Wendy Portillo is having her day in court. The teacher who had her kindergarten class vote a child with Asperger syndrome out is appealing her year-long suspension. And, you know, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes things get blown out of proportion. Maybe actions were misinterpreted. So what does she have to say for herself?
A TC Palm report gives Portillo's side of the story on what happened after Alex Barton was sent to the office for "pushing a table up with his feet and flicking crayons at other students."
Wow, grabbing a teachable moment on tally marks by using them to humiliate a kid? That's some creative teaching. And how can a teacher send a kindergartner out of the room and not see him for the rest of the morning? Isn't she responsible for him? Would anybody have known if he wandered out the front door?
I felt I needed to talk about what they had seen. I explained to them that people do stuff just to get attention. I was just telling them I was there for them, Portillo said.
That's when Alex, then 5 years old, walked back in the room, she said.
Other students started talking about things Alex did. Portillo told him to listen to what his peers said about him.
I said, 'I'm not sure I'm ready for you now,' she said. I said, 'Let's take a poll. One of the students said what's a poll. I said it's like a vote.'
By the second vote, Portillo began making tally marks on the board in the front of the class, where Alex and Portillo stood. The class had been learning about keeping tallies, she said. Portillo said she didn't think whether the vote was appropriate.
It was just another learning opportunity. It was just another way for me to review that teaching, she said.
The vote turned out to be 14 to 2, she said.
She turned to Alex and said, I'm sorry. The class was not going to see him at that time, she said.
Alex left the classroom. Portillo didn't see him the rest of the morning.
At the very least, this is terrible judgment by an adult entrusted with young children. At worst, it's flat-out bullying. Either way, I'll be taking that benefit of the doubt back now.
What about you? Does Portillo's story change your point of view on the way Alex Barton was treated? Share your thoughts in the comments.