A school bus attendant in New York has been arrested for breaking the arm of a 5-year-old boy with autism while trying to discipline him on the bus.
According to Connor's mom, the boy was doing something any child -- with or without autism -- often does: He was swinging his feet and kicking the seat in front of him.
The bus driver, Richard Mason, 39, allegedly became upset by his behavior and, according to police, attempted to discipline Connor by grabbing his arm and pulling it behind his back. Connor's mother says doctors think the use of excessive force and being "tied down" explains why his abdomen was also bruised. She claims that her child was so scared he urinated in his pants, a thought that easily breaks the heart of every parent reading this.
But Mason says he had to restrain Connor because the child was pounding his hand against the window and the aide feared he would shatter the glass. I'm guessing there were no cameras on the bus, which is going to make this case really difficult to judge.
I'm going to reserve judgment until we learn more about this case, but I can't get one burning question out of my brain: teachers in general education classes would be burned at the stake for putting their hands on children in order to discipline them. For better or worse, they're more or less told to let children kill each other before stepping in. I don't agree with this, nor do most of my teacher friends, but I understand the legal reasons behind it.
Taking this approach in a class with students with special needs is not always possible because some students can't control their physical reactions to situations that upset them and they may try to hurt themselves. But special education teachers and paraprofessionals are -- or damn well should be -- trained to handle the population they teach in a way that both prevents problems from occurring and keeps kids safe when things do happen. We don't know the details yet about whether Mason was trained to handle students with autism, but the fact that this is even a question is a problem. All school aides who deal with children with special needs should be provided the same training as teachers and paras.
What do you think about this case?
Image via Bill McChesney/Flickr