Duct-taping a child’s shoes and socks onto their feet?
The story is here: Parents want answers after Indianapolis girl’s shoes were duct taped.
The little girl, Shalynn Searcy, age 8, has Down’s Syndrome and came home from her school near Indianapolis last week with her shoes and socks tightly duct-taped to her feet.
She couldn’t even walk properly to get off her bus. From another local story, Parents: 8-year-old daughter with Down syndrome duct taped at Indianapolis-area elementary school:
The bus assistant pointed it out to him when he went to get his daughter off the bus Monday afternoon.
“I’m like, ‘Shaylyn, come on,’ and she just kind of stood there, kind of limping a little bit,” said Nate Searcy. “And I’m like, ‘What’s wrong?’ And she’s like, ‘My feet hurt.’ I look down and she had duct tape wrapped around both shoes, both ankles and she couldn’t even walk.”
Nate said he turned to the bus driver for answers, and what she told him was even more disturbing.
“They had the tape on her feet so tight she couldn’t even walk,” he said. “They had to push her out with a wheelchair on to the bus.”
So, why did they do this to her? Sometimes she takes her shoes off and they have trouble getting her to put them back on again. From the second story,
“They’ve called me before because she won’t get her shoes on or she won’t stand up and walk to the bus and had fits,” said Elizabeth Searcy. “And I’ve talked to her on the phone with the teacher, and she’s got up and she’s got on that bus. I don’t know why today was any different.”
All the emphasis of the stories is about the abuse of authority, and there is sure plenty of that.
But there is another culprit, and that is the ubiquitous pernicious idea that everybody must always wear shoes. And that this needs to be enforced.
The thing is, when one has special needs, going barefoot can really help. It provides all sorts of sensory feedback that helps with balance, and there aren’t these clunky objects hanging off the ends of the legs.
So what if she’d taken her shoes off? (They were probably hurting her anyways.) So what if she was barefoot?
Oh, those in authority wouldn’t even have to think very hard to come up with a specious excuse. We know what that would be, because we’ve all heard it a million times before: safety and sanitation.
The sanitation is of course is just another myth; there is no particular hazard. And as for safety, this is a school.
If we can’t trust them to maintain a place safe for bare feet, how can we trust them to remove lead paint from the walls, or trust them to keep fixtures from falling off the ceilings onto people’s heads, or trust them not to have sharp corners. Heck, they ought to be capable of keeping even an outdoors walkway to a bus properly swept.
It’s not like kids haven’t gone barefoot to school before. Here’s a photo from Breathitt County, Kentucky, in 1940 from the Library of Congress.
You want to know the problems identified there? It’s “Crowded conditions and lack of equipment in schoolhouse.” Not barefooted students.
But the idea that bare feet are so offensive and dangerous has reached the point that we get this kind of story, and the authoritarians get their field days. Whole school systems make sure that they require constant shoe-wearing, and then make up the flimsiest excuses to justify it.
And the saddest part of this story (well, aside from squashing a poor 8-year-old developmentally challenged girl like a bug) is that nobody will learn. Oh, somebody might get punished and lose their job, but all the leaders will still insist on enforcing a nonsensical rule, “Because it’s the rule.” They will not think twice about their prejudices and their need for the rule.
Maybe we can cleanse our palates with a nicer story. Here’s a good one: Waiter Who Wouldn’t Serve Family That Insulted Boy With Down Syndrome Didn’t Care If He Got Fired.
It’s the story of waiter Michael Garcia, who refused to serve a family at the restaurant where he worked after they asked to be moved to another booth, farther from another child with Down’s Syndrome, saying “Special needs kids should be kept in special places.” When his good deed hit the news, folks started giving him donations—he gave them to the special needs school.
OK, I feel better now.