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The Dangers of Wiring our Children

April 30, 2012

I’ve been reading a lot of other blogs and articles about education lately and a hot issue right now is the story of Stuart Chaiftetz; the man who suspected his autistic son was being abused by his teacher and wired his son to catch the teacher in the act.

First of all, my heart goes out to Mr. Chaiftetz, his son and any other student or family that ever has to deal with this kind of situation. I do not take issue with his intentions, feelings, or the outcome – the teacher being fired. I take great issue, however, with his methods and the fact that so many Americans are following his lead.

For the sake of brevity and my tired fingers, allow me to share a post I wrote on the Huffington Post;

“I am NOT defending this teacher but I AM defending all of us non-abusive teachers. This is an extremely dangerous precedent. It would be so easy to manipulate an innocent recording or take something out of context and end a teacher’s career.

Parents please realize this can and will work both ways – eventually your child will get mad at you, remember what is in their pocket, and then what?

I would not be opposed to the entire class being recorded to prevent tampering, but only if absolutely necessary. [I should have phrased myself ‘I would not be opposed to having one of my classes taped in its entirety…’ I would not love this, but if it has to happen then it must be done in a fair and unbiased way without any editing or potential for things being taken out of context.]

I know that most parents are extremely busy but us teachers want you to be involved as much as possible – not just when you think there is a problem. Take the time it took you to read this blog and shoot your child’s teacher an email saying “Hi, I just wanted to check in – is everything going well in class?” (Seriously, I dare you. Go do it right now. This comment isn’t going anywhere) 99% of us would appreciate and welcome it and 1% like this lady would certainly think twice [before verbally abusing your child].

And if you are still concerned, take time off of work and observe a class. Schools BEG for that kind of parent involvement and if the school closes the door to you – then you raise hell.”

I got a response stating that there is an expectation of privacy in the home that doesn’t exist in a classroom. To this I responded:

“To be very clear here: I have no issues with being observed, and I agree there is no expectation of privacy in a classroom nor should there be.

My point is that when teachers suspect abuse at home (and it happens more often than anyone would like) there is a clear procedure we follow to protect that child in the fairest and safest way for all parties – including the suspected parents…”

So many people are hailing this ‘child wiring’ as the action of a responsible and involved parent. That’s where I truly disagree. Involved parents don’t wait for signs of physical or emotional abuse to step in – they do it from day one. If every parent took five minutes every other week to send teachers a quick check-in email (as I suggested above), not only would situations like this never happen in the first place (or at least be far less likely), but I guarantee that overall school performance would shoot up.

And as for “responsible parenting” I must also disagree – ‘child wiring’ is in fact horribly  irresponsible.  What if this abusive teacher had found the tape recorder during class?  Can you imagine how much worse an already bad situation might have become?  Is it going to take a child coming home with a broken arm (and a broken tape recorder) or worse before everyone realizes what a bad idea this is?

Trayvon Martin is dead because a concerned citizen who probably just thought he was protecting his community (in a misguided way) made assumptions and took the law into his own hands.  If Trayvon had actually been armed and dangerous and things happened the same way, George Zimmerman would likely be hailed as a hero – not unlike Mr. Chaiftetz.

It scares me that so many people don’t instantly see the connection between these two incidents.  It also scares me that it may take one of the worst case scenarios I mentioned for people to make the connection; whether it is an innocent teacher losing their career and reputation, a parent having their daughter taken away, or a mentally unstable teacher snapping when he realizes that he has been caught in the act.

And let’s think about this; the children most susceptible to abuse – such as autistic or disabled children – are the most likely to be caught in the act.

I want to conclude by addressing Mr. Chaiftetz;

Mr. Chaiftetz,

I have an immense sympathy for what you and your family are going through.  The people you trusted most to protect your son have violated that trust and the consequences of that violation will have emotional repercussions on you, your family and most of all your son for the rest of your lives.  But I hope that you realize that you got extremely lucky.  By wiring your son and sending him into a classroom you knew to be dangerous, you upped the ante.  Your intent may have been to stop the abuse but you were gambling with your son’s safety.  While your son’s disability makes him extremely vulnerable to an abusive adult, it also makes him much less likely to successfully accomplish such a covert operation.  And by advocating this type of action, not only will other children be put in danger, but there will be casualties among good teachers who may have their words taken out of context or even edited and twisted.  There are other ways to protect our children.  Forget about the teachers for a moment.  You have the world’s attention right now; please don’t use it the wrong way.  You have been through enough already, I couldn’t imagine how you might feel if you heard about an autistic child you’ve never met coming home with a broken arm after his tape recorder fell out of his pocket during class.

With Sympathy,

Matt Wilson

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2012 9:01 pm

    Matt –
    You are right on the money with the issues in this topic. Society has become so trigger happy when it comes to catching predators that most aren’t thinking things through. Tunnel vision is a dangerous thing. Parents DO need to become more involved in their children’s school. I do know that having always been a very involved parent that my children received a better education – just because I was so involved. Thank you for being a teacher – you folks never receive enough praise for helping us to raise our children. Please know that you are appreciated – Thank you for posting this.
    Hugs,
    Jane

  2. April 30, 2012 9:58 pm

    Must agree with you on this one. While I sympathize with this parent, I sometimes wonder whether any of this “wiring” would have been necessary if a little more parental participation had been going on. I also appreciate the fact that you recognize that it is dangerous to use a child in this manner, to say nothing of using a child that suffers with autism.

  3. May 1, 2012 12:02 am

    Thanks to both you for your comments. I know nither of you think this but I want to reiterate to any parents reading this that I am not trying to make any accusations or implications about them. And while it would be great if every parent got more involved is schools, it’s not my place to tell anyone what to do or how to raise their children – especially if don’t know them.

    I’m just trying to highlight how this will likely hurt everyone involved – not only teachers but parents and the students themselves.

  4. May 1, 2012 9:20 pm

    Matt, I agree with you completely. You bring up excellent points. This is a very good post, an eye-opener. XO

  5. May 1, 2012 9:39 pm

    My dog and I thank you!

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