By Adriana Gamondes
The written transcript of the KUTV news report below starts off with a trigger warning:
A warning: What you are about to read is disturbing.
But I don’t believe in trigger warnings when the public and official response to the ongoing epidemic of abuse of disabled children has been mostly insufficient if not downright passive or complicit.
From Salt Lake City’s KUTV: Watch Video here.
A hidden recording device in a special education classroom is raising alarming questions about what went on inside a classroom at an elementary school in Berkeley County, West Virginia.
Instructor #1: "I ought to backhand you right in your teeth. How is that for anxiety?"
According to parents, that's a secret audio recording of an instructor talking to children inside a special education class at Berkeley Heights Elementary School in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
Amber Pack sent her 8-year-old daughter to class with a recording device after the child didn't want to go back to school. (WJLA)
Instructor #1: "This one I could punch her right in her face."
A different instructor in the same class.
Instructor #2: "You got to go pee-pee? Pee-pee? Or do you not have to go pee-pee and you just want to go **** *** in a chair?"
Instructor #2: "I'm going to pull your hair until you start crying."
Instructor #3: "Don't throw it. Don't throw. You animal you."
Instructor #2: "Yep. You wench."
Instructor #2: "You're like a pygmy. You're like a pygmy thing."
The next day Pack alerted the school district and the Martinsburg Police Department.
The story goes on to report that the three staff members were put on “administrative leave.” If this case follows the national pattern, these teachers will simply be placed in other school systems, just like clerical abusers in the church had been for years.
The above is only one example of countless cases of abuse and mistreatment of the disabled in schools and institutions across the US. When taken a step further, this mistreatment has, according to a decades-old study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, led to the deaths of up to three disabled individuals a week, mostly children.
Harvard drew these statistics in 1997 back when the rate of autism was 1 in 500. Considering the fact that school and institutional policies have not improved and considering the current rate of autism alone— a catastrophic 1 in 36 children— not to mention many other categories of learning and cognitive disorders that have risen among children in the same time period, it may very well be that the death toll from institutional abuse has exponentially risen as well.
And considering that no federal or state agency tracks the number of deaths and injuries occurring in US schools and institutions, this does not speak well of the oversight for emotional abuse or physical abuse in institutions that doesn’t leave marks. In any case, where the latter is happening, the former is more likely. Words lead to sticks, sticks lead to stones.
Speaking of the other kind of “stick”—excessive vaccination—the vicious cycle seems to be afforded by the fact that our society is creating more and more silent punching bags for sickos in the system.
The official silence in response to both disasters can be deafening as the two West Virginia mothers who uncovered staff abuse in the above story discovered— as well as the fact that is nothing worse than seeing your children become statistics twice over, particularly for epidemics that no one will admit are epidemics.
Fortunately not all nonverbal children remain silent victims. The first paragraph my son spoke at age seven after losing speech following routine vaccination right after his first birthday was a call for justice. I’d had no idea that, for many months, my son had been absorbing my instructions to his slightly more verbal disabled twin sister to tell us if anything happened in school. He’d apparently understood every word. That would also means he could have understood every abusive word spoken to him since the time he’d started school.
After describing how his school aide had physically hauled him out of class for “standing too close to other students,” he said “I want you to be angry at Mrs. Campbell. She pushed me and she hurt me. I cried. I want you to be so angry.”
And I was, especially after seeing the bruises and welts on his back.
This happened on “Autism Awareness Day”—April 2nd, 2012. All these years later I’m still “very angry” but the nature of that anger has changed, as it has for my son. For me, anger has become action. And now that my once severely stricken, once nonverbal son is significantly recovered from autism, he expresses his anger at how he’s been treated through a passion for social justice.
Go big or go home as they say. We don’t burn with crippling rage anymore and we don’t think much about measly individual culprits. There’s not much point since no legal authority or advocacy entity in our state would lift a finger in response to our reports of assault. It would have made us happy to see them in jail, but we’ll make do with simmering and looking at the big picture. It makes us more effective and, I would even argue, happier.
Yes, anger makes us happier. I’m convinced that human beings have a radar for what’s happening around them—even things they may not have directly witnessed nor even heard about— and that depression and despair are often an expression of the gap between what we’re told or would prefer to believe is happening and what is actually happening. If the gap gets too wide, we risk falling into it. So it’s better to close the gap and heed our instincts than it is to create an abyss of denial that can swallow us.
Two gaping chasms in public consciousness are the epidemic of abuse of the disabled in schools and institutions across the United States as well as the epidemic of disability itself. Clearly there wouldn’t be such enormous gaps and so much cause for anger if all the agencies and public entities charged with children’s health, safety and guarding the rights of the disabled were doing their jobs… instead of taking money from corporations that are turning public schools into profitable testocracies that perversely motivate staff to chase out disabled students because the disabled threaten their bonuses for high test curves. Or taking money from the pharmaceutical, chemical, junk food and petroleum industries to cover up environmental injuries. The grotesque corruption in our public institutions is the biggest consciousness abyss of all and our children are being swallowed.
So screw the trigger warnings. Barrage your representatives, neighbors and the media with stories of the collateral—of criminal callousness, of greed, of poisoning, of violence. Do it by stealth if you have to, cajole, use black humor, sneak up on them and smack them in the heads with it. The more we commit, the more solid the ground we stand on becomes. The truth is a weapon when we’re at war—go ahead and pull the trigger.
Adriana Gamondes is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism and one of the blog’s social media administrators.