have to arrest them and take them where they belong and that is to jail. Just kep making excuses for people because of race religion diseases ??  It needs to stop and quick.  No matter your skin color your religion and anything else you break the law you go to jail and get help there because  these people sure as hell are getting no help on the out side, They are being pampered and the ones who pay for  their actions are the victims and this needs to  stop . There has to be a POINT  somewhere ,,where the personwhob gets beat up is not blamed and the perosnwhob does the violence gets a boo hoo poo me bullshit. It is Justice for all and it sure us not working that way today. The person whol cmiitis teh crime gets a walk while the guy who had his face kicked in gets pushed  to the side ..the VICTIMS do not matter anymore.

    johnny4ever
    by on Apr. 24, 2017 at 5:24 PM

    As a Para I can relate.

    LadyAmaranth
    by Silver Member on Apr. 24, 2017 at 6:31 PM

    As the mother of a violent child, I can sympathize with both parties.
    Just because a child has needs doesn't mean they can beat on anyone, adult or not, and get a free pass. That teaches them nothing either.
    However, if there are better ways to handle that type of violence at school or home...feel free to get those programs on board cuz people talk the talk but I don't see much of the walking the walk.
    I get that they may not fully understand but a parent needs to say that it isn't right to hit teachers, etc too. All needs reinforcement.
    When my son hit his teachers and threw things at them and kids and pushed the secretary into the brick wall...I was fine with them getting the police involved because he needed to know it was not ok to do those things. Around here the school's have resource officers who are police but assigned to schools for when violence, etc occurs. So I dealt with him and he took my son to a "crisis center" for respite. Then he had to exit the school and go to one with a program for behaviorally challenged kids. He eventually went back to his school(elementary, 4th grade at the time) but not til he completed the other school program requirements.
    I am fine with it and although I hate having to get police involved when he gets violent towards me or my other kids, its better than having CPS take them all out of my home cuz I did nothing to try and teach him better.

    mamamedic69
    by Bronze Member on Apr. 24, 2017 at 10:06 PM

    There is so many issues going on with this story. I can understand that the child was violent, but to wait six months. No kid is going to remember the whole scenario and have full understanding. 

    He may need more services but it doesn't seem like the school can handle the services now. The child spoke up and said what he needed and they wouldn't/couldn't help him. What do they offer as a solution? I didn't see anything.

    celestegood
    by Member on Apr. 27, 2017 at 7:08 AM

    This is so sad and frustrating.  It seems to me that they could do much, much better by these kids.  Sickening.

    SamMom912
    by Platinum Member on Apr. 27, 2017 at 10:29 AM
    Ignorant people like you are the reason I stopped participating in CafeMom. I come back occassionally to check on the lovely families in this group.
    Thanks for remibding me why I don't participate.
    Wishing you empathy and compassion.

    Quoting judykay3232:

    IT is time for these kids to have their own schools and not be in with the other children. I have seen these :melt downs; in person and even as an adult being bit kicked by kids is no fun. WHY ,tell me why the kids that are violent like this are even alllowed in regular schools?? I am sorry but I will be damned if my kid has to go to school with kids with problems and get beat up and they have no punishment.They just let it go because of some mental illness?  My friends daughter has a masters in SE and teaches these kids along the other kids and it is a nightmare. They interrupt classes throw things have melt downs and the other kids have to sit there and take this shit and not learn a damn thing at school because of these :interruptions, I am sorry you have these kids but it not my kids responsibility to try to go to school with them and take the chance of being hurt.My friends daughter was beaten badly by a 16 autistic boy and not the first time he had hurt someone but  "we must over look these things?? WHY?? I didn't have this kid,  my child is just trying to learn and she can't because of the interruptions. This woman spent hundred of thousand of dollars to be able to help these kids and she got beat kicked in the head for it..these kids belong in their own schools and  they need to be locked up the very first time they hurt someone else.  These kids have no PUNISHMENTS because their parents do not take care of this crap and the schools get berated for turning them in for violence. I am sorry they do not like being touched but how come when they are violent and touch others that doesn't seem to bother them,???  WHY do the other kids have to walk a tight rope because YOU had these kids?? Why do they have to go to school and take the risk of being beat up kicked or punched?? WHY???? I am sorry you have these kids I am sorry for these kids but I will be damned if my kid is going to go to school with this kind of nonsense going on. The firsts time violence happens with these kids they need to go to a school full time and live there until they have it under control. NO more are they going to be treated as 'special'; they need to be trained and live with other students with the same problems and the other kids should not be afraid to school.  I personally knew a woman who taught SN kids and as the years went on she started teaching high school. This  was in Detroit.  She was attacked after school in the class room by 2 Autistic boys. Even after the plastic surgery  she was unrecognizable and of course there was all kinds of  fuss going on, How dare they arrest these 180 # 6;'1 boys?? They are SN??  How dare they do this and that to them.  They also we NOT black so no boo hooing over race again either. I can use Anitas name now because she is dead, never to enjoy her little grand kids never to see her great grand kids and she devoted her life to helping children and this is what she got.  But that is ok right?? I mean they are SN and should never be punished for this right?? They should be slapped on the wrist at first then holly hell broke lose . The public demanded justice for this woman .  She was also a juvenile police officer who went to bat for these kids.and this is what she got . NO matter if they are SN or not they hurt people they go to jail, things need to change and right now. If they are violent there needs to be a place for them to go to school to learn where the other children are the same as they are. No more sticking these kids into the same classes and blaming the police for arresting them NO MORE.  Our kids should be safe at school. No more boo hooing about my poor kids..my kids matter too and they need to be safe at school and if the SN child is violent having screaming melt downs they do not belong IN public schools They need to be where they can be controlled and the other kids are safe from them. GO off on me all day long I don't care I am tired of it always being about the SN kids and to hell with the other children, The money it cost the tax payers for these kids is -plentiful and there needs to be special schools with hard core teachers to control these SN violent kids we should be  building schools just for these kids. There seems to be no cure for these children?  So what do we do for them when they become adults? Besides support them and make sure they have free medical dental food rent?? What are we going to do to really help them ? Keep on blaming society for them being arrested for violent actions?? What are the plans to help these people when they become adults because we certainly are not doing much to educate them on how to live with other people. WE are allowing them to do violent things to others with NO repercussions and I want to know why this is ok? Why are we not training these kids from day one that they cannot do violent things with  out paying a price for their actions instead of going after the people who have to arrest them and take them where they belong and that is to jail. Just kep making excuses for people because of race religion diseases ??  It needs to stop and quick.  No matter your skin color your religion and anything else you break the law you go to jail and get help there because  these people sure as hell are getting no help on the out side, They are being pampered and the ones who pay for  their actions are the victims and this needs to  stop . There has to be a POINT  somewhere ,,where the personwhob gets beat up is not blamed and the perosnwhob does the violence gets a boo hoo poo me bullshit. It is Justice for all and it sure us not working that way today. The person whol cmiitis teh crime gets a walk while the guy who had his face kicked in gets pushed  to the side ..the VICTIMS do not matter anymore.

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