Friday, December 23, 2011

Why the abuse of disabled students needs to stop (and it needs to stop RIGHT. NOW.)

There has been a disturbing flurry of incidents breaking out lately about school staff abusing disabled students.  The latest one involves an autistic student being PUT INSIDE A DUFFEL BAG with the drawstring pulled tight OUT IN THE HALLWAY.  With gym balls.  Like he was no better than a piece of gym equipment.

You know what the most disturbing, terrifying part of all these abuse cases is?  It's not that they're happening in the first place, although that's certainly disturbing enough.  It's that these acts are passed off as being okay.  When this mother came to pick up her son and found him in a duffel bag, an aide was "standing by".  The school told her it was a form of therapy.  And they "told her it was not the first time they had put him in the bag".

Just casually - "and oh yeah, we put your son in a bag where he could've suffocated for THERAPY".

This is by far not the first case like this, and I shudder to think of how many more abuses are committed under the guise of therapy around the world.  Committed in the name of rehabilitation, in the name of making us magically stop being different and making us normal.  Does the world really hate us, fear us and our differentness that much, that kids' emotional and physical well-being would be sacrificed in the name of normality?  The answer seems to be yes.

There seems to be this prevailing attitude that disabled students - and especially those who receive segregated services like segregated transportation, therapy, etc. - are some sort of subspecies that are exempt from deserving respect.  Therefore school staff and others that work with the students can screw them over however the hell they want.  They're just bodies, vegetables.  They don't need to know if they're going to have the same aide or bus driver from day to day.  They don't need to get to school on time.  They don't need or deserve to be in class, because after all, it's not like they're actually learning anything.  They don't need or deserve to have an aide who does their job, without abusing the student or making the student feel like a burden.  And these students certainly don't deserve an apology when someone wrongs them.  I've seen this attitude in practice myself countless times, and it can lead to incompetence, neglect, and outright emotional and physical abuse.

Unless we stop this ableist attitude in its tracks, unless we embrace the radical notion that people with disabilities are - *gasp* - people, human beings, just as worthy of equality and respect as anyone else, this awful abuse is going to continue.  It's going to continue, because society makes us believe that if you're not perfect, you're not anything.  You're nothing.  And since you're nothing, people can do whatever the hell they want to you and get away with it.  How many more kids have to be traumatized, how many more kids have to be hurt, how many more kids have to die before this becomes unacceptable?  Before no one gets away with these acts, or better yet, does them at all.  Before the world is as outraged as we as activists, advocates, disabled people are.  Before parents can send their children to school - all their children to school - and know that each and every one of them is being treated with equality, dignity and respect.  Before no child is afraid of going to school.  I hope, for my sake, for the sakes of all the disabled children who came before me and all who will come after, that that day is within our reach.

Click here to sign the petition demanding the end of abuse of disabled students in schools, created in response to the duffel bag incident.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I had no idea stuff like this was happing! THIS HAS TO STOP!