The mother of an 8-year-old child with Asperger Syndrome who barricaded himself after destroying a classroom after allegedly being bullied is considering legal action against the school.
Jules Webster is the mother of Landon Smith, a student at Hogansville Elementary School who, she says, is sweet, helpful and a straight-A student who manages his condition with medication. Landon wants to be a fireman or policeman when he grows up, and “we have been fighting formal diagnosis for years because of the effects it could have on his education and future,” she said.
However, there are times when Landon can erupt when some of his “triggers” are activated.
“Touching and being bullied are his triggers and cause him to melt down,” Webster said. “The administrators at his school are aware of both of these things.”
Webster, who, like her husband, is a paramedic, received a phone call from the school on Tuesday, Dec. 12, to pick up Landon. When she arrived, she found Landon in the corner of the classroom along with thrown chairs, smashed desks and school supplies strewn across the classroom.
Webster said school administrators “had no idea what caused him to erupt.” Webster called police to help calm her son down, and a Hogansville police sergeant who knows Landon responded.
“The school told me he just randomly started throwing things and flipping out, and they were unsure if he could even return,” Webster said.
Webster called Landon’s doctor, who told her that since Landon was apparently trying to hurt others and himself, he should be taken to a local ER for a psychiatric evaluation and possible admittance into a mental health facility.
“At that point I was placing all of the blame on my own child,” Webster said. “Landon was behaving, but still upset and afraid. He wouldn’t tell me what happened to cause his outburst. He wouldn’t talk.”
Webster took Landon to West Georgia Medical Center in LaGrange, where he was placed under a psychiatric hold.
“I was going to have to leave my child in the care of others and label him ‘crazy,’” Webster said. “This whole time he was well behaved. I held him and we both cried all afternoon. I felt like a horrible failure of a mother. I couldn’t figure out where I went so wrong.”
By the end of the evening, however, as Landon was speaking with a doctor, more details about the incident began to emerge.
“Landon said he had a classmate picking on him, calling him fat and poking at him,” Webster said. “So he did what I’ve told him to do. He told his teacher, who ignored him.”
This happened repeatedly, “and the third time this child gets in my son’s face, taunting him. From what Landon told the doctor he either swatted at the kid or pushed him. After this, Landon did what he is known to do, and runs to the corner to hide.”
A Troup County board of education spokesperson said the system “takes safety of our students and staff very seriously. We do not encourage or condone bullying at any level.
“At this time, we are investigating the matter and working directly with the parent to bring solutions pertaining to her situation,” the system said. “This is something we do with each parent concern. Parent engagement and open communication between school and home is important to not only a safe learning environment, but a successful one.”
Landon’s psych hold was rescinded after he talked to the physician. He was released into his mother’s custody for follow up.
“My biggest concern is that, had the school been honest with me and told me what happened, it would have been fine,” Webster said. “Instead, they tried to take my child and put him in a psychiatric ward because they didn’t tell me the truth.
“I don’t condone what he did or the damage he caused,” Webster said. “I believe in discipline but don’t hide things from me. The school is hiding things from me and I don’t believe I’m the only one.”
Webster posted her account of the incident on her Facebook page, which has received hundreds of shares and comments.
"What they failed to tell me is that the assistant principal went into the room and put her hands on my son, when she decided she was going to pull him out of the corner," Webster said. "He lost it and started throwing things and destroying the room. They withheld all of the information of what led up to Landon’s meltdown because, once again, they did not take appropriate action toward the constant bullying problem they have."
At the time of her interview with 11Alive, Webster was en route to the Hogansville police department to consider legal charges against the school.