Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Failing Zakhqurey Price

Dear Readers,

Chances are you don’t know who Zakhqurey Price is or why it matters to you that this 11 year old boy was charged with a felony. And most likely, if you did see his name fly by as you scanned Facebook while drinking your morning coffee, the words “autism” “injured teacher” and “felony” alluded to a story that was disconcerting but not applicable enough to your own life to garner any further investigation. Besides, a lost virtual cow needed you now. If Zakhqurey Price was real news--important news--you’d catch it on your favorite newsmedia outlet, right?

Wrong. Although barraged by information and leads, larger media has yet to tackle Zakhqurey’s troubling story. This isn’t surprising since abusing children with disabilities is tolerated and justified by the general public. If you don’t believe me, peruse the online comments of the relatively few local and national stories dealing with the abuse of students with disabilities. If you need more evidence, take a look at the recently introduced federal legislation that is aimed at protecting school children from being involuntarily locked in rooms and restricted from moving. Yes, as evident by hundreds of stories of the misuse and abuse of seclusion rooms and restraint procedures in our public schools, we need a federal law to keep public schools from locking children with disabilities up in padded rooms, strapping them down in chairs, and pinning them onto the ground until they are no longer able to breathe.

I know where your mind is going now, at least if you are the general public. It’s the same place that will quietly beckon you once you read Zakhqurey’s story: These kids are dangerous. These practices are needed to keep everyone safe. Teachers shouldn’t have to put up with these kids. It’s a sad situation all around, but these kids aren’t my problem. And with these beliefs also come the less obvious but no less common opinions: Children with disabilities don’t belong in public schools. They aren’t capable of learning. These kids are a drain on the system.

Wrong again. Unfortunately children with disabilities, children like Zakhqurey Price, are all too often not given a chance to achieve their potential. They are instead intentionally set up to fail. These children are denied evaluations and refused adequate services, support, and accommodations. And when these children reach crisis after repeated systemic failure, unsafe methods such as seclusion and restraint are used as a first line intervention rather than as a last resort. As what happened in Zakhqurey’s case, these methods often escalate already distraught situations as children respond out of desperation, fear, and confusion. And finally, the “fight or flight” reactions of these frightened children then “justify” the schools’ responses of dangerous physical interventions in the name of treatment and/or safety. This perpetual cycle of failure and abuse at a minimum leaves children traumatized but also leads to injury, arrest, or death.

Unfortunately, Zakhqurey Price’s story does not end with the abuse of seclusion and restraint methods, but continues with unrelenting systemic failure and abuse. So what happens now? Will you tend to your virtual farm or will you instead pay attention to Zakhqurey Price, realizing that his story is happening everyday in our own backyards? We could stop this abuse from happening especially if we just took the time to notice it.

Ange Hemmer


Niksmom said...

Ange, thanks for bringing this to people's attention, especially in such a powerful, passionate way. Hopefully, people who don't have children, or who don't have a child with a disability, will sit up and take notice. Maybe even do something about it.

Club 166 said...

Thanks, Ange, for keeping this in the public eye. Sooner or later, reason will prevail (or so I keep telling myself).


Anonymous said...

I got a petition this morning, asking for charges to be dropped against this boy. First I checked Snopes, then the Internet. The email I had received had no location, so I wasn't sure of the legitimacy. When I saw "Arkansas", it all got clearer. Although it may be rampant elsewhere, intolerance is part of the legacy of this backward state. Hopefully, with the Internet, this news will reach the people and incite some action. It isn't surprising at all that the 'Media' doesn't run stories such as this, since it is in bed with those that perpetrate and promote these attitudes of intolerance and abuse.

Skillful Squad Seraphs, Inc said...

This is the first time I am hearing about Zakhqurey Price's story, what is going on now with his case? Is there any way to help the family? Reading what happen to Zakhqurey and his family is quite alarming and you have to wonder, how can this go on in today's day and age. The words in this blog are unfortunately true, "districts setting up kids for failure, not given the chance to achieve their potential,denied evaluations, services, accommodations..."I feel as a special education consultant & trainer that teachers are not properly trained and the bar for special education is set extremely low and it shouldn't be. More needs to be done to help children with disabilities, the bar needs to be raised, and all individuals involved in that child's life needs to be properly trained. I wish I had heard this story sooner, but if anyone has more info. please let me know.

Lynne Birkbeck said...

I'm so frightened by this story. What is happening to Zakhqurey is so wrong on so many levels and my heart goes out to him and his family.
Here in Australia, we have a school in Brisbane North called Hercules Road State School. Can I tell you that the work they do with children on the Autistic Spectrum is awesome and with little funding they are getting good results. Schools can do it - and it's not about money - it's about teachers choosing to become informed, choosing to be inventive and choosing to care and it's about a Head Master/Principle who encourages this thinking. I have a 7 year old Aspie in 2nd grade, doing so well.
A 5 yr Aspie starting this year. Already she has had 6 months of getting to know the school, her beloved teacher and the special needs unit staff and how the school days will work. They prepare our kids and ALL schools can do it they choose not to. Don't let them tell you it's about money - it's not.
My thoughts are with you in your fight. Cheers Lynne