Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why I am closing the comments on two posts

Some of my posts are for informational purposes. Others are meant to entertain while providing insight into the life of one person on the autism spectrum. Still others are intended to incite action. In the case of the terrible treatment of Alex Barton, I hoped that those of us who blog on Autism Hub, along with other fair minded bloggers might succeed in directing some media attention to a situation that looked as if it could end up buried on page 8, never being seen by the general public, those who don't follow autism related news as closely as some of us do. I also hoped that this would offer solace and encouragement to the Barton family.
When Autism Hub played a part, along with ASAN, in having the Ransom Notes Campaign pulled, I was proud to be involved in that. While I still believe that Wendy Portillo needs to be removed from the classroom, that a public apology needs to be made, I am not proud of what this campaign has become.
I am not trying to take credit for the attention the case has gotten. I played a very small part in organizing this; others have done more to ensure that the injustice was brought to light. But for my part, I do feel a responsibility to say that from where I sit, it is time to wait. Wait and see what happens in Florida. If further action is needed, we will be here.
I have begun to consider that Ms. Portillo is perhaps a person who found herself in a job she was not suited for, without the proper training, someone who never should have been in the teaching profession. The problems which led up to the events in Port St. Lucie are systemic, and will need to be addressed at that level.
Around the web, you can find comments stating that she did the right thing, that children must be made to behave through any means available. You will also find people saying she should be harmed emotionally and/or physically for her crime. I've heard that she is undeserving of life. This is not acceptable to me.
I have made terrible mistakes in my life. I have harmed people. I have done my best to make amends for those wrongs and not to repeat the hurtful actions. I know that if my worst moments were shown to the world, were discussed on numerous sites, some with nearly a thousand comments now, I would not want to continue living. Yet I believe in redemption (not in a passive sense, but through hard work toward change) and I hope that others, including Portillo, do too.
When people start coming to my blog and talking about revenge and sending people to hell, it is time to take a break.
Sometimes the lines between right and wrong can be fuzzy, and that is not the case here. What happened to Alex never should have happened, and should not be allowed to happen again. For the sake of the other Alexes, those whose names are not in the spotlight, it is time to turn our attention toward the larger societal problems, those which allow bullying to occur, not just in one school in Florida, but throughout this nation.
This is just one autistic person's opinion.


  1. I don't blame you for closing comments. I've seen some really ugly responses on various blogs. Whatever the reasons for the teacher's lapse of judgement, she doesn't deserve the venom that's been aimed her way. I'm surprised at the interest the topic has aroused on a non-autie site. I wrote up the story for Digital Journal a few days ago and it's had over 1,000 hits. Luckily, I haven't seen any of the nasty emotionalism that has been popping up elsewhere.

  2. I agree. I have debated posting on this subject and decided not to. I think attention to it is important but in many situations things get blown out of porportion and people's lives are ruined without having all of the facts. An investigation has to take place and once that happens it will be important to speak more about this incident.

  3. Beautiful post, Bev. I've been struggling with some of the same sentiments. What she did was unquestionably wrong, and while I'm upset that there are people who would justify her actions, I'm also disturbed by the level of venom directed at the teacher.

  4. Nicely put. I typically avoid blogging on events in the news such as this because it's just too hard to discern the truth from a few short news articles. The media provides sound bites and the real truth always more complicated. I made an exception in this case but I tried to be reasonable and not engage in the mob mentality that we so often see on the internet.

  5. Well, I changed my mind and decided I had to post about this.

  6. A few bloggers have pointed out that there were two unsung heroes in this story: the two kids who dissented from their classmates in the "vote off the island".

    That is a very positive thing, amid the unintended maelstrom that led you to close comments on your two posts.

    On Christschool's blog, where Alex's mom had posted a comment, I asked if there were a way those of us who recognized the kids' courage in dissenting, and the evidence of good in their parents' upbringing of them. Alex's mom replied that she is in touch with the families of the other students in the class and will be working with them to heal the psychological wounds. The school district has not (at least not yet) set about helping in that regard; you are so right that the focus needs to be on the *systemic* forces that lead up to bullying and enablement-of-bullying by organizational cultures and persons of authority within organizations.

    But at the same time, the little acts of courage (and big acts of courage by little people!) need to be recognized.

  7. Ack -- in my previous comment, the phrase "I asked if there were a way those of us who recognized the kids' courage in dissenting, and the evidence of good in their parents' upbringing of them" should have continued "could convey that recognition, and support, to the kids and their families".

  8. Phil,

    Excellent point. I have seen a few posts calling those two heroes, and agree they should be acknowledged. They should be thanked and commended in a public forum, and know how much they have meant to people.

    I added an address onto the original post where cards can be sent to Alex. Perhaps we can write the other kids there, too. I will check into that.

  9. Bev, you are a good person. I posted about how this treatment is typical of schools that see control as the only way to educate. Can you imagine what would happen if we were able to educate that teacher, and she was able to come to terms with what happened and educate others as well?

  10. Bev, you are a very thoughtful and sensitive person. I think you are right, we should focus on the larger issues here, not the teacher, and work to keep things like this from happening in our own children's schools.

    Still, in this case for me it was hard not to project my own protective parental instincts onto Alex, as I know I am guilty of doing.

    The big picture is what is important, as you said so well.


  11. I've never seen this website and never read your blog but was so outraged as a father of a 4 1/2 year old who is preparing for kindergarten with the story of Alex Barton that I tried to find any information possible and found this site. Thank you for posting the email addresses and thank you for whatever role you played in helping shine the light on this situation.

    You know, this situation has virtually nothing to do with Alex possibly being autistic and has everything to do with common, basic human decency. No child should ever be made to feel this way.

    Thank you.


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