Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Georgia Scores a Hat Trick

photo credit-thebigo
creative commons license

In the game of hockey, a hat trick refers to when a single player scores three goals on the opposing team during the same game.

In the game of "how can we be the most discriminatory against autistics", the US state of Georgia has been in the news three times in the last two weeks. First it was charging a 14 year old autistic boy with felony terrorism charges for stick figure drawings he put on his homework. Then it was police using a taser on an 18 year old autistic young man who didn't answer their questions fast enough, and appeared different.

Today Georgia is in the news again, and again it's for tasing an autistic man. According to Fox News:

"Twenty-three-year-old D.J. Moran said multiple officers surrounded him, cuffed him on the ground and then tasered him, MyFoxAtlanta reports."

Of course, the multiple officers couldn't possibly handle this after they surrounded the man and were putting him on the ground, so they just had to taser him:

"Police officials released a statement saying, 'The officer used a taser when the suspect failed to cooperate by struggling and resisting, after being instructed to place his hands behind his back. The suspect only complied after the taser was used.' "

Fortunately, even though the police tried to cover themselves by charging the man with multiple felonies, a jury (who saw a police cruiser cam video of the event) saw things differently:

"Police charged Moran with multiple felonies, but a jury did not convict him."

So congratulations, Georgia! Guess I won't be spending any of my vacation dollars in your state this year.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Geogia-Zero Tolerance for Differences

photo credit-centralasian
creative commons license

Evidently it's not safe to walk around (or sit) any place in Georgia while being autistic. At least not by yourself. Because if you do, you're fair game for being tased by the police. At least, that's what the police chief of Tybee Island, Georgia seems to think.

A little over a week ago, it was a 14 year old boy being arrested on felony terrorism charges for drawing threatening one inch stick figure drawings on his homework. Now it's an 18 year old autistic young man tasered after being confronted by police while he was sitting on the curb waiting for his brother and a friend to come out of a restaurant.

WMBF news reported yesterday on how 18 year old Clifford Grevemberg was waiting on the curb outside the Rock House Bar and Grill for his brother and a friend to come out, when he was approached by two policemen. According to the police report, Clifford was staggering while walking back and forth in front of the establishment, and when questioned, responded that he was waiting for his brother to come out with some food.

The police report said that one officer asked Clifford if he had been drinking, and he responded yes. Of course, they didn't ask him what he had been drinking. Unless he was asked if he had been drinking alcohol, my 10 year old son might have also responded in the affirmative, having drunken water, soda, or some other perfectly legal beverage. The officers then asked for identification (twice), and when Clifford turned and began to walk away, they grabbed his arm. Clifford, as might be expected, tried to retract his arm away from them, which gave these two police officers all the justification they thought they needed to taser him. Which they did while forcing Clifford to the ground, causing a bruised face and a broken tooth.

The Tybee police chief, in a statement given today, tried to explain away the incident by saying that Clifford gave the appearance of being intoxicated, and tasing him prevented further damage to both Clifford as well as the officers. He gave a backhanded apology, saying

"We are sincerely apologetic for the injuries suffered to Mr. Grevemberg. We are also sorry he was left unattended under the circumstances..."

In other words, if you are so brazen as to think that you have the right to walk or sit in a public place while being autistic (and you don't have an attendant immediately at your side), then you shouldn't complain when the police tase you and arrest you.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Terrorism? Really??? Or "Get Out of Our School!"

If this wasn't so over the top ridiculous, it might be funny.

A 14 year old Georgia boy has been charged with a felony (making terrorist threats) for a small (about 1 inch high) set of stick figures he drew on a paper in class. The stick figures depict one figure (labeled "me") shooting another stick figure (labeled with his teacher's name).

There is no question that his drawing the picture was both inappropriate and wrong. There is also no question in my mind that the school's response is so wildly disproportionate as to make me question why they would do such a thing. There has been no allegation of the boy attacking his teacher, bringing a weapon to class, or even of having formed a definite plan as to how he would accomplish the task in his drawing. There has been no mention of the school consulting with anyone else (the boy's doctor, their own psychologists, the police) to evaluate the situation as to how likely it was for the boy to be able to carry out his threat, much less evaluate the seriousness of the situation.

Many people threaten to kill their spouses every day. They very seldom get arrested, much less charged with making "terrorist threats".

So why would a school do such a thing?

My guess (and it is a guess, as there's been no statement I've seen from the school) is that this charter school where the boy is enrolled wants to dump this "problem student" from their school, and that they are using this as a convenient excuse. Many charter schools don't want to spend the time and money it takes to properly educate children with special needs.

This could end up as a case of "zero tolerance" gone wild, but I suspect that, in the end, the school will come up with some "compromise" that will entail dropping or lessening the charge, as long as the boy withdraws from the school (or accepts another placement they have suggested).