In what appears to be yet another example of how ill-equipped some schools are to handle the needs of children with autism, 5-year-old Kendrick Butler of Killeen, Texas ran away from his school last week. He was on the run for 35 minutes in all. He made it several blocks, and was almost hit by a car at one point.
Fortunately, he was okay. His mother got a call Friday afternoon telling her to come pick him up, and they gave her a brief description of what happened, along with his punishment -- a three-day suspension from school.
Does anyone else see something incredibly wrong with that?
First of all, the fact that he was able to escape the school sounds problematic. How did that happen? But to suspend him seems outrageous to me. He didn't hurt anyone, and while he needs to learn not to run away from school, kicking him out isn't going to help him learn the lesson. It may end up being more of a reward than anything.
While it sounds like the school was at least aware that he left and did get him back safely, it seems they should be questioning how it happened more than how to punish him. And how on earth did it take 35 minutes to catch him? Accidents and mistakes happen, and we don't have enough details about how he escaped to say the school's negligence led to it, but punishing the boy in this manner seems wrong any way you look at it.
The school district says it's investigating the incident, but Jackson has filed a formal complaint, and I don't blame her. While there should certainly be some action taken to make sure her son doesn't run away again, it needs to be action that is productive and understanding of autism rather than some random punishment that will likely do more harm than good.