Alex Ousted from Kindergarten by Vote of Classmates

His story broke last week, and when I read it, I was troubled, saddened and outraged, but because of time constraints all I could do was make notes, knowing that it would be this week before I would be writing about this charming little boy

Alex Barton

Photo provided by the family

Alex Barton was a kindergarten student at Morningside Elementary School in Port St. Lucie, Fla. when his teacher Wendy Portillo led the class in a vote which resulted in the ousting of this child from his class. As startling as this sounds, he was ejected from the classroom and sent to the nurse’s office–because of the vote of his classmates.

Alex, a 5 year old boy “who is in the process of being diagnosed with autism,” specifically Asperger’s syndrome, was voted out of his kindergarten classroom by the other students. How did that happen? The teacher thought it would be a good idea to let the other kids tell Alex what they thought of him. “Disgusting” and ” annoying” was the verdict. The vote was 14-2 in favor of kicking him out of the class, so he left and spent the rest of the day in the nurse’s office.

from Strollerderby

Melissa Barton, his mother, filed a complaint with Morningside’s school resource officer, who investigated the matter, Port St. Lucie Department spokeswoman Michelle Steele said. But the state attorney’s office concluded the matter did not meet the criteria for emotional child abuse, so no criminal charges will be filed.

I understand how annoying it can be to have a disruptive child in a classroom, or in a home, or in a church service, or in a Sunday school situation. In both Rialto and Garden Grove, Jerry founded Christian schools, and I’m quite familiar with such frustrations, although we were not staffed to handle autistic children, so we would not have admitted Alex to our school. But we had plenty of disruptive students, believe me. So, I sympathize with the difficulty the teacher must have experienced in dealing with Alex.

But to call such a child to the front of the room and lead his classmates into berating and belittling him is far beyond the pale. It smacks of cruelty, and a complete lack of feeling for this challenged child.

It is my opinion that the teacher should be fired.

There have been positive developments in the story since last week. From around the world, Alex and his mother have received support. In this video, you will see Alex and his mother Melissa being interviewed.

I’m interested in your opinion about this matter. Can you think of any reason the teacher was justified in such action?

Edit: Breaking News Friday 10:00 A kindergarten teacher has been reassigned after she allowed her students to oust a fellow 5-year-old from the classroom because of his disciplinary Chicago Sun-Times

19 thoughts on “Alex Ousted from Kindergarten by Vote of Classmates

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  2. I attend Pastor Tim Smith’s church in Victorville, CA. =0) You and your husband have been there a few times if my memory serves me correctly!

    Sure, Bekki, we’ve been there numerous times. When I saw your picture on your blog, I thought I must know you.

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  3. I taught an autistic boy, also named Alex, in my Sunday School class a few years ago, and it was definitely a learning experience for me. When Alex (age 9) first started in my class of two and three-year-olds, he would not (or could not) speak (at home or in my class). He would participate in many of the activities and he loved coloring. Alex gradually grew more comfortable with the other children and myself, and would only grow agitated when someone new came, or when there was a substitute in my classroom. At that point, he could become very violent, which is characteristic of Autism. It was difficult to deal with him when he became violent, and I left my classroom with many a bruise or bite. But I did see a huge improvement in his behavior while he was in my class because he became familiar with our class and myself. By the time he left my class he was even talking! Autistic children become very attached to those around them, so little Alex in Florida was probably very attached to his classmates and teacher, just because they were familiar to him. I cannot even imagine what the little guy felt when this occurred. It is abhorrent to even think of.

    I do not want to judge this teacher, although I think her action was completely unacceptable and disciplinary action definitely needs to be taken. If she had difficulties dealing with him, she needed to get help before she felt so pressured to humiliate a 5-year-old. What Tyler said about allowing the 5 year olds to run the classroom is completely correct. It is ridiculous that she couldn’t behave like an adult and take care of the situation in a manner becoming of her position.

    Bekki, what a wonderful experience to be able to see progress in the Alex with whom you worked. Not everyone can take on such a task.

    What church do you attend?

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  4. I know I already posted, but I got to thinking they should suspend the teacher’s credential and require her to work as an aide at a school for autistic children. Maybe she would learn something.

    Jana Allard

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  5. Well Shirley, Let’s just say I’m glad God is God, and you are Shirley. 🙂

    My Lord, have mercy, I’m in no way trying to play God when I write an opinion. 🙂

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  6. scotchcart

    Taking it to law was almost as bad as the original deed.

    Where were the other teachers, parents and principal in all this? What was the nurse’s role? Has the ‘sick bay’ become a ‘time out room’? I expect to see the community step in and resolved this in a positive way.Their silence is deafening.

    Hello, Scotch. Although it is reported that the teacher has actually been placed in another classroom, there is much outcry about this situation. I’m hoping it will be resolved correctly.

    Thanks for your contribution.

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  7. ABSURD!!! The teacher should have been quietly documenting the boys behavior and requesting the school pyschologist to evaluate him. Public schools have classrooms for children with disorders. He needed to be placed in a class that was appropriate for him. NEVER, under any circumstance, should a child be voted out, embarrassed, or criticized in front of their peers. The teacher should speak privately to a student when the remark is negative and even then, the teacher should be careful what words are spoken. This teacher needs to have her credentials suspended until she takes further training (which should be a lot) and learns from her mistake.

    I believe Alex had been evaluated and was undergoing additional testing. Much of the problem may have arisen because the school placed him in a classroom setting that just couldn’t work.

