It's difficult enough to send our children off to school, into the care of others and out of our sight, but for parents of children with special needs, it can take even more of a leap of faith. Add in tragedies like that of Sage Rollins, a 10-year-old boy with autism who was made to sit in a cardboard box during class, and it becomes downright frightening.
According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, one day Sage, who has Asperger's Syndrome and is in a mainstream classroom, asked to take a pair of scissors to school. When his mother questioned what they were for, he said he needed to cut a hole in the box he had to sit in at school. He said his teacher sent him there and to a utility closet when she got mad at him.
His mother, Kim Rollins, was understandably outraged, and an investigation was launched. The teacher in question said the box -- about the size of a large television -- was provided for Sage as a place of refuge, so he could escape when he became overstimulated. Investigators "failed to find any evidence of criminal wrongdoing," and the case was closed. The school, however, has placed the teacher on leave and is conducting its own investigation, as well they should.
I don't purport to know this teacher's intentions, but even if this box was used with entirely good intentions, boys don't belong in boxes in a classroom. If Sage was feeling overwhelmed in the classroom and needed some respite, she should have consulted with the mother to find a solution that wasn't so degrading. Most importantly, the boy himself didn't feel like it was something done to help him, instead he felt like he was being punished.
While no one is saying she forced him into the box, and he even admits he liked going there sometimes, that doesn't really matter. As Ron Leaf of Autism Partnership told the paper: "If he can get away from the person who is creating a meltdown for him, he would run and hide in the dryer. So the fact that he thinks the closet is a good thing, it means nothing to me."
Sage has been transferred to another classroom as of now, but overall, I think his story provides such a sad example of how children with autism and other disabilities are often mistreated in our nation's schools. Time and again we see cases of neglect, mistreatment, and worse -- some intentional, some unintentional, but nonetheless wrong. It's heartbreaking; it's infuriating; and it has to stop.
Has your child ever been mistreated in school?
Image via Beverly & Pack/Flickr