22 April 2009

The Locked Closet.

“The biggest loophole is the outright lie that these rooms are only being used to help the children,” Ms. Vance said.

This article deals with the idea that schools deserve more money so that they can handle potentially difficult situations. I mean, their employees are the ones who designed and bought the locked closets with public money. And they've been using public money to lock the kids in there for years. So let's give them more money! They've been handling what they have already so well...

Of course, there are no calls to fire all staff who have used these "timeout" rooms when they're not completely, absolutely and irrefutably necessary.

Of course, people understand where a child who has been bullied by other kids and called names eventually calls one back. Or where a child whose peers are taunting him might eventually smack another kid upside the head. There are *consequences* for these behaviours, especially under these "zero tolerance" insanities, but everyone understands that when a kid acts out that there's a reason behind it. Usually staff will at least ask the child what happened that he felt he had to say, "I hate you" to the other kid on the playground or whatever.

Um, unless you're dealing with a handicapped child. See, with a handicapped child, all the rules are different because unless the child has a PHYSICAL disability, teachers expect the kid to act like everyone else. We make allowances for PHYSICAL disabilities. When we see Stevie Wonder rock on stage, we know that his rocking helps him get a feel for his surroundings due to his blindness. The autistic kid hiding under the desk, though, well, that's just disobedience. Sit up in your chair or I'll call the principal.

That's what happened to Elf. The kid is autistic. He was barely six, *barely*. He was overwhelmed in a class of **27** kids and one very old teacher who should have retired long ago. Elf would be upset and overwhelmed and trying to recoup the only way he knows how. But, no. Here comes the principal because Elf disobeyed by not snapping out of his autism, sitting at the desk right next to the other children who are touching him in this room full of distractions... wow. Principal tells him to come out NOW or else.

Or else happens.

Principal drags the kid out and Elf runs away. He runs away! Closet time. We don't run away at school. Then we're surprised when Elf panics and the behaviour escalates. We're surprised that Elf hates school and starts to act up more. We're surprised when Elf doesn't bother hiding under the desk anymore but plans ahead for crowded hallway times or places where the teacher is otherwise occupied and bolts for the school exit.

Sure, it would have been a little distracting to let the Elf sit under the desk, but most other kids aren't really going to follow suit because it's cool. I've heard the argument that if you let ONE kid "get away" with using his favourite marker on a test or sit in a beanbag chair, that EVERYONE will want to. Well, they might want to, but if you tell them that the kid has a disability and explain his need for personal space to calm down, most kids will get it. After all, they've seen the freakout sessions before. Children can learn to get along with differently-abled peers, but I'm not so sure about the adults.

G, for example, needs to walk about in the hallway every now and then so he can refocus. I don't see the other children in the class clamouring for their own "G is pacing" special pass to display so they can walk back and forth in the hallway for three minutes. The only people not getting that are the teachers.

G's social studies teacher is, well, I dislike him. Social studies used to be G's fave subject. Now he hates it. The teacher has written things like "rebellious and defiant" on his report card. He makes snide comments about how HE wishes he could take a break any time he stinkin' feels like it in the hall and HE wishes he could have accomodations like G.

I understand the man is old and has been teaching since America was a colony. I get that he probably didn't sign on to handle autistic children and kids with mental and emotional handicaps way back in 1737. I get that. But tough crap. Retire if you don't like it. It's your job now.

Though I would right along with him that it shouldn't be. I would argue that, for the sake of the educational establishment AND the children with handicaps, that the federal funding for helping handicapped children with services NOT go to the public schools. As Ange would say while showing you a picture of a locked closet, "Does this look like the 'least restrictive' educational environment to you?" Me neither.

Somehow, though, the NEA wants us to all believe that if we throw a big bunch-o billions o' bucks at the problem, we can TRAIN teachers to become wonderfully sensitive to the needs of handicapped students. They'll learn about how to use the "time-out" rooms so that they are not used as punishment anymore. Because "time-out" shouldn't signify punishment to your mind. It's helping the child just as a really hard swat on the head would knock some sense into him.

(Oooh, wouldn't THAT be a cheap solution!?? I shudder to think.)

Staff that were once irresponsive to the needs of disabled children will suddenly, through this magical training provided at big-time taxpayer expense, see the error of their ways, repent, and defuse tense situations with the secret "open sesame" words they learned in these workshops:

"Advocates, as well as educational organizations, agree that more training is necessary to cut down on the use of restraints and seclusion in school.

“Probably the most frustrating thing we hear is that people at the local level don’t feel like they have an alternative,” said Ms. Trader of TASH. “We would like to get to a place where there’s not one teacher who says that, and where the standard is that people know what to do to support kids who have behavior issues. It would be inexcusable if an elementary school teacher didn’t know how to teach literacy, but it is excusable that they don’t know how to deal with behavior.”

"Patricia K. Ralabate, a senior policy analyst for the National Education Association, said the union is working on a document that will walk teachers through techniques to defuse difficult situations."

YES! The NEA is totally, absolutely on the side of the children and wouldn't be... oh, I don't know... representing their members and looking for more money for public education?

More and more, I'm starting to think that public ed. is a nice theory, but it does NOT serve the needs of handicapped children. Go read some of the teacher blogs and see how they write about these kids. I dare you to spend a day reading posts about how deeply these folks care about the students. So much so that they value their privacy enough to retell behaviour horror stories in detail. So much so that they wish these kids would go away. So much so that they are critical of the parents and/or administration in their posts.

Just go look sometime. I'd provide a few links, but a lot of these people have friends and one of them might just figure out who I am and where I live. I still have two older children in public school (various reasons, another post) and these people and their lawyer$ scare me. They really, truly scare me.

5 comments:

  1. The more I read about what they did to your elf and that room the more it is disturbing to me. I never heard of teachers locking up kids in closet's. until I found your site.. Why would anyone think its a good idea to put a small child in a small locked room. OK have a Time Out spot to let them regroup if they get too overwhelmed. But why does it have to be locked.. I so far have never heard that happening here in NY, but it has also been 10 years this year that I graduated..

    Maybe it's the child lover in me, but it just does not seem right..

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  2. So much "not good" going on.

    I think we've all had bad teachers--I know I have. They can really cause problems even for us "normal" kids. ...hmm... or maybe I'm the only one who ever had problems because I had a homeschool background... maybe I should have just learned to keep quite and not think...

    ~Luke

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  3. Mrs.C,


    I have the same problem in TN. My son is also autistic and has been locked in closets be highly trained special ed teachers! ha! I have contact everyone I thought would or could help.. They won't. What else can I do? I am homeschooling my third grader too. It just isn't fair though these kids deserve to be able to attend school and be normal too.
    What else can we do????????

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