Is soaking the crayons of an autistic child in hot sauce the best way to teach him to stop eating them? Probably not, but neither should it have cost a teacher her job ... or so says a Judge who recently ruled on the case of a Florida teacher who did just that.
In February, special needs teacher Lillian Gomez was fired from her job at Sunrise Elementary School in Kissimmee after she soaked an autistic boy's Play-Doh and crayons in hot sauce in an attempt to get him to stop eating them. She was also accused of force feeding them to him, but she has denied that.
According to WFTV, the school has spent more than $50,000 in attorney fees fighting to keep her out of the classroom, but she hasn't backed down in her quest to get her job back. Friday, a judge recommended that she be allowed to go back to teaching at the school, and parents are outraged.
If she force-fed the student anything that would be one horrific, inexcusable thing. Assuming she just soaked the crayons so that the boy would get a little spicy reminder to keep them out of his mouth, however, doesn't outrage me so much.
I remember being in first grade when a boy wouldn't stop sucking his thumb. The nun teaching the class would repeatedly take his thumb and dip it into his jar of paste. He just started eating it off, so it wasn't very effective, but it was her attempt to help learn a lesson as gag-worthy as it was for the rest of us to watch. I doubt it scarred him for life, and I don't really see this hot sauce incident as much different than that.
Were they model teaching practices? Certainly not, but as far as I can tell neither were done out of anything but good intentions. If that autistic boy had choked to death on a crayon, I'm sure we'd be outraged that the teacher was letting him eat the crayons.
Did she make a bad choice? Absolutely, but I don't think it's a choice that should cost her the job. Mostly, I think it's yet another wakeup call as to how much work there is needed to improve the way we educate autistic children and help those who teach and provide services to them so that they are better equipped to handle their challenging jobs.
Do you think this teacher should get her job back?
Image via Monica's Dad/Flickr