Arresting Education (Lisa Sedlak)

When I was a kid, students with special needs were in classes without the general student population. In many cases, they were in some trailer away from the main building of the school. That was also before many mental and learning disabilities were diagnosed correctly. Students with Autism, ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, and other illnesses were either thrown into the special education trailers or just considered weird or hyper in the general school population.

Fortunately for kids with special needs the ostracizing has become passé. Teaching now is all about inclusion – including all children in the classroom. It is great for all involved. Healthier children learn empathy and diversity, while the kids with special needs get to be included and just maybe, not bullied as much. My daughter had children in her classes with ADHD, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, and more.

But there is a problem.

When school systems make changes or implement programs, they do it with an all-or-nothing approach. Zero tolerance for drugs in school. Students can get suspended for bringing Midol. Zero tolerance for weapons. Students can get suspended forslicing an apple. Zero tolerance for gangs. Students can be suspended for holding up three fingers in a photo.

It is the same with inclusion.

First, let me start with this sad story from Lynchburg, Virginia. An autistic 11 year old was arrested after having a tantrum at school. He also was charged with felony assault on a police officer after the school resource officer had to restrain the boy and the boy fought back.

It’s not the first time a child has been arrested in school for tantrums.  

These stories break my heart because these kids have a medical condition and their behavior can be violent as a result. But including violent children in with the general school population?

To my knowledge, unless a child has been in juvenile detention in our school system, all children are included in regular classrooms. As I said before, I think that is great for the most part. The problem I have with inclusion is that it includes the violent children.

There is one child who has been in several of my daughter’s elementary school classes. Just recently I learned that they had a safe word between the students and the teachers for when this child would get violent. When the safe word was said, the kids would gather in part of the classroom to avoid being hit by this child. This child has thrown chairs, scissors, and more at teachers and other kids. What makes me even angrier is that NO ONE at the school told me about it. I heard about it from another parent. When I spoke to my daughter about the violence, she told me more. She’s pretty laid back about school, so it didn’t bother her. But why is this being treated as a normal thing?

We teach our kids not to be bullies. We teach them that violence isn’t the answer. We teach our daughters not to accept violent behavior from a partner, yet we all violence in the classroom so we don’t make one child feel excluded? This is crazy!

Doing a quick search, I found our school system isn’t the only one dealing with this issue.

One friend of my daughter’s was actually purposely placed in a class with this child because she calmed him down. That’s a lot of pressure for a nine year old. And what about HER safety and education?

School systems have a tough job. We are parents are terribly irrational at times when it comes to our children. Honestly, that is one of the main reasons I did not go into teaching – the parents. But this all-or-nothing approach school systems take on issues has got to stop. How about taking a common sense approach to issues in our schools? Inclusion is a wonderful concept and has a place in school. But when the actions of one student affects the health and safety of others, it is time to place that child somewhere where he can get the best education based on his needs and where other children and teachers can learn and teach in a safe environment.