“Boy in a Box”

"Boy in a Box"

Did you happen to hear about the 4th grade teacher in Wildomar who kept her number one, 10 year old, problem student in a large cardboard box in the back of her classroom? That’s right, she place her student in a freakin’ box! But it was no ordinary box, oh no, it was decorated to make it more appealing, and the teacher figured it was okay since it was provided for the boy by a district counselor to be used as a refuge when he found it difficult to focus on classroom activities or lessons. However it became more of a holding cell rather than a safe haven and soon took the place of the utility closet which had previously been used for his time outs. 

The ‘box boy’ suffers from Asperger Syndrome which is akin to autism. Those with Aspergers  are typically uncomfortable in social settings, have trouble making and maintaining friends and  can become overly obsessed with particular topics or objects.  Whenever her troubled student managed to push her buttons or became too much for her to handle, the teacher would send him to sit in the box, apparently on a pretty regular basis. If the boy hadn’t asked his mother if he could take a pair of scissors to school so he could “cut a window in his box,” she would have never known and the her son would still be in the box!

So what’s up with this teacher anyway? Her defense is simply that the boy went to the box voluntarily and the respite it provided was a positive thing.  The boy readily admits that he  sometimes went on his own, but says his teacher sent him to the box for “time outs or when she was mad.” And although the boy has stated that he found comfort in the darkness and isolation of the box, the act of isolation as a punishment is wrong for any child let alone a special needs child. And get this, the teacher, although teaching a mainstream class, possesses a state education specialist credential which qualifies her to teach special need students!  Right!  She should have known better!  She’s been placed on administrative leave while the matter is under investigation. This teacher blew it big time!  The families already has an attorney and has started legal action against the district, which is usually a precursor to a law suit. Duh!

Believe me I know discipline is a crucial issue and can really test a teacher’s patience and classroom management skills. I know that one student can make all the difference in the world, but putting a special need student in a box? Come on now, Really? If you don’t have the temperament to deal with children get out of the business. The classroom is not the place for you.

When I was in 4th grade I had a teacher who was as sweet as could be, until you pissed her off that is.  I remember a kid named Russell who knew just how to set her off, and he liked doing it. He wasn’t just the classroom clown he was a stand up comic! Mrs. A used to grab him by the ear and drag him up to the front of the classroom where she would stand him at the blackboard and berate and belittle him like nobodies business! One time she had all of us crumble up a piece of loose leaf paper and we all threw them at Russell. She made some comment about him growing up to be a trash collector, then made him get down on his hands and knees and pick up all the papers while she towered over him with a ruler! There were no parent phone calls or law suits. Parochial schools could do anything.

In sixth grade we had a nun we called ‘The Bear’ who used to take problems students into the a small room adjacent to the classroom where she’d have you take off your shoe, hand it to her, then she’d beat you a few times with it! Classic. If she didn’t get with your shoe she sometimes would quietly come up behind you and clobbered you on the head with her knuckle and the big nun ring she wore that resembled a graduation ring. Now that was killer! It really hurt! Believe me I know!

In high school we had priests for teachers, mean priest who wouldn’t hesitate to whack you with a ruler, pointer or on occasion, a closed fist or sometimes several closed fists. Again there were no law suits or administrative leave for teachers. Different world, different time, private school.

Yeah I have a real problem with this one, ‘boy in a box’ is going a little too far. Maybe if the box were used for all the students, instead of just a particular student, I don’t know.  As far as I’m concerned a classroom is already one big box! When I was at Cal Poly, taking my teaching classes several of my professors referred to the classroom as ‘the box’. Currently we have 36 students crammed into the box and unfortunately life in the box is soon going to be drastically changing, making things considerably worse for teachers and students alike.

In an effort to save money our district is considering raising classroom limits which means  teachers lay offs. I can’t begin to imagine 42 kids in the box, that’s just insane! I feel badly for our teachers, as little as two years ago several of them had 20 or fewer students in their classes. Then the class size reduction program was done away with and their classes jumped to 36, and now it could possibly go to 42! How can  a teacher be expected to teach under those conditions? It’s just not right. Sadly, the end result will be, God forbid,  lower test scores and the loss of some of our finest teachers, teachers who will simply get fed up and leave the profession entirely, leaving California to hover at or near the bottom of the countries educational heap. So sad, we used to be contenders at one time  our education system was a model for the country. Now look at us and it’s gonna get worse before it get’s better. Maybe we ought to find some large boxes for our legislators, they desperately need a time out!

Just Saying…

JS

 

 

 

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