Quincy, IL – Brandi Kirchner is angry. Last week, her 9-year-old son had a “meltdown” at school, and Kirchner had to pick him up at the police station. Wait, what? That’s right. When Roger, who has autism, wouldn’t calm down in his designated calm-down area, school officials called the police. Roger wasn’t happy about that and struggled against the officers. In the struggle, Roger hit his eye and kicked the officer in the nose. That’s when the handcuffs came out and the boy was taken into custody.
Roger Parker, Jr., like many other autistic kids who are mainstreamed into general education classrooms, had a plan should a “meltdown” like this occur. Kirchner told KHQA that she is “upset because she had recently discussed a plan on how to handle her son if he [had] an outburst.” Arrest wasn’t part of the plan. According to Kirchner, the plan wasn’t followed. In addition, she “has concerns that the police put her son in handcuffs before she was ever contacted.” Once Kirchner received the call to meet her son at the police station, she encountered more problems.
“I asked to see my son. Forty-five minutes later, after they told me he did not need a parent present because he was under arrest and not being interrogated. He was fingerprinted, photographed and booked for aggravated battery to a police officer.”
In a responsive reports, Police Chief Rob Copley stated it took several attempts for officers to restrain Parker and eventually handcuff him. Copley says Kirchner was immediately contacted. Copley goes on to report that, while in custody, the boy was not photographed or fingerprinted:
“It’s a fine line whether you call it an arrest. He was a juvenile. He was not finger printed. He was not photographed with the mug shot camera. He was not taken to jail. He was taken into custody. He was brought to police headquarters where the appropriate paperwork was filled out so we could forward the reports to the probation department and then he was released to his mother.”
Juvenile? Probation Department? The report makes it sound like Parker was just another juvenile delinquent causing trouble. The problem with that, maintains Kirchner, is that autistic kids are different. “You can’t just treat them like they are a regular [general education] student,” Kirchner shares with KHQA. “They require special attention. And if anybody is going to be in that aspect and dealing with them, they need to have the proper training to deal with them before stepping into the classroom.”
Copley maintains that the officer who handcuffed Parker has received “crisis intervention training, which deals with a whole host of behavioral disorders and situations and individuals.” He also admits that not all police officers receive this specialized training.
Kirchner, according to The Stir, has removed her son from Baldwin South Intermediate School and is looking into home schooling him. Slatewriter Julie Ryan Evans addresses dealing with special needs kids in mainstream schools:
“Time and again we hear stories like this and worse in which students with autism and other special needs are being mistreated in our nation’s schools. I don’t doubt that it’s a challenge for teachers and schools to meet the diverse and sometimes extreme needs of these children, as it is for their families as well, and I know resources are limited. But we’ve got to do a better job. With as many as 1 in 88 children being diagnosed with autism, it’s a big issue, and incidents like this are a big problem.”
What do you think? Should kids with autism be treated differently when it comes to disciplinary measures? And with more and more kids being diagnosed with autism, should school officials receive more specialized training in order to deal better with autistic kids and their families?