Questions raised about discipline for autistic student

September 29, 2011 3:35:15 PM PDT
Cotton balls were dipped in vinegar, then put into the mouth of an autistic child at a Katy elementary school as a form of discipline. The mother of the student is coming forward, furious about what happened.

"Humiliating" and "inhumane" -- those are some words critics use to describe the form of discipline. Katy ISD is already taking action in the case.

Mother Carol Rutar said, "We're angry about it, sure."

Carol still doesn't know exactly what happened inside the school. Her 11-year-old son, who she doesn't want to identify, was in a special needs class at Exley Elementary School in Katy. Carol found out this month what allegedly happened last year -- a form of discipline involving cotton balls and vinegar.

She said, "Teachers were taking vinegar soaked cotton balls in zip lock bags and putting them in students' mouths as a way to introduce something really, you know, disgusting, sickening that nobody would want in order to get them to do their work."

It was a shocking allegation Carol didn't hear about from her son, but from the school district. Carol's son, who is autistic, never said a word.

Carol explained, "He's just a trusting little guy that if the teacher has him do something, he'll do it."

That trust and vulnerability Carol says was abused by her son's teacher. Katy ISD says two teacher aides have been fired. The teacher is no longer in Katy ISD and is undergoing contract arbitration.

Katy ISD says they took immediate action when they heard about it. The case is still under investigation.

District spokesperson Steve Stanford said they don't yet know if the discipline happened on multiple occasions.

"Those are details that are part of the investigation that I don't know at this time," he said. "The fact that it happened once is one time too many."

Katy ISD says this is an isolated incident. Carol hopes this case will bring change.

She said, "I'm trying to make as much positive come of this as possible. We are really, really hoping to get monitoring or maybe cameras in our kids' classrooms."

Besides Katy ISD, the Texas Education Agency is also investigating this case. The Fort Bend County District Attorney says his office is giving this case the highest priority. So far, no criminal charges have been filed.


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