    However it came about, though, the teacher was absolutely wrong in the demeaning, ugly way she handled the problem. It was outrageous.

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  8. The teacher was so wrong. Perhaps the child needed to be removed from the classroom, but asking children to vote a student out is really over the top. As far as the teacher never working with children again, I think that goes too far. We have no idea what made the teacher react in the way she did. perhaps she needs a bit of understanding too.

    No doubt the teacher was frustrated, for teaching is such a challenging job. And to have a child such as Alex was no doubt quite difficult. I certainly am understanding of that and hope I have conveyed my feelings in that regard.

    However, it seems this teacher did not just have a moment of such frustration that she spoke harshly or angrily, and then was sorry of it, but with calculation planned and executed a horrible time for a child. It had to take quite a while to get every child quizzed and to get Alex out of her room.

    No, I don’t think she should be a teacher in a classroom again. Certainly not by herself. Perhaps she could work with someone else, work in the library or something like that.

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  9. ajoi

    So much for character-building curriculum….

    (as a mother I’m FURIOUS about this and screaming and ranting inside, but I have nothing productive to add to the discussion at this time–besides suggesting that she be required to return to school for special education training in order to retain her teaching credentials–and not step foot in a classroom prior to completion of such).

    I understand, Ajol. It is so unbelievable it is hard to even speak of it. I’m glad my children are grown, for I absolutely would not put them in a public school today. How shameful is this.

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  10. Not only did poor little Alex suffer, but so did his classmates. I really hope the teacher learns something from this, and that Alex is put into an environment where he can truly learn to trust teachers again. Not all teachers out there are good — many, many are, and it’s an occupation that I couldn’t do myself — but teachers need to remember they’re dealing with children, and the younger they are, the more compassion and understanding they deserved. Simply reassigning this teacher is not enough. She needs to be sent back to school or fired, sent to work in an area where she can’t play on peoples’ emotions. My heart goes out to Alex and his family, and I hope the school learns something from this as well.

    Welcome to my site. Hope you’re here often. For the life of me I cannot understand why this teacher is still in a classroom. Anyone who would treat another human–much less a child–much less an especially challenged child–with such disdain and cruelty has no place in any classroom.

    You’re right about the influence on all the children. Some of them may never forget what they did. I hope their parents have the wisdom to explain how wrong this was. It would be great if they could get together with Alex and apologize to him.

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  11. That is a horrible thing for a teacher to do. Those type of actions are the ones that leave people feeling un-loved and un-wanted–both which are awful feelings, I’m sure. My heart goes out to that little boy…

    You know, Jen, people will put up with a lot from us…if they know we love them. I was talking to a young pastor and his wife not long ago, and I emphasized that to them. I may not be as polished or competent as the next person, but if those in my circle of influence know I truly love them, they will more readily excuse my clumsiness and will listen to my teaching.

    I’m glad you know that.

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  12. Tyler,

    In 3rd grade, the teacher confessed to me and apologized for being rude to my daughter (even crying at home she said. My girl was outspoken when it came to kids not acting right towards one another. Today I wonder how the teacher would have handled that. Back then she was convicted because it was right, but angry because it came from a child.

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  13. Catherine,

    I agree. A traumatic experience for the family in the long haul. Unfortunetly, after teachers recieve their tenure, it’s very hard to suspend their credentials. The honorable position of teacher has no respect to the kids anymore. At least the majority of them.

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  14. Sis. Buxton,

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. I am a teacher and I know how disruptive some students can get. But at the same time, it seems as if this teacher has never gone through anything where she has been rejected or pushed away from something or someone. Or perhaps she has and this is how she reacts to a situation of the past that has somehow influenced her. Perhaps the only way she knows, is reactive leadership and hasnt closed some doors of hurt and this is a way to relieve some of that hurt. But you dont just shut a kid out and exile them.

    I realize that Alex might have been a little bit harder to help and may have had some other needs, but there were sooo many other ways of handling this situation instead of causing embarassment to the family and the teacher herself. Teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, I found out you find what way works best for that child and you go off of that. I dont know if she would have been able to help Alex, but every one of them is different and responds to different ways and things. If the kids should have voted anybody out of the class it should have been her.

    This was totally un-ethcial and wrong. The kids should not be in charge of the classroom, the teacher should. That alone shows you how shallow she really is and there is something not right…..she lets 5 year olds run the classroom. If you need approval from 5 year olds, there is DEFINETLY something wrong…

    Tyler, thank you for these affirming remarks, and for your expression of an understanding of human.

    I’m glad to hear wise words of compassion and kindness from such a fine young man as you are. It comforts me.

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  15. I was talking to a young couple on saturday night a out teachers that should not be teachers. We talked about our family’s experiences. I understand about the disruptive nature of challenged children, but this is not an appropriate action. Merely a reaction out of frustration. Awful example for this class, probably very traumatic in the long range for all, not only the little boy. What has become of the honorable occupation of teacher? And she was “merely relocated”? Outrageous! This world is changing so rapidly is makes me almost spin. The classroom is the cradle of society…

    You know, Catherine, I really have a soft spot in my heart for teachers. They have a difficult job under the best of circumstances. Many of the children are undisciplined at home, and that lack adds to the range of challenges in the classroom. Teacher’s salaries are inadequate; it’s not an easy job.

    Having said that, though, I cannot comprehend any teacher acting in such a way as did this one.

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  18. That is the saddest thing I have ever heard. The teacher should be fired and never allowed in front of children again.

    I’m of the opinion she should be stripped of her teaching credentials. However, I have just learned that she has merely been relocated.

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