On December 14, Sandra Baker of Harrodsburg, KY was shocked when she arrived at Mercer County Intermediate School to pick up her son Christopher. It is not uncommon for the school to call Baker when 9-year-old Christopher, who has autism and ADHD, becomes unmanageable.
What made that day different was a large green duffel bag moving in the hallway with a teacher’s assistant sitting next to the bag. She thought that couldn’t be her son in the bag. As she approached the bag, Christopher began calling out to her. When he was freed from the bag Christopher was obviously scared and sweating. He claimed to be put in the bag for refusing to work. Baker estimates her son was in the bag for approximately 20 minutes.
In a meeting with school officials the Baker’s questioned the school’s actions and Christopher’s safety. The principal dismissed the incident as a joke and informed the Bakers that they use therapy bags to control behavior of unruly students and that this was not Christopher’s first time in the bag. The therapy bags described by the school were mesh bags with openings for head, feet and arms. This however was an opaque army style duffel bag. The bag was pulled tight and Christopher had no way to see out of the bag. Also, the Bakers were not allowed to meet with the teacher or aide involved in the incident.
Neither school or teacher have apologized to the Bakers. Interim Mercer County Schools Dennis Davis has refused to comment on the incident siting confidentiality rules. Davis did issue the following statement:
The employees of the Mercer County Public Schools are qualified professionals who treat students with respect and dignity while providing a safe and nurturing learning environment,
The state of Kentucky is investigating the incident. Unfortunately Kentucky does not have any laws regulating the use of restraints or seclusion in public schools.
As an educator this incident is absolutely appalling and unacceptable. This excessive punishment occurred in a class for special needs students and not a regular classroom. The teacher who banished Christopher from class and subjected him to harsh punishment was a special education teacher. A teacher that should have had both training and experience in handling children with special needs. Although great strides have been made in the treatment of special needs students this incident makes it clear that ignorance is still a problem. Ultimately, students with special needs are people just like other students and must be treated with dignity and respect all humans deserve.
I find Superintendent Davis statement laughable based upon the actions of faculty of Mercer Intermediate School. This was not the first time that a student had been placed into a “therapy bag”. The school actually used that to justify their abuse.Other reports I have read call for termination of the teacher and assistant involved. However I do not think that is enough. The general climate of the school and what is acceptable is set by administration not teachers. It is time for the school to be held accountable starting from the top. The acting superintendent and administrators of the school should be terminated as well. Further the teaching certifications for all dismissed should be revoked as well.
- ABC News: Parents Angry After School Put Autistic Son in a Bag
- Huffington Post: Christopher Baker, 4th Grade Boy, Allegedly Stuffed Into Duffel Bag By School Employees
- International Business Times: Christopher Baker: Autistic Boy, 9, Put in Duffel Bag at School as Punishment for ‘Therapy
- WRDB: Mercer County schools under fire after mom says child left in bag