#CultOfCompliance – Abuse of Disabled Children of Color in Schools

Several stories around the same themes. A black child is abused by guards or police in schools. There’s almost always a disability context.

1. A lawsuit alleges a 6-year-old black child in Chicago with “special needs” was handcuffed under a stair for over an hour to “teach her a fucking lesson.”

The security guard at Fernwood Elementary School punished Marlena Wordlow’s daughter in March by handcuffing her near the school’s boilers. Other students had told the security guard that little Madisyn had stolen a piece of candy, but her mother said it was part of her lunch.

In a statement, the Chicago Public Schools says the guard has been fired and a “do not hire” note was placed in his personnel file. The district says it took immediate action.
Wordlow was horrifed when she showed up at the school and was taken to her daughter, who was still handcuffed. Madisyn was “crying, sweating, and visibly scared and distraught,” according to the lawsuit.

No criminal charges were filed, though the guard was fired. How is this not a criminal act of abuse? A guard decided to respond to an alleged THEFT OF A PIECE OF CANDY by handcuffing a child by the boilers.

2. The ACLU has gotten involved in the “Spring Valley” case that, thanks to a video of a school police officer (SRO = School Resource Officer) hurling a black teen to a floor, got a lot of attention awhile back. The complaint is here. An NYT story here.

Disruption in a classroom must not be criminalized. There are plenty of disciplinary measures schools should take, but everything we know about school discipline is that non-white students, disabled students, and especially non-white disabled students will be treated differently than their white, abled, peers. Laws, often stemming from the zero tolerance/zero common sense movement, criminalize standard classroom disruptions.

I wrote on the Spring Valley case and a new policy in SC to keep SROs out of discipline situations here.

3. Rebecca Klein at Huffington Post has a long report on TASERs in schools. Klein doesn’t address the disability context, but it’s an important recent story and I’m sure that if we dug into the data, we’d find a major overlap.

Leave a Reply