Why we homeschool, iteration 3725

Because my children will never be asked to stand up and describe what they don't like about a person, then participate in a vote on whether or not that person should be allowed to remain in the classroom.

A teacher in St. Lucie, Florida, did just this in her kindergarten class. As a five-year-old boy, who is in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, was forced to stand at the front of the room, his classmates were each given a turn to say what they disliked about him. They described him with words including "disgusting" and "annoying," then voted 14-2 to make him leave the classroom; he spent the rest of the day banished to the nurse's office. The Florida state attorney's office says this treatment does not qualify as emotional abuse and is not pursuing criminal charges against the teacher. The district says it is "investigating" the incident (which teacher Wendy Portillo has admitted) but has not yet taken any action.

The boy has refused to return to school since then; and if I were his mother, I can't imagine why I would even try to make him go back.

Since our children are not (surprise!) completely socially isolated, we attend classes two days a week at Village Home. One of the most heartening things I've observed in our time there is the way that all kids–the loud ones, the quiet ones, the ones of varying cognitive and social ability, the ones who I am pretty sure have been or could be diagnosed as autistic–are treated as just part of the group. There are special friendships, sure; but I haven't seen poisonous cliques, I haven't seen shunning, I haven't seen my kids or anyone else's deliberately leave someone out because of personal differences.

And I know when I tell my boys about this little boy in Florida, they will be as horrified as anyone should be. As horrified as the students in that class should have been. Because no one's ever told them that you have to do what the grownup says just because the grownup is a grownup. Because no one's managed to convince them yet that different = bad and that cruelty = a good way of dealing with difference. And I hope to god that no one ever can.

About Molly Newman

Writer, cook and trivia/spelling bee hostess, living it up in North Portland.
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6 Responses to Why we homeschool, iteration 3725

  1. Ute says:

    Oh my gosh! 😦 That is the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. Yes, I am quite horrified.
    I was just walking through Village the other day, and watched the “cafe” kids sell their snacks. One of the boys, P., is special. You might have noticed him. He usually wears a long black trench coat. He’s a big kid, and slower than the others. He is one of the friendliest kids I’ve ever met. He will perform in the play at summerfest, as he has last year. He is not a great actor, but he’s funny, and he loves it. And he is accepted in the group, just like any other kid. This is heart warming. This is what makes me so proud to be a part of that community. 🙂
    I will not leave this place until my kids tell me they’re tired of Village.

  2. Alasandra says:

    This is so sad. And if it’s not emotional abuse I don’t know what is. And not only did the teacher do damage to the poor boy, but to all his classmates. Surely some of them knew what they were doing was wrong and felt bad about it.
    This woman doesn’t need to be around kids period. Maybe someone should make her stand in front of a group of her peers while they tell her what a disgusting human being she is.

  3. Helena says:

    Holy cow. That is just reprehensible.

  4. Herm says:

    That is horrible. The fact that it is a story means that EVERYONE recognizes it as horrible. It is an aberration, even in (gasp) public school. I can’t imagine a single teacher I know doing such a thing. And of course, that teacher ought to be fired. She doesn’t belong in a classroom.
    There are lots of reasons that homeschooling might be a good idea for many kids (NCLB, lack of arts and physical education, etc), but this is so out-there that I can’t imagine it qualifies.

  5. RedMolly says:

    I agree that this incident is an aberration (though, sadly, a read-through on the comments at the original story reveals that there’s a not-insignificant number of people who think this is a good example of bringing back discipline to the classroom). But I think the ganging-up, bullying mentality is not uncommon, not among students and not even among teachers. I definitely remember having more than one teacher who enjoyed embarrassing or shaming students in front of the rest of the class.
    And I think the fact that even the few students who felt uncomfortable with the scenario ended up going along with it speaks volumes about the inappropriate power relationship that exists in many classrooms and schools. The teacher’s word is law, even when that word is stupid, cruel or just plain wrong. Definitely not all schools, or all classrooms; but one doesn’t really get to pick one’s child’s learning environment when the child enters a school system away from home.
    That said, I definitely agree with you that this by itself would not be a valid reason to consider homeschooling if no other factors were in play. Just another drop in the proverbial bucket, proverbially.

  6. I think behavior like this is more common that you would think. Yes, I am sure there are wonderful, caring teachers out there, ( i.e. My incredible little sister who just received her Masters in Special Education and who received the Teacher of the Year Award for her county after only 2 years of teaching!! 🙂 ) I think stuff like this happens more often than is reported. In 6th grade I let loose a fart to beat the band. Unfortunately, I didn’t possess the sense of humor about that stuff that I do now, and was humilated when the class laughed at me. It could have stopped there, but my A-hole, Chauvinistic teacher made me stand in front of the class and admit I was the culprit. He then began to question my eating habits, my manners and upbringing, then excused me to the principals office to ” think ” about what I had done. As I fled the classroom I distinctly remember him spraying Lysol around my desk, much to merriment of my classmates.
    I’ve never forgotten his unkindness. You can bet this child won’t forget hers.

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