This story out of Illinois in which a 9-year-old autistic boy was arrested for assault after an incident at school is as infuriating as it is heartbreaking. It's also a grim example of how ill-equipped our schools and society often are when it comes to dealing with autism.
Brandi Kirchner told KHQA about the incident that happened last week at the school of her son, Roger Parker, Jr. She said he had a "meltdown" during class, and school officials sent him to a "special area" to calm down. It didn't work, and after he climbed a dividing wall, the police were called.
As the officer pulled the young boy from the wall, the boy struggled and flailed, injuring his eye on the divider. At some point he reportedly kicked the police officer in the nose. Kirchner said the officer then pulled her son to the floor, handcuffed him, and took him to the police station. The traumatic event didn't end there.
She told the news station:
I asked to see my son. Forty-five minutes later, after they told me he did not need a parent present because he was under arrest and not being interrogated. He was fingerprinted, photographed, and booked for aggravated battery to a police officer.
He is 9! He has autism! How was this allowed to happen? Kirchner says there was a plan in place as to how to handle her son if there was an outburst, and it was not followed. Of course for the safety and well-being of other students and the boy himself, something had to be done, but there had to be a better way. And to charge him for assault afterward is baffling.
Kirchner has since removed her son from the public school system and is looking into home school options. I would too if something like this happened to my child, but it's too bad that she has to do so.
Time and again we hear stories like this and worse in which students with autism and other special needs are being mistreated in our nation's schools. I don't doubt that it's a challenge for teachers and schools to meet the diverse and sometimes extreme needs of these children, as it is for their families as well, and I know resources are limited. But we've got to do a better job. With as many as 1 in 88 children being diagnosed with autism, it's a big issue, and incidents like this are a big problem.
Do you find it outrageous that police would charge a 9-year-old autistic boy with assault for this kind of incident?
Image via peter castleton/Flickr