When disability is criminalized and punished. Adult Bullies in our schools.

I always feel stumped, at a loss for words and deeply saddened when I first see one of these stories.    After all, it’s 2015 now, though it’s half over.  For some reason I keep expecting that we’re ALL learning as the years go by, but that isn’t the case. Especially those in positions where learning is critical to human and civil rights.  I really shouldn’t be surprised anymore.

One of the latest cases to remind me of this was featured by the ACLU recently, that actually got a little bit of media coverage as well.


This happened in Kentucky with a School Resource Officer(SRO), which essentially a cop in school.  The amount of SROs in schools have increased dramatically, mainly in response to school shootings. SROs are there to prevent gun violence and receive specialized training in simulated classroom environments.

I briefly touched on SROs last year in my “Into the Disability Underworld” post, though I see I’ve got some dead links there now.  Needless to say, what disability advocates feared would happen as a result of more SROs, is happening.

As noted by the ACLU, the boy had a history of trauma and was put in handcuffs for disability/ADHD and post traumatic related behavior.  In other words, it was not pre-meditated intentional misbehavior. The same goes for the young girl(not shown in the video) the officer also cuffed in the same way for the same reasons.

This is what stophurtingkids.com is about preventing, Restraint and Seclusion.  We’re trying to get national laws that apply to ALL states.

However, Kentucky already has State laws against this kind of restraint, they were rated 11th out of all 50 states as of 2014 as you can see here: http://projects.propublica.org/graphics/mapping-state-policies-on-student-restraint

Also note that state laws for Restraint and Seclusion have overall improved in 2015, however those laws are not being followed or enforced and it still takes place in all 50 states, I don’t have a link to the more current data handy.

You can find guidelines on the use of Restraint and Seclusion from Kentucky’s Department of Education within this page: http://education.ky.gov/specialed/excep/pages/use-of-restraints-and-seclusions.aspx

The guidelines are pretty solid, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.  Not everyone seems to understand why those guidelines exist, it’s far less likely they’ll be following without understanding.

I’m willing to bet most people can at least remember an instance in which a child(if not themselves) was being told to sit still and concentrate.  But what if that wasn’t right for everyone?

Take for example this recent study:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150417190003.htm

I love to see studies that bring actual understanding to the table, that is useful right now, as opposed to other forms of research that while interesting, won’t improve anyone’s lives.  It’s nice to be able to look back at my childhood and see where that information could have made a difference.  Helps explain why I was able to do well with homework, but struggled in the school environment.  At home, not only was away from sensory bombardment, but I also had the freedom to move around as much as I needed to.  I was extraordinarily hyper, as in bouncing off the walls, climbing everything, extremely impulsive, unable to sit still, an uncontrollable hyper child.  Prior to PTSD that is.  There were therapists that refused to work with me, though I was too young to remember any specifics.

Perhaps if the behavior intervention facility(not ABA in this case but Attachment therapy, but still a form of modification, destruction of free will) had possessed understanding of Angelica Arndt’s disability/difference, she would still be alive today, instead of being restrained to until death in a “cool down” room because she wouldn’t sit perfectly still.

It used to be that we believed ADHD to be a chemical imbalance, but we know better now at least.  Sadly it can take a long time for that knowledge to reach the places it needs to.

So, essentially, we’re criminalizing disability and punishing differences.  That cop kept talking to the young boy about consequences.  Consequences are for intentional misbehavior, consequences are for crimes, not for being disabled.  Moving awkwardly is not threatening.

I don’t doubt a child might get upset and throw something out of frustration, when you’re doing everything you can to concentrate and and being told you’re not and being punished. That is maddening.

What the officer did might as well have been the school bully stuffing a kid into the locker, except for one vital difference.  When another child is the bully, we at least know that children don’t know any better, that they’re not matured enough to know better.  That makes it much easier to forgive.  But this is profoundly different, because it is coming from an adult.  I know from personal experience how profoundly that can affect the rest of your life, when the adults that are supposed to have your best interest in mind are doing you harm.

So what’s the alternative?  Well, here’s what inclusive schools look like.





