A federal judge in West Palm Beach, Florida has
finalized a settlement, awarding a mother of a child with autism $427,000
for an incident that took place nearly three years ago, when her son was voted
out of kindergarten by his classmates. In May of 2008, teacher Wendy Portillo
brought Alex Barton to the front of the class and took a vote from his peers
whether or not he should remain in class. The youngster lost 14-2.
As upsetting as this case is, the lawsuit award may be equally as troubling.
On a daily basis, many children with autism incur bullying, teasing, harassment or even worse. I can recall multiple incidents over the years where my son with autism has been made to feel like an outcast and humiliated by the cruel actions of others, including adults. Does this mean he is entitled to a six-figure lawsuit settlement as well? Granted, the Barton incident was exceptionally cruel and insensitive, but did it really warrant a half-million dollar payout, which will eventually be funded by taxpayer dollars?
While I can sympathize with what the Barton family has endured, I’m afraid this is another example of just how litigious our society has become. It also sets a very poor precedent for other parents who will be looking for a payday in the future when their children are treated in unfair or mean-spirited ways.
Even worse, it sets a poor example for our children on how to resolve bullying, which will inevitably come their way throughout their lives.