Friday, November 21, 2008

Teacher suspended for letting class vote out autistic boy

Mother now homeschooling son, claims instructor violated his civil rights

Posted: November 20, 2008
1:10 am Eastern

© 2008 WorldNetDaily

A Florida kindergarten teacher was suspended for polling her students on whether an autistic boy should remain in class.

Alex Barton, 5, lost the vote 14 to 2.

Barton, a former student at Morningside Elementary School in Port St. Lucie, Fla., had received two discipline referrals to the principal's office May 21, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. The school was aware that Barton was in the process of being tested for Asperger's Syndrome.

This week, the St. Lucie County School Board voted unanimously to suspend his tenured teacher, Wendy Portillo, for one year without pay. Superintendent of Schools Michael Lannon recommended discipline after Portillo took Barton to the front of the class and asked students to tell the boy what they didn't like about his behavior and how it impacted them.

Barton said the teacher allowed his classmates to call him "disgusting" and "annoying."

The teacher then asked her students to vote on whether Barton would be allowed to stay. When Barton lost the vote, he was instructed to spend the rest of the day in the nurse's office.

According to a police report, "Portillo said she did this as she felt that if (Alex) heard from his classmates how his behavior affected them that it would make a bigger difference to him, rather than just hearing it from adults."

But Lannon said Portillo's actions "caused community and, in fact, worldwide outrage and condemnation." He said her attempt to influence a 5-year-old's behavior by subjecting him to the scrutiny of his peers was "fatally flawed" and violated professional ethics.

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