Pedal desks, standing desks, leg swings, bouncy seats or how about a teacher that allows the student to get up and walk around the classroom as long as they’re still focusing.  It’s not perfect, but far better than criminalizing disability.

This is what we need to see, more room to be different.  I can’t remember the exact stat, but something like 1 in 13 children are on psychiatric medication today and one has to wonder how much of it is out of attempts to normalize and conform “behavior” without understanding it’s function.

Unfortunately when you mix untrained cops with students with disabilities, it can spell disaster.

That is the case for Kayleb, an 11 year-old(now 12) Autistic 6th grader who was fast tracked in what we call the School To Prison Pipeline.

On a bad day, he kicked a trash can, an SRO saw this and filed a disorderly conduct charge.  A couple weeks later, for whatever reason Kayleb was supposed to be the last student to leave class, the same officer then grabbed him and he attempted to push away.  This lead to him being slammed to the ground and being charged with assaulting a police officer and another charge of disorderly conduct.

Here is the petition and a couple articles on about his case.



It wouldn’t surprise me if officers in these cases were just following “standard protocol” or if they did receive training, it wouldn’t shock me if it came from radical behaviorists and not groups like TASH.
What cops and radical behaviorists have in common is the absolute demand for compliance and the use of punishment for noncompliance.
To think, at that age I was fleeing to the school nurses office to get away from sensory bombardment.  I have no doubt it would not have gone well if an SRO was the one trying to get me to return to class.

The good news is it does sound like there has been a call for reforms that you can read about here:

However, I hope these reforms will help those that have already become victims of this system.  Good luck getting accountability from the schools and police, too many families of children with disabilities are forced to fight school system for an appropriate education.  I strongly advise all IEPs include measures against Restraint and Seclusion, parental notification of everything that happens, including bullying, etc.  That is if you’re not one of the families fighting to get the school to even follow an IEP.   Often schools will seek to blame the parent for their child’s behavior, which is rather reminiscent of the horribly damaging and debunked stigma that Autism is caused by the “refrigerator mother”.

I certainly hope the de-escalation tactics they choose will involve patience and space, and not surrounding and use of physical force.

It still amazes me when I hear BCBAs(Board Certified Behavioral Analyst) talking about forcing eye contact so casually and then training parents to force eye contact, using physical force, not taking no for an answer, etc.

Like others, I also get excited when Neuro-Science can validate Autistic sensory processing issues as more than just something thats “just in your head”.


This is where the spectrum can vary greatly, because you’re dealing with the intensity of all the different senses as well as how much gets filtered/dampened for each sense.  This is nearly impossible for someone not on the spectrum to experience.  You can imagine it and attempt to simulate it, but ultimately it’s not the same.  Someone that has moderate sensory sensitivity is going to be able to understand severe sensitivity far better than someone that doesn’t have any sensory sensitivity. Another difference is that in an “average” person, you can “get used to” various stimuli, whereas that is not always the case for someone on the spectrum.  Instead you experience it with the same intensity each time.

A simple tap on the shoulder can range from being like a mild static electric shock to a stabbing pain or worse. I can tolerate and enjoy hugs and cuddling, but not everyone can.  That’s not something that you can treat with behavior modification, it’s something that must be adapted to and not made a huge deal out of it. There are also certain fabrics and textures that I avoid like the plague.

For me personally, sound is probably where my strongest sensitivity is, certain sounds hit me like a concussive shockwave, with a sensation running down my spine you might get from the sound of nails clawing on a chalkboard. A lot of things that most people can tolerate and enjoy, I consider painful, headache inducing sometimes to the point of feeling physically ill or experiencing “shell shock” after enough exposure. You might think it could be easily compensated for by using earplugs or headphones, but then you’re running up against my sensitivity to touch, having something in my ear is also maddening.  I haven’t found anything I like that’s very comfortable or portable.

Then there’s the visual sensory.  If you think of colors as if they were sound, then some colors are very “loud” compared to others, some things really “pop” out.  Visual clutter is also troublesome.  Of course it’s easy to focus on deficits and see nothing else.  I suspect increased attention to detail comes at least in small part from lack of filtering/dampening.  The source of disability can also be a source of strength in other words.  Trade offs.  Let’s not forget smell, a lot of people still use chemically based(or perhaps something I’m allergic to) hair sprays.  Personally, I’m so sensitive to it that I can taste what’s in the air, some things are thicker almost like smoke. A fresh coat of paint is pretty bad.

