Remember the kindergartner who was voted out of his class in Florida in 2008? At the time of this travesty, Alex Barton was being evaluated and was later diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, which is an autism spectrum disorder. According to federal court documents, Alex Barton and his mother, Melissa, have recently agreed to a settlement of $350,000 (part of which will be disbursed after he turns 18 years old). The teacher, Wendy Portillo, had been suspended for one year without pay. She is not only teaching again, but had her tenure reinstated. In a September, 2010, investigation by the U.S. Department of Education, Portillo and two other teachers were found to have discriminated against a student with a hearing impairment, denying the child a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Clearly, the St. Lucie County school district needs to provide some free appropriate instruction to their teachers on how to teach children with disabilities!
I would imagine that this settlement could be very helpful to Alex and his mother…including therapy to overcome such an experience. Alex’s kindergarten teacher displayed amazingly poor judgement, lack of understanding of differences (since he didn’t have a diagnosis at that time), and insensitivity. What we should all be working toward is “…a community where people within the autism spectrum and their families receive respect, services, and support based on individual differences, needs, and preferences” (from the mission statement of the Autism Society of NC). Join us and help us!