Michael D., a student at a Long Island High School was suspended after he left school grounds. As with many individuals on the spectrum of autism, Michael, aged 14, has no problem with academics, but has issues with socialization. He and his friends had decided to go to the school library during lunch period, where students are allowed to use their cell phones. A school employee, not familiar with the policy, began yelling at Michael and his friends. This put him in panic mode, which prompted him to seek a safe place – in this case, home. To get home, he had to cross busy streets with no crossing guard. The school is supposed to have a “relaxation room” that he can visit when he feels anxious, but the school has allowed that room to be taken over by students that bully him. That doesn’t sound very relaxing to me, but that is not where the contradictions end, either.
As part of Michael’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan), the school was made aware that he tends to wander off, and may even run away if he feels stressed out. This is known as elopement. So when this stranger at the school yelled at him, he left for a safe haven. Luckily his mother, Keri, was home when he got there and returned him to the school. Upon their arrival, she found out that the school did not even know he was missing for more than an hour. Rather than apologize, the administration suspended him for five days. During that time frame, he missed a handful of (socialization) events, such as the class picnic, graduation rehearsal and yearbook signings! His mother was quoted as saying “This is a boy who has trouble socializing. So what you’ve done for him, is you’ve taken away everything that he’s worked for from kindergarten to eighth grade. It’s like saying to the blind girl ‘well you couldn’t read the chalkboard, so we’re suspending you for five days and we’re making you wear something on your ears so you can’t hear.’ They completely isolated my son, and no one deserves that.” No, Keri, nobody deserves that, and we give your son’s school a grade of F. The family has now retained an attorney.