Remove Teacher Who Mistreated Students with Autism

12-20-13 hot sauce

Target: Judge Carol Draper, Ninth Circuit, Florida

Goal: Remove the teacher who soaked the crayons of autistic children in hot sauce

Last year Lillian Gomez, a teacher in the Osceola County School District, Florida, was fired for taking the crayons of autistic children and soaking them in hot sauce. However, in recent surprising events, Gomez has been rehired by court mandate in the district despite the protests of many parents in the area. Sign this petition in support of—once more—removing Lillian Gomez from a teaching position.

An administrative law judge ruling in August declared Gomez could be rehired in the district as her intent was not to hurt the autistic children but rather to get them to stop eating the crayons. Since there was no evidence she was trying to punish the children, she has retained her teaching credentials. Although the school district did not wish to reinstate Gomez and fought the decision by the judge, their appeal was denied and she was rehired.

What is crucial to understanding the gravity of this situation is to further understand autistic children, and Gomez’s role as an educational figure. Approximately 30% of autistic kids have a condition called pica, wherein they are unable to recognize what is and is not food and therefore tend to try to eat a variety of items. Does this mean their mouths deserve to be blasted by hot sauce? No. It was an inappropriate response to a condition the children have little control over at this age.

Additionally, there are known educational strategies in place to help autistic students with conditions like pica. Given that Gomez was their educational caretaker, it was her and the school district’s responsibility to ensure she, as a teacher, was fully equipped to be able to best teach her students. The manner in which she chose to deal with the situation was clearly not in the best interest of her students.

Gomez acted in a highly irresponsible way, resorting to tricks like soaking crayons in hot sauce to get autistic children to stop trying to eat crayons. The judge’s decision to reinstate Gomez should be repealed and instead opened to graduates with teaching certificates who are willing to be responsible and truly care for the children they teach.


Dear Judge Draper,

I recently learned about the Lillian Gomez case. As a teacher, she soaked crayons in hot sauce to get autistic children to stop trying to eat the crayons. Since there was no evidence this was an act of punishment, the courts required she be reinstated in a teaching position in the Osceola County District.

While her intent may not have been to punish, it was still highly inappropriate and cruel. Autistic children learn differently, and trying to burn their mouths with sauce to preserve art supplies is not an effective, educational route.

Please repeal the decision to return her to a teaching position.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Tom Harpel via Wikimedia Commons

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