In The Politics of Autism, I discuss problems in public schools.
In 16 years as a school resource officer at Osceola Middle, Ural Darling was trained by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to de-escalate chaotic situations, especially when they involved people with disabilities.
But on May 15, a hidden device recorded something different as Darling could be heard mistreating a student with autism — taunting the boy with a pair of handcuffs, threatening to send him to a mental hospital for life, scolding him with rapid-fire talk and forcing him to hold a stack of books.
The boy's mother, suspecting something was wrong at school, had put the recorder in her son's cargo shorts that day.
Just how far did the veteran deputy veer from his training, and from generally accepted guidelines for dealing with autistic children? Pretty far, according to experts in the disability and Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who fired Darling on Aug. 25.
"That is the antithesis of de-escalation," Gualtieri said. "You should never be contributing to the problem. None of what he did was consistent with any training that he's received."