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Library bans special needs agencies in Madison County

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Published on Feb 17, 2010

MADISON COUNTY - The library is prohibiting life-skills agencies from doing business inside the library. They sent a letter to several agencies Tuesday, and an uproar soon followed.

At a meeting Wednesday night at the library, the board explained they did not mean the letter to be discriminatory against special needs children. But the meeting quickly escalated with the crowd arguing against the board's decision.

Last fall the police were called to the library when one child with behavioral problems started stabbing the counselor who brought him to the library.

"He began stabbing her with the sharpened pencils," said Library Director Judy Dewey.

A different incident involved one child hitting Library Director Judy Dewey multiple times.

"I was standing at the copy machine, and the child hit me... The next week the same child walked by and hit me. So I looked at the child, and the child goes 'what!?' And then the child got a drink from the fountain, walked by me and hit me again," said Dewey.

Here's a list of the agencies to whom the letter was sent. They offer services on everything from counseling, to working with clients with special needs, along with behavioral assistance. Library officials say other safety issues have also needed to be addressed.

"What wasn't appropriate was letting that child go to the bathroom by themselves. No child in this library should ever be allowed to go the bathroom by themselves... The Marshal Public Library has had a child physically accosted in their bathroom," said Dewey.

However, every agency I spoke to is upset with the library board's announcement.

"I feel like we have lost a valuable tool and I feel like we are being discriminated against. The children running around and crying for their moms are a lot more disruptive than the people I've brought in," said Angie Snook, with one of the banned Lifeskills Agencies.

But Dewey says they should take their business elsewhere.

"What we are addressing are people that are only using the library to carry on business. They are not using library resources. We are getting complaints from the staff overhearing these kids getting counseled. A patron who is very upset that this is going on, and thinks it is entirely inappropriate,"

Dewey says those counseling sessions are also taking up space.

"Tables for 4 are dominated by 2 people and nobody else can sit there," said Dewey.

Scott Birkinbine thinks this is all an indication of a bigger societal problem.

"There's a perfect example of why we want to get individuals integrated into the community. Because if we have a child with a disability and our staff sit down with them at a table with 4 chairs. And the community is afraid to sit down next to that person," said Scott Birkinbine.

Birkinbine believes his agency isn't part of the problem, and that a better solution would be to have agencies like his sign in while visiting the library.

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