What do you say to a kid who’s rolling around, punching, biting, kicking? (the story of Gabriel Ross)

It seems Alex Barton is not the only five-year-old verbally abused by his teacher.

While Gabriel Ross has not been voted out of his classroom, he also heard his peers being forced to say they don’t want to be his friends, and he heard much worse things from his teacher .

I first found Gabriel’s story on MND–mensnewsdaily.com in a June 5, 2008 editorial “Kindergarten Cruelty: Not Child’s Play” by Joanne Jacobs.

It seems the story has been first reported on May 25, 2008 by News and Tribune in an article “Tape reveals teacher’s verbal abuse” by Tara Hettinger and was picked up by ABC News a couple days later. (see “Teacher Caught on Tape: Kindergartner ‘Ignorant, Pathetic, Self-Absorbed’” by Jonann Brady from May 27, 2008 and the interview posted on that page)

Gabriel’s story, which broke just about the same time as Alex Barton’s, had some additional coverage but very little in comparison with Alex’s story. I suppose that might be because Gabriel has not been identified as autistic or ADHD, so unlike Alex, he and his parents do not receive hundreds of letters of support from all over the world.

Gabriel’s parents don’t see any difficult behaviors at home, but at school things seem to have been a bit different. Yet even though his teacher, Kristen Woodward, suggested creating a behavioral plan for Gabriel early in the school year, apparently she chose to do nothing about that in the end. Instead, she chose to be mean to him and call him “stupid,” “pathetic” and “ignorant, selfish, self-absorbed, the whole thing.”

Ironically, on the tape, she’s the one chastising Gabriel about making poor choices.

I must say I’m glad to hear that Woodward has been suspended indefinitely. A person who calls little children “stupid” has no right to be a teacher.

Interestingly, the News and Tribune article also quotes Carol Mooney, who is with the Indiana State Teachers Association, as saying “the school administration’s actions were unfair” and asking “What do you say to a kid who’s rolling around, punching, biting, kicking?”

Well, one thing for sure – when a child is rolling around, punching, biting, kicking, you DO NOT call that child stupid, but try to find out what makes him behave like that!

It just happens that the same day I found out about this story, I read the following in Executive Function in Education: From Theory to Practice, edited by Lynn Meltzer, and published in 2007 by the Guilford Press.

It is critical for teachers, care providers, and parents to realize that people with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) do not engage in inappropriate behaviors intentionally to be malicious or manipulative. (emphasis mine) [...] A common misconception is that they are capable of learning to behave differently but are just lazy or unmotivated. Students with ASDs and other neurodevelopmental disorders (such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc.) [...] cannot learn different ways of behaving without interventions that are specifically geared to their learning strengths and styles. It is the responsibility of parents and educators working with these students to address their specific deficits and find effective methods for teaching and reinforcing more appropriate and adaptive behaviors. -”Executive Dysfunction in Autism Spectrum Disorders: From Research to Practice,” by Sally Ozonoff and Patricia L. Schetter, in Executive Function in Education: From Theory to Practice, edited by Lynn Meltzer.

Maybe instead of saying the salute to the flag each morning, the teachers should read this quote every day, as their mantra, and try to abide by it.

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