It has been widely reported that Black kids are punished more harshly in school.

According to a report from the NAACP, “6% of all K-12 students received one or more out-of school suspensions, the percentage is 18% for black boys; 10% for black girls; 5% for white boys; and 2% for white girls” and “Black students are almost twice as likely to be expelled from school without educational services as white students. ‘Black boys represent 8% of all students, but 19% of students expelled without educational services. Black girls are 8% of all students, but 9% of students expelled without educational services.’” The numbers are startling, and the latest incident with an autistic child at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Rio Rancho, New Mexico is a prime example.

According to KRQE, an 8-year-old student who has autism “punched his special education teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in the face after she took an iPad away from him. She says, he hit her hard enough to bruise her nose.” In early March, the teacher filed a police report against the child. The child’s mother, Maria McKay, says she only knew about the battery charge when she received a call from a juvenile detention officer. She said, “Very shocking. Definitely was not prepared for a missed phone call from juvenile probation that my 8-year-old autistic child had failed to appear for a scheduled meeting. I called back and assured him there was a mistake.”

The mother said “the teacher triggered DJ by taking that iPad away from him. McKay says an iPad is a great source of comfort for her son. She also says the teacher yelled at DJ and ‘snatched’ the iPad out of his hands, which is not described in the police report.” She explained, “If you’re screaming at him, if you’re yelling at him, he is extremely overwhelmed. He may hit, he may kick, he may run. That is just how he communicates.”

Her son’s case is now moving through the legal process and the mother said, “He now has to appear at juvenile probation next week for an appointment. He is absolutely terrified.” The teacher was not available for comment. A spokesperson for Rio Rancho Public Schools released the following statement, “There was an incident in early March where a 2nd-grade student punched a staff member. We cannot speak to student or personnel matters, but I can say that the school did not initiate the police report. In addition, we cannot prevent a staff member from personally filing a report. That is his or her right.”

It is disturbing the mother had to find out there was a battery charge against her son only after receiving a call from juvenile probation. Why not notify her immediately? Why jump to pressing charges instead to informing the parent? How sad that this eight-year-old might have a record because of a so-called teacher, which directly relates to Black children being unfairly punished.

Maria has not allowed her son to return to school. She said he will return when he is transferred out of the teacher’s class.

 

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