Molly Bloom reports on a lawsuit over seclusion:
…. the Ohio Legal Rights Service says it has initiated a “district-wide investigation of abuse, neglect and/or significant rights violation” in Columbus, Ohio’s largest school district.
The investigation came about after the mother of an autistic student contacted the agency about her son being placed seclusion room — which she called a “closet” — more than once, according to the lawsuit. The mother said that her son, who is autistic, “had urinated in the room, was lying on the floor, and contracted a staph infection,” according to the lawsuit.
An agency investigator visited the school and described the seclusion room as a “a padded room with a metal door that had two peep holes and a foot latch lock,” according to the lawsuit. The agency said in the lawsuit that they believe at least four Columbus elementary schools have these kinds of rooms.
Read more about the case on NPR, where you can also read a copy of the lawsuit.
I find it so rare that NYSED actually does the right thing when it comes to restraint or time-out rooms that I need to post this news story by Debra J. Groom:
Oswego County BOCES no longer will use the time out room at the Fourth Street School in Fulton after a parent complained to the state about potential safety concerns in the room.
BOCES’ decision follows an unannounced visit April 25 to the site by a state Education Department representative after the state heard from the parent.
An April 26 state Education letter to BOCES Superintendent Joseph Camerino said a review of the time out room found the physical space did not provide a way for teachers to see and hear the student in the room. The room also is not big enough to allow the student to move about and recline comfortably, Irene Buchan, of the Education Department, said in her letter to Camerino.
Buchan, who reviewed the room, also found it “was not free of objects and fixtures that could be potentially dangerous to a student,” noting two small pipes were sticking out of the wall. She also said lighting was inadequate and the wall and floor coverings were not designed to prevent injury.
Read more on Syracuse.com
Colleen Shaddox has a must-read article on YouthToday that was written for Ct. Health I-Team. It begins:
Six-year-old Anthony Wickham weighed about 48 pounds when five adults forcibly restrained him at Plainfield’s Shepherd Elementary School. Anthony, a student in the school’s Clinical Day Treatment program, was regularly locked in a windowless room that measured four by six feet, a court document says.
The allegations sound highly unusual, but Connecticut schools reported using emergency restraint and seclusion more than 18,000 times last year.
C-HIT received the data from the state Department of Education after making a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
“This is really pretty disturbing,” said Alicia Woodsby, public policy director for the National Alliance for Mental Illness in Connecticut. The number of incidents far exceeds what her organization suspected and “illustrates why we need transparency on this and better reporting of it,” she said.
The state Department of Education cautions that these numbers are preliminary and unaudited. In only one other state, California, are schools required by law to report these incidents to the state. California schools reported about 21,000 “behavioral emergencies” in the same time period in public and non-public schools. California’s K-12 public school population was 6,252,011 in 2009. Connecticut’s was 563,869.
Read the entire article.
Despite a GAO report and a Congressional hearing in May of 2009, nothing — NOTHING — has been passed by Congress or enacted into law to protect children from unnecessary, cruel, and inhumane restraint and seclusion. Nor is there any federal law that mandates reporting of instances of restraint and seclusion to either state education departments or parents of children.
Children are being injured and deprived of their safety, their dignity, and their civil liberties. Children in public schools urgently need protections. Perhaps Congress could stop debating tax cuts for the wealthy and think about the horrible things that are being done to children in the name of “education?”
[post edited to reflect article author's affiliation]
Michelle Diament writes:
At least one disability advocacy group is now opposing a bill in Congress that they once championed after changes would allow restraint and seclusion to be included in students’ individualized education plans, or IEPs.
In an e-mail to members on Monday, the head of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, or COPAA – a 1,200 member organization of special education attorneys, advocates and parents — said the group opposes the legislation in its current form because of the IEP provision and would like members of Congress to reconsider.
“COPAA cannot support the current legislation because S.3895 permits restraint and locked seclusion as planned interventions in students’ education plans, including behavior plans and individualized education programs,” wrote the group’s executive director Denise Marshall. “By allowing restraint and locked seclusion as planned interventions, S.3895 weakens protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and legitimizes practices that the bill seeks to prevent.”
Read more on Disability Scoop.
Note that H.R. 4247, the House version of a restraint and seclusion bill, includes this language (emphasis added by me):
(4) The use of physical restraint or seclusion as a planned intervention shall not be written into a student’s education plan, individual safety plan, behavioral plan, or individualized education program (as defined in section 602 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1401)).
That S.3895 proposes to include restraint and seclusion in the I.E.P. is problematic since restraint and seclusion should only to be used for emergencies involving imminent injury to the student or other people. As such, it is not a planned educational intervention, it should apply equally to non-special education students, and should not be included in an IEP. I am particularly concerned that if restraint and seclusion are included in IEPs, we will see a lot of “creep” whereby they are not just being written in for genuine safety emergencies, but as programmatic elements that allow staff to restrain students for all sorts of minor infractions.
When H.R. 4247 was being negotiated, strong consequences for staff who abused students was omitted as a way of placating schools. Enough is enough. This bill needs to protect students from harm, and if they water it down, it doesn’t accomplish its goal.
Parents need to get on the phone to call their senators to tell them that they want a strong bill that protects students.
Emily Groves of the Norwich Bulletin in Connecticut reports allegations about Shepard Hill Elementary School’s Clinical Day Treatment Program that, sadly, are the kind of allegations that are all-too-familiar to advocates. The story first came to light when a former paraprofessional in the program, Diane Smith-Sanders, blew the whistle on what she observed while employed there.
One of the allegations concerned children being denied lunch if they had not completed their assignments. According to Groves, Plainfield Superintendent of Schools Mary Conway confirms that one staff member had been withholding lunch from children, but states that the had district immediately investigated Ms. Smith-Sanders’ report and the practice had been stopped immediately after they discovered that one teacher was withholding lunch if the children were “not in control.”
As disturbing as the thought of withholding food from young children is, even more serious allegations concerned the use of time-out rooms.