Our second source, whom we'll call Q, works in a special school that deals with only low-functioning students who require "significant special attention" (read: the staff needs the ability to take punches). These are "kids who bang their heads on the wall to the point of unconsciousness or concussion, kids who are constantly violent," Q says. "At this point, curriculum goes out the window. We don't care about teaching them, we care about behavioral correction, because these kids are going to cost the government lots and lots of money forever, and if we can get the behavior under control we can substantially reduce that cost."
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"OK, our goal for this semester is to get him from breaking whole arms, down to just fingers."
The students live at these schools, and they're never much farther than an arm's length away from a teacher or staff member. The tools of the trade are armored pads, moxie, and compliance drills: barking out a looping variety of inane requests, like "touch your nose," "touch your ears," "count to 10," etc. The goal is to distract the whirlwind of fury with compulsive obedience. Very low-functioning autistic children get drawn into patterns of behavior, and if you can get them stuck in a pattern of listening to you, maybe they'll listen when you ask them to stop with the punching.
Another source, M, worked with a kid who was in and out of a residential center. The district couldn't afford to keep him there (each kid costs $100,000 per year), so he wound up bouncing back to a public high school. "They'd send him back every couple of years, when he gave some staff member a concussion or bit an aid's finger to the bone."
Even Mike Tyson's fists weren't that expensive, on a per-punch basis.
You don't hire a teacher to deal with a kid like that -- he needs a bouncer. As M says, "I was big and I looked like I could take a punch, so they gave me the job." M had one student, a 17-year-old low-functioning autistic boy, who'd had more than 70 Workers' Comp claims processed against him in the decade or so he'd been with the district. That means they'd paid for medical care as a result of his actions on dozens of separate occasions. One gym teacher, a man in his late 40s, was crippled for life when the kid jumped on his back and grabbed him around the neck. If that doesn't sound like it could cripple you, try hanging a 150-pound weight from your neck and jumping off the bed of a truck.