It was just a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the horrors some of our children are facing in classrooms and on school buses by the people they are supposed to trust. This abuse is just outright cruelty and bullying that is not officially sanctioned by any school district. However, you may be surprised to know the use of physical restraints and seclusion is not only legal, they are encouraged in many school districts. We have legalized, sanctioned physical and emotional abuse of autistic individuals.
Several years ago, the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress that performs audits and evaluation of Government programs and activities, did a study of the use of physical restraints and seclusion in special needs children. Among their findings:
- A 230 lb teacher lay on top of a 14 year old boy because he did not stay seated in class, causing his death. The death was ruled a homicide but the grand jury did not indict the teacher, who is currently teaching in Virginia and is licensed to teach disabled children.
- A volunteer teacher’s aide, on probation for burglary and cocaine possession, gagged and duct-taped children for misbehaving.
- A 13 year old boy died by suffocation after an aide sat on top of him because he was disruptive while riding in a van.
Rep. George Miller, D.- California, has introduced federal legislation that would enact stricter guidelines on the use of physical restraints and seclusion in the nation's public and private schools (ABC News). This legislation would institute national standards as to how teachers and staff can safely restrain students.
“There is no excuse for inaction,” Miller said. “In the past, this Committee has worked tirelessly on behalf of children’s safety. Our investigations made clear that a federal law is necessary to protect all children across the country and ensure that children’s safety does not depend on the state in which they live. I hope that we can put aside politics and ideologies, tackle these issues together, and do what we can legislatively to save children from abuse.”
Good news and about time you might think, but this legislation has been stalled by Minnesota Republican Congressman John Kline, the Chairman of the House Education Committee.
“Chairman Kline believes state officials and school leaders are best equipped to determine appropriate policies that should be in place to protect students and to hold those policies accountable,” said Alexandra Haynes Sollberger, the communications director for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. “For this reason, the committee has not scheduled any action on seclusion and restraint legislation at this time.”
How is legislation to protect the most vulnerable members of our society a “state’s rights” issue and not a human one? And if you think “state officials and school leaders” are best equipped to regulate restraint and seclusion policies, consider:
- Angelika Arndt, a 7-year old with ADHD died in 2006 after being suffocated while in a face-down restraint hold and held down by a man 5 times her body weight for over 50 minutes at the Rice Lake Day Treatment Center in Wisconsin. The day before her death she was reprimanded for blowing bubbles in her milk and laughing during lunch time and was held in the dangerous face-down prone position for 98 minutes.
- Todd, an eleven-year-old boy with autism, suffered a broken tooth during a prone restraint at a Connecticut residential facility in 2011.
- Christopher Baker, a Kentucky fourth-grader with autism and learning disabilities, was stuffed into a sack resembling a duffle bag and placed in a hallway by a teacher's assistant for misbehaving in class.
- Corey Foster of New York City, 16, died after being restrained by school staff members for allegedly refusing to leave the basketball court at the Leake & Watts School for Students with Special Needs in Yonkers, N.Y. The autopsy report ruled Corey's death an accident due to "cardiac arrest during excited state while being subdued."
- A 14-year-old autistic boy died in a San Antonio mental hospital earlier this year after being restrained by hospital workers, the city’s second death in a month in which a child patient died while being restrained.
- A 7-year-old Huntington Beach boy with autism and severe disabilities was left with a broken nose, bruises and scratches after two teachers used a controversial restraining technique to calm him down, officials said.
And there was Matthew Goodman, diagnosed with autism as a toddler whose story brought tears to my eyes, was “…put into a prison-type setting, bound, overmedicated, allowed to lay in the floor in a semi-comatose state, never allowed outside, never allowed to socialize or dress or feed himself…” said his lawyer. His mother said, "He died mentally for two years before he died physically. Every ounce of dignity was taken away from him.”
Here is Matthew, as a happy little boy...
And here he is, restrained…the way he lived for the last 16 months of his life, in a New Jersey residential facility—for which his school district paid over $300,000 a year. Matthew died of pneumonia and blood poisoning.
Treating an animal like this deserves jail time...to treat a child this way is beyond criminal. It is beyond human. And it has got to stop.