Morningside Elementary, St. Lucie School Board, Stop the Hate
While this may seem like ancient history and something that could never happen again, even now in the 21st century some families with autistic children are enduring bullying and harassment from bigots who want to segregate their children. Melissa Barton, who successfully brought a complaint that resulted in the suspension of the teacher who incited a group of kindergartners to vote her son out of class, has faced ugly retaliation as a result of defending her son. Her children also have been attacked by haters. I have reposted an open letter from Ms. Barton along with her appeal to the school board and superintendent for decency, proper enforcement of the law, and respect for her family's civil rights:
I am not sending this to you so that you may have sympathy for our family but be aware of what retaliation comes with defending your child. If this is happening to you as well, do not fear. A wise friend once told me: Wishing you a day without retaliatory behavior, if that is possible. One of my inspirational quotes from Gandhi to you: First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Next, they fight you. Finally, you win.
Since my defending Alex our family has been bullied beyond anything I could have ever imagined. The bullies are not children but their parents, teachers, law enforcement and a Vice Principal.
As I write this to you I almost do not know where to begin. First, my son Kyle who is ten is in the gifted program at the very school that treated Alex so cruelly. This is the only gifted program in my area so I have no other choice.
In the beginning of the year I received a letter from the principal of the school warning me to leave. Within a few days my ten year old had been pushed physically by the Vice Principal of the school right in front of me! The police said that there was nothing that they could do, then it happened again.......still nothing. Later, Kyle, my ten year old had been given grades that were not accurate after a letter from my attorney they improved within days ten points or more. In January, I received a notice from the school that they were pursuing a truancy case against me for Kyle who had only missed five days of school all with notes. The truancy officer was shocked to find that the school wasted her time and mine. During all of this I have been fighting for a IEP for Alex and battling the district for a FAPE under IDEA Law - still not one service to date - In February, Wendy Portillo decided to appeal her punishment as a teacher by the district : http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2009/jan/29/alex-barton-teachers-suspension-appeal-be-heard-mo/ The very night the above article came out in our local news, I received six hang up phone calls from the school number.
At the appeal for Wendy Portillo, teachers from Morningside heckled me and my oldest child infront of media. One teacher in particular seemed like he had mental issues and a breakdown was taking place in the parking lot of the appeal building. When I phoned police to speak to the School Resource Officer Division, I was treated very poorly and told that it was not their liability to protect my son at school.
I can handle the snares from teachers, staff and parents at the school. I can handle letters to our local news paper from parents at the school with nasty comments. I can handle calling the school and being hung up on nearly every time I call to speak about my son Kyle's education. But I have to draw the line somewhere:
Last Friday http://www.cbs12.com/news/barton-4717586-says-school.html
When I called the SRO to the school about the incident, she wrote a police report that was bias and claimed that there was nothing that could be done. She did not even question the other mother until late in the day as she felt it best to wait until she got off of work. In the report the SRO writes that I did not appear to be pregnant, although I am clearly six months along. The woman was never questioned about stalking me as she said she had been.
We have had police officers drive to our home and run the plate of visitors for no apparent reason. I have been followed by these same officers to and from the school every day. The SRO's Sargent referred to me as a con artist to a dear friend of mine and the list goes on and on.
But, it hasn't even gotten bad yet. Yesterday, I was forced to send the following email to the school board, and superintendent:
Mr Lannon, Mrs Renew and members of the board:
My name is Melissa Barton,
The reason I am contacting you today is a serious issue.
My oldest child Kyle Barton is a 4th grader at Morningside in the gifted program as it is the only one in my zone. From the beginning of this year there have been miscellaneous incidents with staff members at Morningside Elementary directed at my son Kyle due to a separate ongoing issue with my other son from members of Morningside and now parents of the school.
Recently a parent came up to me and told me that she had been following me. She also made threats to harm me and my unborn child on school property with no consequence to her. SEE: http://www.cbs12.com/news/barton-4717586-says-school.html
Today, I went to pick up Kyle from school as I do everyday, with my younger son in tow. When I arrived at Morningside I immediately was approached by a woman holding a picket sign ( I started to snap photos with my cell phone). As we pulled into the parent pickup line where all the children stand to wait to get into their parents cars my young six year old son with autism and I noticed several other possible parents/others holding picketing signs that stated "Our children love Morningside" "We love Morningside" and other like worded things regarding teachers at Morningside. This took place on school property just three feet or less from my son Kyle. One of the picketers heckled my young autistic son as he sat scared in the front seat of my car. My son Kyle got into our car with tears running down his cheeks. We also noticed was several staff members and one volunteer from Morningside standing directly next to the picketers. Of the staff I witnessed ESE Coordinator, Cathy Oliver and Patricia Gascogine, Assistant Principal names are the ones I know. Other staff were camped out just inside the doors of the school watching the protest about our family.
Here are my concerns:
Parents that are strangers were feet away from my son Kyle and other children making remarks about me while your staff stood idly by. Not only was his safety at risk but his mental well being as well. Additionally, these picketers on school grounds were taunting my autistic son as we drove past to get Kyle. These actions will impact my children for years to come.
I sincerely hope you consider this to be a VERY SERIOUS occurrence and take the appropriate measures to make sure it never happens again in your district and to make an example in general of the staff like Mrs. Oliver and Mrs. Gascogine. There is something seriously wrong with the picket being allowed take place while staff stand by and do nothing all on school grounds.
I am sickened, outraged and utterly beyond words. This is not only morally wrong but legally as well.
I expect to be contacted within the next three school days with an apology for my children and what steps you are going to take to discipline the staff involved and prevent those parents involved from coming onto school property for the purpose of bulling, harassment or retaliation.
I hope we can expeditiously come to an agreeable solution.