Editorial: Washington state educators are 'out of step'

Posted 9/25/19

On Sunday, Sept. 22, a few hundred people took part in the Autism Society of Rhode Island/Groden Center 17th Annual “In Step for Autism” walk and family fun day, which for the last several years …

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Editorial: Washington state educators are 'out of step'

Posted

On Sunday, Sept. 22, a few hundred people took part in the Autism Society of Rhode Island/Groden Center 17th Annual “In Step for Autism” walk and family fun day, which for the last several years occurred at Colt State Park in Bristol and this year was staged for the first time in city (East Providence) on and around the grounds of the Crescent Park/Looff Carousel and Larisa Park.

The weather was idyllic, the atmosphere joyous, both befitting the celebration of these beautiful children and adults with autism while supporting the efforts of the Groden Center and other organizations around the state who endeavor to offer similar services to those with autism.

A couple of days later, The New York Times published a story about a shocking, 180-degree opposite incident some 3,000 miles away.

“A School Put an Autistic Boy’s Desk in a Bathroom, Setting Off a Debate on Stigmas…The 11-year-old student was given a desk over a toilet as a quiet place to do schoolwork. The school’s superintendent said the ‘idea was well-intentioned,’” was the banner headline and subhead of the story describing a seemingly unfathomable decision made by the administrators at the Whatcom Middle School in Bellingham, Wash..

The superintendent said the administrators’ choice to place a student’s desk in a bathroom was meant well, "but in the end we did not move forward with it.” The move didn’t go forward because the child’s mother, quite rightly, was appalled and opted to keep her son at home until a suitable arrangement could be found.

We’re sure the parents who were at the Carousel last Sunday have felt the same indignity and indignation at times throughout the lives of their children. It’s a sad commentary on where we are as a society and how far we still have to go on similar issues.

One couldn’t imagine something like this happening here in East Providence, where our school department has and continues to be one of the best in the area for children across the gamut of Special Needs. Our educators put a value on students of all abilities and value the virtue of these students, which is another of the many reasons for us to be proud of our schools.

There will hopefully come a time in the near future when there are no longer stories like the one in Washington state, a time when ones like that of the “In Step” event in East Providence are the rule and not the exception.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.