When lawmakers look at education, they usually focus on funding priorities, teacher certification and test standardization. Slightly lower on the scale are the needs of autistic children and other students who require special treatment in public schools.
It's time for N.C. legislators to pay closer attention to these students and to implement new guidelines or rules about how teachers treat them - because recent evidence suggests that some kids could use the help of policy-makers.
Kathleen Yasui-Der, a former teacher of autistic children in Chapel Hill, was charged in August with two counts of assault on a handicapped person, two counts of contributing to the neglect of a minor and child abuse. Earlier this month, Melinda Dawn Whitley, a Wake County teacher, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor child abuse for letting a student repeatedly bang her head on the floor.
According to The (Raleigh) News & Observer, the Governor's Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities will ask the General Assembly next year to adopt a policy regarding how disabled students in public schools should be treated, especially when they exhibit dangerous behavior. Instead of putting the issue aside, lawmakers need to set new policy that clearly outlines what teachers can and can't do.
It's important to note that both Whitley and Yasui-Der have maintained their innocence.