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End abuse of Autistic students in Mercer County, Kentucky


(Updated and corrected version -- Also, the text of the petition is the next tab, "petition letter")

In Mercer County, Kentucky, nine year old Chris Baker, an Autistic student, was told by his special education aide to climb inside a bag intended for therapeutic purposes as a punishment to "control his autistic behavior" on 14 December 2011. He was placed in the bag with the drawstring tightened and left in the hallway in the school. When his mother, Sandra Baker, was called to the school to get her son, she demanded that he be removed from the bag right away. The teacher struggled to undo the drawstring, and Chris emerged sweaty and non-communicative. According to the teacher, this had been done several times over the last year, but Sandra didn't know until this latest incident. While she met with state officials on Monday 19 December 2011 before a possible meeting with school officials, there is no guarantee that those meetings will prevent this kind of abuse from happening again -- either to Chris or to other students.

If you think it's wrong to tell an Autistic child to climb inside a bag not intended as an instrument of confinement and tighten it with a drawstring, which could potentially have led to serious injury or death, as punishment, then please sign this petition. This is wrong. This is abuse. It needs to stop.

Updates, 27 Dec. 2011: 

While I personally believe that the teacher more than deserves to be fired, the demand stipulates that if she not be fired (which it does request explicitly -- asking that the teacher "be dismissed from position") then she be required to complete extensive education regarding respectful treatment of Autistic students. I do not harbor any illusions that the people who are naturally malicious-minded and inclined to abuse will truly benefit or amend their ways from any amount of education; however, in the event the county Board of Education refuses to fire her, it would be better than simply allowing her to keep her job and stay in the same position where she already is now, maintaining the status quo. 

I firmly believe that the majority of teachers are people with good or decent intentions who genuinely want to support their students and not abuse them; the kind of education demanded in the second and third provisions of the petition ought to provide these people with a better foundation and toolkit for interacting appropriately and respectfully with Autistic students and students with other disabilities. I would much rather focus on what good can be gained of a horrific and disgusting situation than the good that cannot be gained from it, and that is what I hope to accomplish with this petition. 

In response to concerns about misinformation or conflicting information about the type of bag used, it was an Abilitations BagOBalls (not a duffel bag, or a gym ball bag, or a netted bag), which is intended to be used for occupational therapy, specifically sensory integration therapy through application of deep pressure; however, the teacher who told Chris to get inside the bag was NOT a trained clinician using the bag in a therapeutic setting in a manner so that he would have been free to leave of his own initiative. It was instead used inappropriately as a restraint and a punishment, not as a therapy. 

- Lydia

Update 2 Jan. 2012: I've received more than one email asking why I do not use person first language. I am Autistic. This deviation is intentional, and you can read about it and my rationale here. Please read that article and any links inside it in their entirety before emailing me demanding to know why I will not use PFL. Thank you.

This petition was delivered to:
  • Special Education, Mercer County Board of Education
    Emma Jean Tamme
  • Board Member, Mercer County Board of Education
    Ron Betsher
  • Principal, Hughes Jones Harrodsburg Area Technology Center
    Duane Flora
  • Board Member, Mercer County Board of Education
    Billy Montgomery
  • Principal, Mercer County High School
    Melissa Hutchins
  • Mercer County Board of Education
  • Board Member, Mercer County Board of Education
    James Stinnett
  • Assessment/District Wide Programs/Professional Development
    Jana Stratton
  • Principal, Kenneth D. King Middle School
    Terry Gordon
  • Superintendent, Mercer County Board of Education
    Dennis Davis
  • Board Member, Mercer County Board of Education
    Pattie Burke
  • Principal, Mercer County Intermediate School
    Dana Cobb
  • Principal, Harrodsburg Day Treatment Center, Mercer Central - Alternative School, 9th Grade Academy
    Gayla Jenkins
  • Board Member, Mercer County Board of Education
    Larry Yeager
  • Principal, Evan Harlow Early Learning Center
    Dr. Karen Hatfield

Lydia Brown started this petition with a single signature, and now has 207,299 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.