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Teacher Reinstated Who Had Young Student with Autism Voted Out of Classroom

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About a year ago, I wrote about a Florida teacher who had been removed from the classroom after she led her kindergarten students to vote one of their classmates, who has autism, out of the room for disruptive behavior.

The Sun-Sentinel newspaper is reporting that Wendy Portillo, the teacher in St. Lucie County, has been reinstated.

Based on the story, the entire episode has been an exhausting ordeal for Portillo:

"I'm overjoyed," Portillo said after an emotional 90-minute hearing in which more than a dozen teachers and parents urged the school board to relent in punishing her. "I'm happy that I'll be able to go back to doing what I love to do."


Portillo still must complete a one-year, unpaid suspension that began last November. It was recommended by Superintendent Michael Lannon and upheld by an administrative law judge who heard Portillo's case in February.

The newspaper wrote in an editorial that it was time to take a look at better teacher training:

Most important is for the district to follow through with proposed changes to prevent this kind of thing from happening. Ms. Portillo did not have sufficient training or support when faced with a very disruptive child who had been identified as needing special instruction.

This story whipped around the blogosphere when it first broke last spring, and columnist Anthony Westbury, with the Treasure Coast Newspapers, believes Portillo really does deserve a break.

What I haven't seen yet is what the district will do to try and prevent such things from happening again. The situation is now resolved in some fashion—though it's unclear where Portillo will be teaching. I think it's worth listening to excerpts of her testimony before an administrative law judge. She said she looked at the whole situation as a teaching moment, and that she never meant to embarrass Alex Barton, the child in the center of this case.

How would you have liked to see this case resolved?

4 Comments

I think that this teacher used horrbile and inhumane judgment when she voted this child out, autism or not. She simply should have been fired. Not suspended. Fired.

Autism or no autism, that kid's disruptive behavior hurt every other kid in that classroom. Anyone with common sense would have wanted him removed from the picture, but allowing his peers to vote him out is unnecessary and doesn't help him improve, probably makes things worse for him. Still a one time error in judgment shouldn't prevent this teacher from having a second chance.

The boy's mother, Melissa Barton, should be investigated. Her only claim is that her son was sad one day. Her response was to parade him on TV and inflame parents of autistic kids anywhere she could. I doubt that many in the school district appreciated the hundreds of form e-mails they received from 'outraged' parents who were stirred up by Melissa Barton's tale. Melissa Barton's own sister, Stepphanie Godsey of Oklahoma, wrote a letter to the TCPalm newspaper that denounced Barton's actions.

I think that the teacher should lose her job permanently. As a teacher she was supposed to teach all the children placed in her class. Perhaps the child with autism was frustrating, but referral to a behavior specialist or a special ed teacher would be more appropriate than having the child voted out. Not only would that be a terrible feeling as the boy:knowing that neither your peers or your teacher wanted you, but imagine the embarrassment he felt. Teachers are supposed to help their kids and I believe she did the opposite of that

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