I would never ask anyone to change what they’re doing just to accommodate me, however I would hope they would be more understanding if it was causing me trouble to the point of not being able to function well. What I do may seem rude or strange, but it is not intended to be, such as leaving/retreating to get fresh air(if such a thing is possible).  There are certainly worse things than being judged as rude or I wouldn’t make an issue of it.

So, what about college.. Here’s an an encouraging article about inclusion in college, though clearly there’s still a ways to go. http://www.asd-dr.com/index.php/advice-from-autistic-adults/36-what-kinds-of-support-do-you-get-in-college

Permission to self manage and take breaks when needed? Permission to record the class, etc.  That is something we should see long before college.  I suppose it makes sense, as most of the abuse stories I see are pre-college and pre-high school.

I want to get back to the subject of eye contact though, since so many treatments that still recommend forcing it. Personally, eye contact gives me the sensation of overload and makes it much more difficult to listen, speak or concentrate. My eyes will usually scan for something less distracting, which often means scanning continuously so I won’t fixate. On a bad day or in the wrong environment it can give me a headache.  I learned to read facial expressions because I watched live action heroes instead of cartoons as a child, I can read people from a distance but face to face is difficult to extremely difficult in crowds.  After all, any place you can find a crowd of people, you are being exposed to multiple forms of sensory from people as well as any machinery.

Let’s just say If my parents had made a big deal about my eye contact when I was a child, I would have likely been very angry with them at the least, for those with more intense sensitivity, I could imagine lashing out in pain or frustration.  I get tired of seeing a symptoms of autism described like “Unwillingness”, which is vague, generalized and doesn’t actually tell you anything.

If I am making eye contact with you, it’s because I am making a conscious effort to force myself to do so.

Keep in mind Therapy that was originally developed for studying animal behavior is far more likely to lack this kind of understanding; to make mistakes.  Especially when they’re not paying attention to adults conveying their experiences, communicating what they could not communicate when they were children.

This a psychologist that actually gets it, to some degree. Because he listened.  https://www.facebook.com/autismdiscussionpage/posts/387328358013337
Like he said, it does ultimately come down to the practitioner.

I imagine I could also help Disney come up with better policies and point out ideal areas to rest in, since they are getting sued to due to changes in policy.  (People were exploiting it, but the new policy demonstrates a lack of understanding)

This is from the State of Connecticut, citing 1300 physical injuries.  http://www.murphy.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/murphy-statement-on-latest-ct-report-on-seclusion-and-restraint-in-schools

Just think of the thousands that don’t result in physical, but do result in deep emotional trauma.

Consider this a friendly reminder to share the documentary and the government accountability office report from stophurtingkids.com

Opponents of the laws to prevent restraint and seclusion feel that this is the only way to control kids, but that is where they have failed in their role as educators.  Controlling kids has nothing to do with education and will likely hinder more than help education goals.

This is the digital age, we don’t need to conform to the same old One Size Fits All Methods or Environments.  If home schooling is an option or if you need an extra teaching aide, I highly recommend Khan Academy as a learning resource.  Having a recorded teacher you can rewind as much as you need is a huge asset.

In my personal opinion, if schools see the need to resort to Restraint, Seclusion or SROs when it comes to disability; then they’ve already failed to provide Free Appropriate Public Education(FAPE)
When the One Size Fits All education method or education environment fails, that should not be a reason to penalize disability.  If a child is already having that much trouble, they’re already going to be getting bullied by children not for something they like but simply for who they are, you don’t want or need this on top of that.

I obviously have more to say on this, but will have to save that for future posts.  Obviously not all cops are going to behave this way, but it’s experiences like this that really destroy self worth.

Peace and Long Life,
-Chris “Stargazer”


2 responses to “When disability is criminalized and punished. Adult Bullies in our schools.

  1. Pingback: Main Pages | Normal Is Just An Average

  2. Pingback: JRC related news in California. Is a NOH8 campaign viable? A Preview of things to come. | Normal Is Just An Average

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