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Friday, June 19, 2009

Remember Wendy Portillio?

Almost a year ago a teacher from Port St. Lucie Florida was thrust into the national spot light. Some may recall Wendy Portillo permitted or perhaps encouraged her kindergarten class to vote on whether Alex Barton could remain in Kindergarten. Alex Barton was predictably voted out of Kindergarten, humiliated by his peers and teacher, and forced to withdraw from school. The uproar that followed was nothing short of a type of hysteria and I vowed not to write a single word despite the fact I was as outraged as many others. The ugly incident reminded me of many horrible school incidents I experienced as a child with profound neurological deficits. At the time I thought no competent teacher could be that insensitive to a child. Whether the child in question had a disability or not seemed to lack relevance. No teacher should knowingly humiliate a child. If such an event took place the teacher should be fired and never permitted back in a classroom. Once the media spot light died down I thought the truth about what took place in Port St. Lucie would eventually emerge. The news coming out of Florida in recent days is not positive in my estimation.

The Port St. Lucie School District has quietly reinstated Ms. Portillo with full tenure. The vote to reinstate her by the School Board was unanimous and did not merit a word on the national news or a single newspaper outside of Florida. I am sure Ms. Portillo has a had a hard time but I have grave reservations about her judgement and teaching skills. Whether she ever sets foot in a classroom again has not been decided. Her unpaid suspension ends in five months. Based on news reports, the effort to reinstate Ms. Portillo was strong--parents and teachers alike wanted her back. Fine, but what I want to know is why Melissa Barton, Alex's mother, was not asked to comment at the Board of Education meeting when Ms. Portillo was reinstated. Surely the mother of the child that was humiliated should have at least been present if not asked to give her opinion before Ms. Portillo was reinstated. I have no idea if Ms. Portillo is a competent teacher or not. However, I do have serious reservations about any adult that would ask young children to vote on whether a child should be permitted in class. I am also disheartened to read that in the estimation of some the disability blogging community is largely responsible for the emotional firestorm that ensued and needlessly "crucified" a teacher. From a distance, it seems to me that the Port St. Lucie School School District has played a cool game of politics. They reinstated a teacher they wanted to keep regardless of the fact she humiliated a child. The larger significance of the school board's action is important. It sends a clear message to all those that do not fit in, disabled and not disabled, that difference will not be tolerated. We may acquiesce to pressure but in the end we will get exactly what we want. What do schools want? Compliant children that do not question authority. Children that will do exactly what they are told and take innumerable standardized exams and not ask why they are doing so. Education is secondary to the control of young minds that are being wasted across our nation. Secondary education is in deep trouble and I for one am concerned about the future as we are raising a generation of young people that do not know how to think and act independently.


FridaWrites said...

I honestly don't understand what they are thinking. Yes, the schools cannot adequately handle difference and teach intolerance through enforced conformity.

william Peace said...

Frida, I understand exactly what they are thinking: We like the teacher and do not care one iota what anyone else thinks. So what the teacher humiliated a child. No one really cares about kids that may or may not have a disability. I truly have no respect for secondary schools. Education is simply not a priority. What matters is control and it must be retained at all costs.