The recent incident at Parkersburg High School in which a student with Asperger's Syndrome was placed in a "bad kid fort" as discipline for disruptive behavior in class certainly was not the best way to handle the situation.
However, the incident does highlight the difficulties teachers face trying to teach a class with special needs kids present-and the need for training to handle these situations if they arise in the future.
According to the student's mother, several weeks ago, her son's social studies teacher at PHS placed pieces of a smartboard around his seat in class and wrote the words "bad kid fort" after the student would not settle down.
The student's mother did not report the incident until recently because she at first did not believe her son when he told her it happened. She told the newspaper the teacher's action was humiliating for her son, who has been receiving counseling for self-esteem issues. She also is angered because her son's individualized education plan (IEP) outlines what to do in these situations, but it was not followed.
"I don't think there was malice of the intent to embarrass the student," PHS principal Pam Goots told the newspaper. "She was attempting to deal with a difficult situation in class."
The teacher, who Goots said is a good educator, certainly did not use good judgment in how she handled this situation. However, it needs to be remembered the disciplined student was not the teacher's only responsibility at the time. This distraction, plus the time it would have taken to have someone outside the class handle it meant the other students in the class were being neglected, as was their education.
Goots said she will ask for more training for teachers who have autistic students in their classes. That is a good idea, although it is surprising this type of training has not been provided before now. Special needs children have rightfully been placed in regular classrooms for years in West Virginia. But these students do have special needs. How do we mesh these special needs with the educational needs of the other students, especially if there is only one teacher in the class?
Goots would not say if the teacher in question has been disciplined. She certainly does not deserve to be fired as some have demanded. Discipline issues-and certainly not all are caused by special needs students-have been a growing concern for years, while at the same time the schools' ability to deal with disruptive students has been limited.
If we are going to require today's teachers to be proficient in more than just the subjects they teach, we need to give them the tools in which to be successful.