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Principal defends rejecting autistic boy

By Huang Yuli in Shenzhen (China Daily)

08:18, September 21, 2012

Mao Mao, 15, who is autistic, could not enroll for classes in Baocheng Primary School in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong province. Photo by Sun Yi / for China Daily

A Shenzhen elementary school principal who came under fire for rejecting an autistic boy has defended the decision, saying the child was disruptive and "scared his classmates".

The boy, 15, who has been referred to in reports as Mao Mao, started Grade 5 at Baocheng Primary School in May. Yet during the summer break in August, his mother received a letter saying her child was no longer welcome, she said.

"I know there must be difficulties about having an autistic child in class, but I didn't expect this," said the mother, who did not want to be identified. "I tried negotiating with the school several times but it ended in nothing."

The expulsion led to criticism from the public and the media, with many claiming the case highlights the problems autistic children face getting a good education.

However, Lin Xiyu, principal of the school, which is in Shenzhen's Bao'an district, told China Daily he is disappointed at how the matter has been reported.

"It's not that we don't want to help," he said. "We accepted him on a probationary basis, even though he wasn't the right age — most of our fifth-grade students are 11 years old. We also told teachers and other children to be friendly to him.

"But, in the end, we just couldn't help," he added. "Students got hurt, and we want his mother to face up to the real situation."

Lin provided a report on Mao Mao's behavior during the last school year.

It stated that, initially, when his mother — a trained nurse — accompanied him in class, the boy behaved well. Yet when she returned to work and he was left alone, his actions became "abnormal", including brandishing his fists, smearing spit on classmates' textbooks and desks, and screaming.

The report also stated that the boy had been caught masturbating in corridors and toilets at the school.

"His behavior influenced the children surrounding him very much," said Mao Mao's teacher, who gave his name only as Cai. "I could see the fear in their faces."

Lin said Baocheng Primary has three other students with "slight autism", the oldest of whom is 12 years old, and that they have had no problems at the school.

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