Bev/Asperger Square 8 has started an interesting discussion on a recent unfortunate incident in which a young Aspie girl in Idaho was arrested for assaulting her teachers.
In a nutshell, Evelyn Towry, an 8-year-old girl with AS, tried to attend a holiday party on Friday, January 9 (it had been postponed) wearing a "cow costume" - a hoodie with cow ears and a tail. She was told she wasn't dressed appropriately, and led to a different classroom. She was asked to stay in the other classroom; she not only refused verbally but also physically tried to leave. Her teachers had no choice but to hold her there if they expected her to obey.
At that point, Evelyn became violent, spitting at and hitting her teachers and even pinching a teacher's breast. The school authorities called the police, who arrested her and led her away in handcuffs. Prosecutors have said, however, that due to her age (she's not even old enough for juvenile detention) and the fact that she's an Aspie, they will not charge her at this time. She has still been suspended from school, and her mother is arranging for her to change schools.
Some people have protested the school's actions, saying among other things that Evelyn should have been allowed to attend the party with her cow costume, that Evelyn suffered bruises from being restrained by her teachers (which I have no doubt is true), that Evelyn could not have intended to pinch the teacher's breast but was only wildly hitting out in an attempt to get away (which I'm sure is also true) and that the arrest was overkill.
From my own experience, both as a student and later as a teacher in the public schools, I'm perfectly willing to believe that sometimes school officials use the iron fist in place of a supportive hand. It's also quite possible that this was one of those times.
That doesn't mean that what happened later on was necessarily brutal or an overreaction.
Let's put aside the fact that every school has a right to set standards of dress, and stricter ones for events like parties - though the standards definitely should be spelled out for the students and possibly parents.
I'm sure it would have been nice if the school had felt able to let Evelyn wear her cute cow costume to the party. I myself would likely have done that - if that decision belonged to me. But it wasn't - it belonged to the teachers and other school officials, who might have had to deal with things like disorder caused by overly informal dress (some schools, including where I've taught - have uniforms for a reason).
They might also have had to deal with accusations of inconsistency, if Evelyn were the only kid allowed not to "dress up" for the party. I don't know what, if any, connection the cow costume had to Evelyn's AS. Even Aspies have just plain personal whims, not all or even most of which should be satisfied. If the cow costume did objectively help her due to her AS, that would be a different story - and presumably would have already been documented in the appropriate IEP (Individualized Education Program).
But let's assume the teachers were just being power-drunk jerks, bureaucrats and/or control freaks. It wouldn't surprise me, given some - not all, not most, but some - of the teachers I've seen.
However, one thing they probably weren't was lawbreakers (unless costumes like that had already been specifically permitted under Evelyn's IEP).
The next question is: what are duly authorized, responsible and knowledgeable officials supposed to do when their orders, which obviously they consider to be reasonable, and which in fact are within their authority and not forbidden by laws or regulations, are disobeyed? Just throw up their hands and say "OK, well I can't impose my views on you"?
There's a name for the kind of place where that happens: anarchy.
Given that the teachers had ordered Evelyn to leave the party and stay in an adjoining classroom, once she not only protested but also forced the issue by trying to physically leave the room, the teachers had no choice but to keep her there by force.
I'm sure she got bruises from that - according to Evelyn's own mother, they were thumb-sized bruises. The teachers were just trying to hold her, not hurt her. You try holding a small, violent child in place and see if you don't leave any bruises.
And violent is the operant term. She spat at and hit the teachers, including pinching a teacher's breast. I'm sure she wasn't cold-bloodedly trying to hurt anyone - she was just trying to get away.
But once she became violent, the school officials needed to call the people who are trained to handle violence - the police.
Now, could the police have calmed Evelyn without arresting her? Possibly. We don't know yet and we may never be sure.
We do know that had Evelyn accepted the decision that she stay in another classroom and not go to the party, she would not have been touched, let alone bruised, and certainly not arrested. She could do it the easy way or the hard way - teachers and other officials generally mean what they say and in a physical contest between her and they, she would obviously lose. Her choice was between staying in the other classroom without violence, or getting violent and being forcibly restrained and then taken away. Either way, she wasn't going to the party no matter how much she felt she should be allowed to.
Maybe the original decision wasn't fair - like I said it's one I likely wouldn't have made. But we all from time to time encounter decision-makers and policies which we consider unfair. We know that the difference between society and anarchy is that in society, when duly authorized people ask us to do something that request is supported by rewards and punishments. And all decisions (including everyone's rights - such as the rights of Aspies and autists) must ultimately be backed up by physical force.
Now, let's be perfectly clear on one thing. The operant term is "duly authorized". If a request is outside the maker's sphere of authority, or is illegal under law (including the Constitution) or regulation, the maker has no authority and need not be obeyed. In fact, the maker him/herself is the one who needs correction - by force, if necessary.
But otherwise, if it's "just" a matter of reasonableness, fairness, proportion of means to ends, prudence, etc., we all have to comply sometimes with things we disagree with. After all, that's what impels everyone else to comply with things we consider only fair but they don't. If we're able to persuade the person in authority to make an exception for us, interpret the rule differently, make a different decision, etc., great. Otherwise, "comply, then complain".
Not only is it right, but you look better because that way you've done everything possible to avoid a conflict. When your opponents can show your spittle on their faces or clothes, and places where you hit them and even pinched their breasts, that kind of muddies the waters to say the least. And then you get to be the target of a complaint.
Even if you make your own complaint after that - Evelyn's parents say they are thinking about suing the school - you look much less credible. If she had just made a single protest and then stayed in the other classroom and waited to give her parents the bad news when she got home, maybe the incident wouldn't have made the national news but many more of those who did know about it would side with her against those inflexible teachers. As things actually went, the control freaks in the schools now get to pose as defenders of order against rampaging children.
What do you think?
Hour 4: What do you want? Look at your goals.
8 years ago