Teacher Accused of Hitting Autistic Student Should Alarm School Officials

danielle finlayWe've all heard stories about adults verbally or physically abusing a kid they didn't know was autistic. If you're not the parent or friend of an autistic child, it's often hard to understand why they act the way they do. But what if you're a special ed teacher working at a school for autistic kids?

A teacher at the Delaware Autistic Program in Newark, Delaware has been accused of hitting a student. Twice. Danielle Finlay was arrested yesterday and charged with two counts of offensive touching. Finlay allegedly hit a 17-year-old student in the head because he was "making noises." When he didn't stop she hit him again in the head, this time with an empty water bottle.


The student wasn't hurt, which is a relief. Well, he wasn't hurt physically. But that couldn't be good for his psyche and his emotional health. His parents are sending him to that school for specialized treatment. I'm sure this is the kind of thing they were hoping to avoid by not sending him to a mainstream school.

I can understand how working with special-needs kids could try your patience but this is still unacceptable. When you sign up to be a special ed teacher, and to work at a school for autistic kids, you should know what kind of challenges to expect.

Maybe Finlay wasn't getting the kind of support she needed to be a good teacher. Or maybe she's just burned out. But this should be a wake-up call to the school leadership. If I were a parent at this school, I'd be a little worried about the rest of the staff. Hopefully Finlay was an exception.

Do you think special education teachers need extra support?


Image via Delaware State Police

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