What our families experience…The “Bad Kid Fort”

Bad Kid FortKids with hidden disabilities and their families are among our modern-day lepers. They suffer the pain of isolation from their peers. Similar to Biblical times, there are many who believe their conditions exist through some fault of their own. In the 15th century B.C., lepers were viewed as object lessons of the powerful impact of sin on a person’s life. Today, all too many people are quick to blame conditions such as Asperger’s Disorder and ADHD on poor parenting, video games or an indulgent society. In a culture where we are so careful to avoid offending anyone, it’s still socially acceptable to embarrass or humiliate kids with less obvious disabilities.

Our practice serves a number of kids and families from the city where the story I’m about to share took place. Parkersburg is a very nice community in northern West Virginia. I’ve been invited to lecture there on a number of occasions. The people I’ve met seem very pleasant. Like many small towns in the Bible Belt, Parkersburg has difficulty attracting highly trained children’s mental health professionals. As a result, the schools in this area haven’t had the benefit of a lot of professional input when a child presents with complicated emotional, behavioral or learning issues. Parents drive nearly three hours one way to come to see us or to see specialists in Pittsburgh when they need more specialized help.

A father of a boy with Asperger’s Disorder from that area sent me the link to this story from yesterday’s Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG – Wood County parents are pushing school officials for accountability after they claim their son was humiliated by a teacher.

Beth Dean and Jeff Richards, parents of 15-year-old Caleb Richards, allege their son was humiliated by a Parkersburg High social studies teacher who put the teenager in a box during class. Dean and Richards said their son has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is being managed with medication, an IEP (individualized education program) and a behavior plan.

The parents claim last month Caleb Richards’ history teacher was having trouble dealing with his behavior in the classroom.

“Instead of sending him out of the room or any other myriad of options, she fashioned a large cardboard box and placed the box around his seat, completely enclosing him, in front of 30 of his peers,” Dean said.

Dean alleges the teacher wrote “bad kid fort” on the outside of the box while he was in it. She has a picture of the alleged fort on her Facebook page. It was sent to her by a student who saw it the hallway and snapped a photo.

According to Dean, Caleb Richards was left in the box for approximately 15 minutes.

Dean said in a meeting with school officials last week that school officials downplayed the incident.

Here’s a video from the local news station in which Caleb’s parents share their story…

Caleb's Mom

Imagine what it’s like for Caleb and his family living in this community. Wouldn’t it be great if there were churches in Parkersburg (and cities like Parkersburg) wanting to pursue families like Caleb’s? What type of message would our faith-based schools send if teachers and staff acquired the training to welcome and effectively educate kids like Caleb? Would that be a powerful expression of the Gospel?

Parkersburg HSOur team at Key Ministry has very limited resources to support travel. But this is the type of community where churches of different denominations, working together, could make a big difference for families with kids like Caleb. If this blog post gets back to church leaders in and around Parkersburg, I’d be interested in starting a dialogue around how our crew could support churches in the area wanting to share the love of Christ with families like Caleb’s.

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About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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7 Responses to What our families experience…The “Bad Kid Fort”

  1. This breaks my heart and helps me realize the importance of Staff and peer Awareness, Acceptance and Empathy training from Good Friend, Inc.!!! I hope our growing movement will be brought to all communities in dire need of our support!

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  2. vicki ruble says:

    I live in Parkersburg, WV. I attend North Parkersburg Baptist Church which happens to have a ministry for people with disabilities. There is a teen with an Autism Spectrum Disorder who attends youth group on a regular basis. An adult has volunteered to be there with him every Sunday morning to assist him when he is overwhelmed by his surroundings. Many other adults with varying disabilities attend regular worship service. Just a great reminder that Jesus loves all people.

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  3. drgrcevich says:

    Hi Vicki,

    Glad to hear that North Parkersburg Baptist is able to help. I’ll make a point of sharing that info with families from the area. Is there someone families should contact if they have a loved one with a disability and want to check out your church?

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    • vicki ruble says:

      Teresa Carrol is in charge of the ministry. She is not on staff full time, but contact the church and connections will be made. The church secretary, Barb Beatty is wonderful for answering many questions.

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  4. Ann Holmes says:

    Thanks, Steve, for shining a light in darkness! I wish Pittsburgh were closer as we would love to reach out to this family! I have some other ideas too! This is pain that should never have happened but what else can we expect in a broken world filled with broken people? Wow! I am so sad for this family AND for their school and community!

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