Why Inclusion Is Critical: Kindergarteners Vote Out Special Needs Classmate

If you don't yet have on your angry hat, you might want to go get it: A kindergarten teacher in Florida allowed her students to "Vote Out" their about-to-be-diagnosed autistic classmate, Alex Barton. WTF doesn't even cover it: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2008/may/24/30gtteacher-lets-students-vote-out-classmate-5/

This is exactly why we parents of special needs children need to advocate for inclusive attitudes in our schools. Inclusion considers that all students are full members of the school community and are entitled to the opportunities and responsibilities that are available to all students in the school. No one gets to vote ANYONE out.

Inclusion is not always appropriate for all children; my own son attends a segregated special ed school because his needs cannot be met any other way. But when special ed students attend a regular school, it is critical to demonstrate that every last student is a full member of the campus community; otherwise, the special ed kids get segregated, and discriminated against. Starting as young as age five, the age of Alex Barton's classmates.

A good start towards fostering inclusive attitudes is a fun project like SEPTAR’s Drawn Together, in which special needs kids and their typical classmates collaborated on collages and paintings. I did not work on Drawn Together, but if you want more information on how to start something like it at your own school, I can put you in contact with our resident inclusion/art geniuses.
A painting from the Drawn Together project

Inclusive attitudes. They are critical, and unless they are actively cultivated, our children's peers will have the same attitudes as the kids in Alex Barton's classroom, and they will carry them through to adulthood.

(Alex Barton info via LeftBrain/RightBrain via Whitterer on Autism.)

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  1. How sad - intolerance begins at such a young age. Or, as you've pointed out, tolerance can take root early on. I really love posts like this one - much as you've pointed out a way that one group (or individual - shame on that teacher!) has gotten it really wrong, you also discuss ways that we can take action to guard against this sort of bias taking root in our own communities.
    Thank you for such proactive posts as this one. They make me feel more aware of injustice without leaving me with the hopeless "all is lost" feeling that I might otherwise have.

  2. WTF? Since when do kindergartners get to vote on who's in their class? And what kind of idiot would let them?

  3. Squid, I can't even go near this one. It's just too close to our own situation. Suffice to say: WERD.

  4. Oh my God...that's horrifying. I'm a teacher and I...just...wow. I can't conceive of the kind of person who would do this to ANYONE, let alone a child... I make it my goal all the time in my class to ensure everyone is included. To deliberately segregate a child (NOT GROUNDS FOR EMOTIONAL ABUSE??????) via his classmates? Unbelievable. This woman should lose her teaching license. That is not ok.

    I would like to meet the two children who voted against voting him out of the classroom.

    That poor kid, and family.

  5. Don't miss Karoli's take on this hideous mess.

    Portillo, you’re nothing more than a poorly trained excuse for an authoritarian bitch who shouldn’t be anywhere near children, much less teaching them. If the school district doesn’t see this as child abuse, they’re as ignorant as you are, because it clearly is.

    Just so this isn’t anything more than a rant, let me offer some suggestions to you, Portillo. Take some classes in child development, autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Learn some creative ways to build these children up rather than tearing them down. Learn to UNDERSTAND that what you do now will MATTER to them 10 years from now, that you are forming their attitudes toward school, peers, social relationships, and authority.

  6. oh whoa. i had a hard time with this one. i also couldn't help myself - i emailed the teacher.

    i fwd'd the article to our ECI/ABA ABRITE experts...they were shocked by the level of ignorance.

  7. And by the way? I would LOVE to meet not only the two children, but their parents.
    wow. I would really like to meet the parents.
    And then hug them.


Respectful disagreement encouraged.

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