The discussion about the legality of torture, as applied to those detained in the war on terror, has been extensive. It has never extended to children, however. Especially not children suspected of nothing more than being unruly. But if a Pinellas County school didn’t torture Patrick Holt’s 4-year-old son, it came awfully close.
A Pinellas County teacher put the boy in a large “body sock,” which is essentially a sack that fits around the body from neck to foot. It is intended to help autistic children “explore three-dimensional space,” according to Body Sox, the company that manufactures the product.
But Patrick Holt’s son is not autistic. He’s not even disabled. He was put in the sock, as Pinellas County School Board member Andrea Zahn told Local6, a Tampa Bay area news outlet, because he “needed to be calmed down for the safety and security of all the students in the classroom.” Holt’s parents were not told the sock would be used and disagree with its use. They have hired an attorney and legal action is expected.
Pinellas County schools investigated the incident, found that the sock was used appropriately, and will continue its use. It will notify parents of the possibility of their child being “socked” at school by addressing it at orientation starting next year.
The idea that a 4-year-old child could threaten “the safety and security of all the students in the classroom” is absurd, but even more absurd is the idea that the child should be placed in a body sock to modify his behavior. If the child posed a substantial threat to the security of his fellow students, he should have been removed from the classroom.
School administrators have two options for disciplining children: they can have students removed from the premises through expulsions or suspensions, or they can have discussions with parents to avoid such extreme measures and come up with ramifications for inappropriate behavior that are mutually agreed upon. Cruel, ridiculous “solutions” – such as taking a device intended to help impaired children and using it on unimpaired children – are unacceptable.
For breaking the contract between parent and school, humiliating a 4-year-old child in a ridiculous manner, and claiming that the sock was used “appropriately,” the Pinellas County School Board needs to be held legally accountable. Perhaps after having to write a very big check, the Pinellas County school system will understand that it did, in fact, do something very wrong.