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Child Abuse By Teacher Brushed Aside By Port St. Lucie Public School System

On Friday, May 23rd, at Morningside Elementary school in Port St. Lucie, teacher Wendy Portillo, decided to punish her autistic student Alex Barton for his annoying behaviors by parading him in front of the class, instructing every student to tell Alex what they don't like about him and then organizing a student vote to determine whether Alex may continue with the class or should be voted out of the class. Alex listened to his classmates describe him as "disgusting" and "annoying" and then by a 14 to 2 margin, Alex watched his peers vote him out of his class. After the class vote, Alex was asked how he felt, to which he responded, "I feel sad." Alex was then escorted by teacher Portillo to the principals office, however, due to mental anguish he was soon thereafter taken to the school nurse station where he remained for the rest of the day. At no time during the day were his parents notified. In fact, Alex's mother only learned of the incident when Alex spoke of the ordeal in the car on the way home.

Alex is in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a type of autism. Alex began the testing process in February at the suggestion of Morningside Principal Marcia Cully. While teacher Wendy Portillo initially did not acknowledge she was aware of Alex's condition, documents have since been recovered showing she attended several of Alex's autistic evaluation sessions.

Ms. Portillo's action of parading Alex in front of his peers was nothing short of an act of pure humiliation to embarrass Alex in front of his peer group, embark every other 5 year old to chastise and disgrace Alex for her purpose and impose pure shame upon Alex for a disease he cannot control. Portillo's acts constitute clear and undeniable abuse.

Alex's mother Melissa Barton filed a complaint with Morningside's school resource officer. However, according to Port St. Lucie Department spokeswoman Michelle Steele, while the teacher did confirm the incident took place, the state attorney's office concluded the matter did not meet the criteria for emotional child abuse, so no criminal charges will be filed. As can be expected, the teachers union sides with and defends teacher Portillo, further continuing the theme of carte blanche placement of teacher interests ahead of student interests.

Alex hasn't been back to school since. His mother indicates he begins screaming when she brings him with her to drop off his sibling at the school and she has heard him repeating the phrase "I'm not special." She believes he is reliving the incident.

St. Lucie School's spokeswoman Janice Karst said the district is investigating the incident, but could not make any further comment. Vern Melvin, Department of Children and Families circuit administrator, confirmed the agency is investigating an allegation of abuse at Morningside but said he could not elaborate.

If this incident inspires you to take action so that these types of bullying and child abuse activities do not repeat themselves unchallenged, I suggest you consider reaching out to the below sources.

Office of Governor Charlie Crist
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Citizen Services Hotline: (850) 488-4441
Executive Office of the Governor Switchboard: (850) 488-7146

Morningside Elementary School Principal:
Mrs. Marcia Cully
(772) 337-6730

St. Lucie County Schools Superintendent:
Michael J. Lannon
4204 Okeechobee Road
Ft. Pierce 34947-5414
Phone: 772/429-3925
FAX: 772/429-3916
e-mail: lannonm@stlucie.k12.fl.us

St. Lucie County School Board Chair:
Carol Hilson

Vice Chair:
Judith Miller

Alex's mother, Melissa, can be reached at supportalex@treasurecoast.com.

As well stated by the ASAN (the Autistic Self Advocacy Network), any communication or contact should be polite yet firm, pointing out the unacceptability of such actions when aimed at any student and the need for this school to adopt policies to prevent this from happening in the future. Remember that abusive messages hurt the cause so please be respectful in your writing.

boca raton

Posted: May 28, 2008 | Permalink

Keywords: Morningside Elementary School, Port St. Lucie, Teacher Abuse
Categories: Public Education System




Alex Barton
5 Year Old Alex Barton
(photo provided by his mother)

















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