Imagine being told that you and your family are no longer welcome at church. Or that your son’s kindergarten classmates have taken a vote to banish him from class.
Two families– one in Minnesota and one in Florida– faced those unbelievable scenarios recently because they have an autistic child. In both cases, the boys’ behavior was cited as a reason to ostracize them.
In the Minnesota case, the Church of St. Joseph in Bertha filed a restraining order against 13-year-old Adam Races. Should he and his family try to attend Mass, they will be arrested:
In a statement, Father Dan Walz said he filed the petition as a last resort out of “a growing concern for the safety of parishioners”.
Adam is severely autistic. He is home-schooled, and has attended St. Joseph’s his whole life. He is also more than six feet tall and weighs more than 235 pounds.
In court documents, Father Walz said Adam’s growing size makes it harder for his parents to manage his behavior during mass. Father Walz said Adam struck a child, and bolts unexpectedly from church nearly knocking people down, including elderly people.
Adam’s mom tells a different story:
Carol Races said those allegations are either exaggerated or false. She said Adam is not angry or violent, he has never spit in church, and that on rare occasions, he has been incontinent. /snip
Carol said sometimes Adam is noisy and must be restrained during mass, but she said her family always sits in back and leaves church a few minutes early.
In the Florida case, it gets even worse. In some twisted version of “Kindergarten Survivor,” 5-year-old Alex Barton was literally subjected to a tribal council and “voted out” by his classmates…at the behest of his teacher:
After each classmate was allowed to say what they didn’t like about Barton’s 5-year-old son, Alex, his Morningside Elementary teacher Wendy Portillo said they were going to take a vote, Barton said.
By a 14 to 2 margin, the students voted Alex — who is in the process of being diagnosed with autism — out of the class.
Melissa Barton filed a complaint with Morningside’s school resource officer, who investigated the matter, Port St. Lucie Department spokeswoman Michelle Steele said. But the state attorney’s office concluded the matter did not meet the criteria for emotional child abuse, so no criminal charges will be filed, Steele said.
Following a public outcry, district officials have reassigned the teacher to an office job while an investigation is conducted. I hope she’s summarily fired.
As autism rates continue to skyrocket, it’s no surprise that teachers are being challenged like never before. My cousin is a rookie teacher with five autistic students in her 5th grade class, and she has told me that those students require more attention, sometimes to the detriment of the other pupils. But the answer is more staffing and support, not ganging up on a 5-year-old and kicking him out of kindergarten.
I don’t understand where the priest’s and teacher’s compassion went. But thinking of those two kindergarteners who fought the mob mentality and voted to keep Alex in class gives me hope.
What do you think? Did the church have the right to file a restraining order? How should the teacher have handled that situation? And have you or anyone you know ever faced a situation like this?