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Simon Steele

10 year old autistic boy arrested--failure of school? Police power gone bad? Not sure what this is...

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Here is the story . Now I linked the partial Yahoo story that will take you to the WP article for a reason. The Yahoo articles are vitriolic.

Basically, an autistic kid had a physical altercation with a paraprofessional, though the details of how significant that altercation are not discussed. I guess the para pressed charges? I don't know. The kid didn't come back to school since October, and basically, when the school asked him to come back this spring for state testing, they had him arrested. Keep in mind he's 10 and is autistic. This is unbelievable to me. I worked in a middle school for eight years, and I saw the culture of school really changing in that time. A bit of this culture was discussed in the thread about guns--after Sandy Hook we pushed resource officers into schools, and those officers are quick to arrest as that's all they seem to know how to do. The administration likes to bring them in for a "scare," I think, and situations immediately escalate. The last four years of teaching, I stopped referring students to the office except under extreme situations. I took care of all classroom problems "in-house" so to speak--I guess I didn't fear this--a student going to jail, but I feared for students in some way.

An argument I see is "well, kids can't assault people." True enough, but first, kids typically don't assault people. This specific child has special needs, and the school environment is rarely ideal for students with significant needs. Training on how to handle autism is marginal, at best. We had a wonderful paraprofessional at my school who worked only with our autistic students, and she would never "punish" or discipline in the manner described in the article. It almost seemed a public shaming.

The fact we can even put kids in jail in "the Land of Free" is utterly reprehensible to me. I have always said I love this country, and I will stick with it and try to push for positive change, but things have gotten so off track. And I don't mean in the last one-hundred days. These issues are systemic--ingrained, for as long as I have been alive, and I don't see how to excise them.

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Involving police in such a situation makes absolutely no sense to me. Now, my students are a bit older - 13-16 years old - but we do have just about everyone in school, including autists, and I cannot see that we would call the police at such an incident. 

I guess my reaction would be to either move the whole class (we do have a free classroom, normally), or call his parents. Probably both. 

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There are so many things wrong with this scenario it's hard to process. The school collaborated with the police to have this kid arrested instead of going to his home? What the hell is the time difference between the incident and the arrest? The kid was arrested? He spent the night in jail? This whole thing makes zero sense to me and not once was common sense used in assessing this situation.

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I work as a mental health field and my clients are frequently in this situation.

With that said the charges aren't all that unusual nowadays, but most of the time it is ensuring that "something" is being done.  An actual arrest after there is no danger is way over the top.  First and foremost you won't scare the kid into being not having autism.  I could squint my eyes and see it if the arrest happened at the time of the incident because the child was so dysregulated as he remained unsafe to himself and others.  Even then, Jail is an option of last resort.

ETA:  My off the cuff thought is that this is a pattern of behavior that has been going on for a while and the school/law enforcement is getting tired of addressing the issue.  This is just based upon prior experience and not necessarily the case here.

Edited by Guy Kilmore

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