Florida School To Pay $350K After Teacher Has Nine-Year-Old Autistic Child Voted Out of Elementary Class

St. Lucie County School Board and the St. Lucie County School Classroom Teachers Association in the Southern District of Florida have settled an incredible lawsuit that we previously discussed. The family of nine-year-old Alex Barton sued after teacher Wendy Portillo forced an autistic child to stand in front of the class and be criticized — and then invited the classmates to vote him out of the class. The school will now pay a $350,000 settlement — and Portillo will return to the classroom after a yearlong suspension.

The vote by his classmates was to toss him out of class by a 14 to 2 margin. Melissa Barton found her son in the nurse’s office where he had remained for the rest of the day.

Portillo testified at an earlier hearing. She gave details on highly disruptive conduct leading to her rather draconian response.

At the time, Alex was being diagnosed with Asperger’s autism. which leads to outbursts.

The family will receive $200,000 right away and Alex will received the rest in a structured settlement, starting in 2020, when he is 18 years old.

The school refused to admit any wrongdoing.

Portillo’s lawyer stated publicly that she “is just very happy to be back in the classroom doing what she loves to do.”

We previously saw the use of Pol Pot techniques by other teachers in controlling students.

Jonathan Turley

34 thoughts on “Florida School To Pay $350K After Teacher Has Nine-Year-Old Autistic Child Voted Out of Elementary Class”

  1. relocated and still drawing taxpayer funds? she is a nasty rag and the system is a joke. she should be working at 7-11.

  2. Parents are going to be tripping over each other trying to avoid having their child placed in this woman’s class. How that mess gets sorted out is anyone’s guess.

    I agree with the comment about the two dissenters. I think the odds of those kids growing up to be decent people are far better than average.

  3. Yes, to what Blouise said on December 6, 2010 at 9:33 pm… — and I agree that the school nurse should have been able to help in this situation…

    I also agree with Bud and lottakatz about the two children who stood alone in their votes — it took courage…

    So, if the situation had been handled correctly, the child would have been removed from the classroom on that particular day. I also agree with mespo, and others, about the impact of disruptive behavior on the other students. If there are minor interruptions (or even an occasional major one), they might become “teachable moments” for all, but the types of things mentioned in the article aren’t acceptable…

    (I, too, have encountered parents of challenged children who feel entitled, but I’ll not digress, at this point…)

    A few final thoughts: There’s never any good reason to shame, denigrate, or humiliate a child, IMHO. The distinction between bad behavior and being a bad person is an important one and should be made clear… Love and acceptance, coupled with limit-setting and consistency, work wonders…

  4. Mike S.,

    Good to see you here…..

    I too agree that this should be a permanent bar to her ever teaching again…she is not suitable to be around children…especially developmentally disabled…She needs assistance in dealing with her own demons….

  5. at first it does seem like teaching by reality tv but the teacher was trying to show the child why his actions were disruptive with no help whatsoever from the school administration or the childs parents.

    i’m agreeing with mespo on this one.

    so what’s the vote 22-3?

  6. Mespo,

    Perhaps not perception as much as the excellent mentoring I have enjoyed over the last year of reading on this blog. 🙂

  7. Charlie:

    “Portillo has proven herself ineffective, insensitive and totally ignorant.Portillo would do better wo work in a position that does not include children or adults in other worrds she needs to be isolated from society.”


    “There are no judgments so harsh as those of the erring, the inexperienced, and the young”

    ~Dinah Mulock Craik (1826-87 British novelist and poet)

  8. Blouise:

    No question about it, Blouise. The Monell v. Dept. of Social Services case premises suits like these on a state or local policy or practice usually emanating from a person in authority like the principal. Very perceptive there, Blouise.

  9. mespo,

    Given the nature of the disruption and the fact that the teacher was compelled to remove the child from the classroom I question the principal’s judgement in sending the child back to the classroom so quickly and the principal’s failure to notify the parents that the child would be spending the balance of his school day in the nurse’s office. I’m wondering if part of the large settlement had something to do with the manner in which the principal handled the situation. In other words, the teacher was not the only one at fault.

    What does your experience suggest.

  10. There are definetly more appropriate ways to deal with diruptive students then what Portillo did.I don’t think any kind of money can compensate for what she did to the child or the parents who have to trust a teacher to not denigrate a child. Portillo should never be with students again in her lifetime. Portillo has proven herself ineffective, insensitive and totally ignorant.Portillo would do better wo work in a position that does not include children or adults in other worrds she needs to be isolated from society.

  11. Alabama Creek:

    I cannot believe I am still witnessing adults suggesting the kid was going to somehow interrupt the other students’ education!


    I hope you do come to believe it. Austic children deserve our sympathy and support in most circumstances. However, in a court of law they are treated like anyone else. The public policy argument comes down squarely on the side of the vast majority of students in the class obtaining an approproate education free from disruption such as having their papers skattered, having mucous smeared on them, and having to witness the teacher continually compelled to discipline a child who habitually acts out. No one is suporting the teachers methods here, but as someone who’s represented teachers in these situations I know of SOME parents who regard their emotionally or physically challenged child as having rights superior to those around them. For them, no balancing of interests will do unless the needs of their child are given paramount concern. We can understand their motives and frustration being in this situation, so why then can’t we understand the teacher’s?

  12. lottakatz 1, December 6, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    I agree, and add that this a good example of why civil rights should never be subject to a vote, by children or the adults they grow up to be.


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