When You Can’t Say: “That Hurts.”

There is a standard horrible argument out there that people with low IQ are protected from trauma because they don’t understand what happened to them. It’s used in sexual assault cases (read here if you must. It’s upsetting) sometimes and must be confronted at every turn.

It’s been on my mind as part of a broader phenomenon due to this case from Texas. A paraprofessional at a school was videoed (by a surveillance camera) shaking and otherwise abusing an 8-year-old boy with Down syndrome. I, too, have an 8 year old boy with Down syndrome, although it doesn’t take such a proximate cause to be outraged.

The para has been fired. The DA has declined to charge the individual, though, because there’s no evidence of pain. A petition has been started by the boy’s mother, asking for the case to be taken to a Grand Jury. Here’s a Facebook page from the local TV Station with links to the story. Here’s a quote:

If it wasn’t for a surveillance camera at Spring Branch ISD’s Wilchester Elementary, Maggie and Raphael Suter believe they would likely never have learned their 8 year old special needs son was assaulted on February 11th by an educator responsible for his protection.
“When we saw the video and saw the para-professional grab him and start violently shaking him and choking him we were both crying, just devastated,” said Maggie, a former public school educator.
“Who could ever do anything to an innocent child, let alone a child who can’t speak or even tell us that something has occurred? I was heartbroken,” said Raphael.
In addition to the choking, the Suters say they watched in agony as their son William was shoved violently to the ground by the same classroom aid.

So here’s where we are.

1. The school waited 8 days to tell the police about the abuse. They are legally required to inform authorities within 48 hours.

2. They DA says that there’s no evidence of physical or psychological harm, as the boy seems happy enough and didn’t scream in pain while being shaken or thrown to the grown. So he won’t charge the para.

I don’t really know where we go from here, other than to share the petition and to talk about the fundamental problems with these kinds of protections and how they are executed for people with disabilities. If you can’t say, “It hurts” or “I’m upset,” then the law shrugs.

2 Replies to “When You Can’t Say: “That Hurts.””

  1. Mommy Songbird says:

    Thank you David for writing about this tragedy. It is beyond me how the Spring Branch ISD Police and the Harris County District Attorney's office could have investigated this crime and not validated that it was indeed a crime! William may not have cried when this happened, but you have to understand our kids with Down syndrome have a delayed reaction and also a high tolerance for pain. Was he scared? Was he hurt? Will he be emotionally scarred from this attack? We can only assume YES on all accounts – but the PRINCIPAL waited EIGHT DAYS to tell the parents and the police! That in itself is a crime!

    Please, readers – sign this petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/justice-for-william-an-8-yr-old-boy-with-down !

    Help us make it very clear to the DA and SBISD that we will not accept anything less than having this case presented to the Grand Jury for review!

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