Boy With Autism Purposefully Locked Out of School By Principal
Edited 1/31: The family will be holding a rally to advocate for change. Find the details here.
On Dec. 14, 2018, an 11-year-old student with autism was locked out of his school by principal Ashli Short at Springbrook Elementary in Kent, Washington. Surveillance cameras show the fifth-grader trying to get back inside the school for 15 minutes. The student’s family has since moved him to another school and they’re still asking for answers.
KIRO 7 reported that, according to the child’s family members, the student asked to use the bathroom, which he is supposed to have access to at any time due to his disability. The principal refused to let him go and the boy tried to get around her. He was unable, so he went out the back door.
“That’s when she locked him out,” Lovine Montgomery, the child’s grandmother, told KIRO 7.
School surveillance video shows the boy trying to open doors to get back inside the building. He is shown in the parking lot with no supervision. He tried to come in through the front office door but is locked out. One staff member even closes the blinds when the boy approaches the window asking to be let inside.
It was another student who eventually let him back inside the school. KIRO 7 reported that child was suspended for two days, according to family.
The autistic child’s mother, Javohn Perry, told The Mighty she found out from her son about being locked outside. Though the school did send home an incident report, it left that information out. Perry immediately contacted principal Short to schedule a meeting.
According to Perry, during the meeting Short confirmed her son had been locked out and admitted she made an announcement on the school’s intercom to instruct staff to lock all doors and not let him back inside the school.
Short also claimed she felt she was in “imminent danger” after escorting Perry’s son and other students back to their special education classroom. Surveillance video shows the principal shifting her weight back when standing at the doorway during the incident, but it does not appear she was in “imminent danger.”
Perry told The Mighty they have had several issues with this school and principal this year, despite expressing her concerns to Short and the district several times.
“The main issue is that there is no special education teacher currently at this school,” Perry said.
According to Maxine Share, an expert autism consultant based in Canada, Short and the school failed Perry’s son on many levels. Not only was he put in a dangerous situation outside alone in the parking lot, most autistic children prefer having structure and routine. The uncertainty of being locked out of school could increase anxiety for students like Perry’s son, which can impact their learning and their safety.
“Most autistic children thrive with predictability and routine, and have an intolerance of uncertainty,” Share told The Mighty. “We send our children to school expecting they will be treated with patience and engaged with approaches that demonstrate respect for the child. … Shame on any administrator who would order an autistic child locked out of the school where he is supposed to be closely supported.”
Perry has since removed her son from Springbrook Elementary and she still wants answers from the school district as to why this happened. Perry also feels she must stand up not only for her son, but for other children like him.
“My son no longer attends this school because I refuse to have him mistreated,” she said. “But there are still other children there who are not getting the services they deserve and services required by law. … Sometimes parents don’t know what questions to ask or how to voice their concerns. But it’s so important to get involved and advocate for our children.”
KIRO 7 reported that according to the Kent School District, Short is on paid administrative leave pending an ongoing investigation.
The Mighty has reached out to the school district for comment.
Banner image screenshot of KIRO 7 report.