Skip to main content

11-year-old girl with ASD charged with felony in Texas (Part 1)

barsjail(1).jpg
Photo courtesy of abardwell @ flickr.com
Children with special needs should not be prosecuted.

Texas justice is known for being rough. The Texas Rangers (as in Walker, not baseball) had a famous tag line of “One riot, one ranger." Still, when a teacher calls the police because a child threw a book at her, things are getting a little out of hand.

The first time Chantal (then a fifth grader in Frisco, Texas) was charged with a crime, her parents were floored. Surely this couldn't be happening to their daughter. “Assault” was the charge for a 10-year-old girl who threw a paperback book after being taunted by her teacher.

Chantal, who has Asperger's Syndrome (a type of Autism), was displaying typical Asperger's behavior on the day that she tried to escape a stressful situation by climbing under a classroom table. While her teachers had been told the best way to calm her was to let her self-soothe and leave her alone (and it was in fact written into her ARD), they instead made her the focus of the classroom, intent on bringing her out of her hiding place. Her mother was called and she was able to coax Chantal out and take her down to a counselor's office to de-stress.

Chantal's mother, Angela, was notified that the disruption of the class would require Chantal to spend a day in In School Suspension (ISS). However, when Angela called the FISD Autism specialist, she agreed that Chantal could not and would not be punished for behaviors relating to her disability. She would instead spend a day in a one-on-one situation with a special education teacher to catch her up and make sure that Chantal was calm for a return to school the next day.

Instead, Chantal arrived at school and was told by that teacher that she was going to ISS. Chantal tried to remain calm as she explained that her mother had already fixed the situation and would explain if they would let Chantal call her. She was told “That is not an option at this time.” Chantal started to panic, but climbed under a desk to try to calm herself. She also grabbed a nearby phone cord and tried to pull the phone to her in order to make the call herself.

The teacher in the room did not leave Chantal to calm herself. Instead she stood nearby, struggling with the young girl for control of the phone via the cord, and eventually making a production of cutting the plug off of the phone and cutting the cord in half to prove to the ten-year-old that she would not win. Reportedly, Chantal asked for things that would help her calm down like her journal and her lunch and was denied those things.

Chantal began throwing things to express her frustration. Once again, instead of removing throwable object from Chantal's reach and leaving her to calm down, the teacher in the room began commenting as items were thrown. She said, “Good one” and “Try again” to the girl until a thrown soft-cover book hit her. Then the teacher called the police.

At 10:44 the police issued Chantal a citation for Assault of a Civil Servant. It was over an hour later, at 11:58, that her mother was called to inform her that there was a situation at school and could she please come. No other details were given to her at that time.

After thousands of dollars in legal fees, missed work, and additional therapy and medication for Chantal in relation to this incident, the charges were dropped. Yet, less than a year later, a teacher at her junior high school has filed similar charges for a similar incident.

PART 2

What do you think? Please comment below and check back for comments or write me at specialeducationexaminer@gmail.com

Check back for updates to this and related stories or subscribe to have the latest special education headlines from this author straight to your email box. Your email address will not be shared.

Note: Permission is granted to include short extracts of this article on websites and email lists with a link to this page (the original). This article has a copyright © and should not be reprinted in its entirety without the author's permission.

More articles by Kindall Nelson:

Special needs students not subject to disciplinary actions, kudos to CT principal

Urgent: Making due process affordable for parents of students with special needs

Getting what your child needs in the classroom, Step 1: Smile

Getting what your child needs in the classroom, Step 2: Know the law

Comments