“Melissa Barton said she is considering legal action after her son’s kindergarten teacher led his classmates to vote him out of class.

“After each classmate was allowed to say what they didn’t like about Barton’s 5-year-old son, Alex, his Morningside Elementary teacher said they were going to take a vote, Barton said.

“By a 14 to 2 margin, the class voted him out of the class.

“Barton said her son is in the process of being diagnosed with Aspberger’s, a type of high-functioning autism…

“Alex has had disciplinary issues because of his disabilities, Barton said. The school and district has met with Barton and her son to create an individual education plan, she said. His teacher, Wendy Portillo, has attended these meetings, she said.

“Barton said after the vote, Alex’s teacher asked him how he felt.

“He said, ‘I feel sad,’ she said.

“Alex left the classroom and spent the rest of the day in the nurse’s office, she said…

“Alex hasn’t been back to school since then, and Barton said he won’t be returning. He starts screaming when she brings him with her to drop off his sibling at school.

“Barton said Alex is reliving the incident.

“They said he was ‘disgusting’ and ‘annoying,’ Barton said.

“‘He was incredibly upset,’ Barton said. ‘The only friend he has ever made in his life was forced to do this.'”

As a former teacher, I certainly know the challenges that teachers often face, and I also realize how incidents which seem innocent and humorous in the classroom can sound ominous or harmful when relayed second or third or fourth hand to administrators or parents. That being said, if this news article is accurate, there’s no defense of what Wendy Portillo did in humiliating this little boy (pictured).

A few thoughts:

1) Sometimes a child will act up or act very strangely in class and the teacher may get in trouble later for disciplining the child or mishandling the situation because the child, unbeknownst to the teacher, had special needs or special issues. In this case, however, Wendy Portillo knew all about the special problems this boy had– she had attended meetings where the boy’s disability was discussed and plans were made on how to help him.

2) It is true that teachers are human like anybody else and can lose their temper in a difficult situation like anybody else. However, what Wendy Portillo did went far, far beyond losing her temper. This was hardly a short, quickly regretted outburst, but instead prolonged psychological abuse of the little boy.

3) It is quite true that one disruptive student, or out-of-control student, or special needs student who is unable to control himself, can disrupt an entire classroom. While I make no excuses whatsoever for what Wendy Portillo reportedly did, it is also possible that she was supposed to receive more support services from the school and did not receive them.

For example, perhaps the boy was supposed to go to a specialist a couple hours a day for help. This is good for the boy, obviously, and also relieves some of the pressure on the teacher. It is not uncommon for schools to arrange this type of special services and then for the special services to be intermittent, or canceled due to funding cuts or personnel changes.

I experienced this once during the year I taught fourth grade. I had a boy in my class — a very nice, good natured boy who I liked — who did not know how to read. How he was in the fourth grade and why he was there when he did not know how to read is a good question.

Anyway, he received special services — for an hour or two a day he would be taken out of my classroom and would go to a specialist who would help him learn how to read. It was a good arrangement — the boy began improving, and I had at least a couple hours a day where I did not have to pacify a boy who was largely clueless as to what was going on in class because he could not read.

After about a month or six weeks of this, you can guess what happened — the reading class was eliminated, perhaps due to budget cuts, and the boy was dumped back in my class, making things more difficult for everyone involved–the boy, the other students, and myself. It is possible that something like this occurred with Wendy Portillo.

The full article is St. Lucie teacher has students vote on whether 5-year-old can stay in class (TCPalm.com, 5/23/08)–thanks to Chris. a reader, for sending it.

Glenn Sacks, www.GlennSacks.com

[Note: If you or someone you love is faced with a divorce or needs help with child custody, child support, false accusations, Parental Alienation, or other family law or criminal law matters, ask Glenn for help by clicking here.]

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