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Prevent Restraint & Seclusion Parent's Guide "Shouldn't Schools Be Safe?"


TASH releases resource to inform parents and protect against
restraint and seclusion abuses in schools

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 12, 2011) – TASH, a nonprofit advocate for inclusion and human rights of persons with significant disabilities, has released Shouldn’t School Be Safe?, a parent’s guide to keeping children safe from restraint, seclusion and other aversive practices in schools.

The process of finding help when a child is abused is not always clear, and many parents are discouraged or overwhelmed by the patchwork of  laws and regulations handling restraint and seclusion in schools. Shouldn’t School Be Safe? is a free resource developed by parents for parents that offers insight and advice to respond to and prevent restraint and seclusion.

“Many parents feel lost or disconnected in the planning process for their child, and have only a limited idea of their rights to direct that process,” said Barb Trader, executive director of TASH. “Parents seeking answers and support should be empowered to make informed decisions that protect their child.”

Shouldn’t School Be Safe? offers preventative steps parents can take to limit risk at school. The guide encourages parents to play an active role in decision-making, including the creation of an Individualized Education Plan and behavior plan. It also covers ways to build positive relationships and set the foundation for success within the school and community for their child.

The signs of abuse can sometimes be difficult to detect. This guide provides tips for staying vigilant about the health and safety of students. It covers the warning signs, physical and behavioral, that can indicate abuse. It also outlines indicators that a school may provide a dangerous environment for students.

Shouldn’t School Be Safe? also includes information and step-by-step actions for parents to take if they discover their child has been restrained or secluded in school. These practices can be traumatic for children and their parents. This guide outlines the immediate steps to be taken, and how to respond in the days and weeks following an incident of restraint, seclusion or other aversive practice.

This is a free resource for parents and includes sample forms for incident debriefing and communicating with school officials. Shouldn’t School Be Safe? may also be used by anyone involved in the care and decision-making of school children.

Click here to view or download  Shouldn't School Be Safe?

TASH, along with the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (a TASH-led coalition of disability organizations), is a leading proponent of federal legislation to protect students from restraint and seclusion in schools. TASH’s 2011 report, The Cost of Waiting, documents restraint and seclusion through the lens of the media, and is a free resource available for download. More information can be found at www.tash.org.


Sherri Tucker

I live in Missouri and they are in the top 10 for corporal punishment. When I spoke at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Special Education Advisory Panel about this there were many members that were unaware of this.

I was trying to help draft a policy for Missouri, but too many of the members work for school districts and the end result was very watered down. I even brought a policy that had been written by professionals.

We are supposed to be a civilized country, yet every day a child is restrained, secluded, or emotionally abused. Why do we allow our tax money to be used to pay those that are abusing our children?

Parents must unite and say that enough is enough. One voice gets lost in the dark, but many voices can change the world.

Virginia L. Kenyon

Thank you for posting this excellent information for parents of disabled children. It is very helpful for all to understand what is being done to our youth, so we may protect them. My thirteen year old grandson, with multiple disabilities has been abused, tortured, and finally criminalized by being in a "special needs" public school! This child is now being "enslaved", and committed to a Juvenile Justice level four program. He is a troubled child, however, not a criminal. He became very anxious about going to school, after his right leg was broken, by an ESE teacher. This left him disfigured, fearful, with chronic, lasting pain, and a severe limp. I have failed to find an attorney that will take his personal injury case. It seems this is all about money, and not about seeking justice for this adorable child. I wish I would have had access to the help you now provide. Thank you again!

Sheree J. Davenport

Our family resides in rural Hart County, GA. My husband and I have two wonderful children. Our son is 15 years old, and has the genetic diagnosis of Fragile X Syndrome and Autism. He has always been extremely small for his age, when school began in August 2009. He was 13 years old, weighing only 68 lbs, and 57 inches tall. My precious little boy may be 15 years chronologically, but physically he can be compared to an 8 or 9 year old boy. Logan’s estimated IQ is 40 placing him with the mentality of a 4 year old. Our son can communicate his basic needs and wants; however he has extreme difficulties expressing the details of his day, such as stating what he ate for lunch, etc.
August 10, 2009- Our precious son was abused by a school district employed, special education school bus monitor. The bus monitor hit Logan with an open hand to his head, threw his tiny body across the bus isle and over a seat, with her two hands wrapped around Logan’s hair. When our son returned home the top of his head looked as if he had been scalped. The monitor allowed other children to throw fruit at him, a much larger and older child to bully him by continuously stating; that he is going to “Kick our son’s ass!” without reprimand. The monitor herself, verbally and emotionally abused our son. He was lying in the bus isle, crying “I want my Mommy.” The Monitor looked down at our child and said “I don’t know why you’re crying… You are the one that started all of this… You probably just laying down there thinking about what you’re going to do next- ain’t ya!” The Monitor continued to verbally, physically and emotionally abuse our son, until my husband located where the bus had broken down.
August 11, 2009- My husband and I were called at 11:00 AM, to watch the bus video from the previous day. When we arrived, the County Schools Superintendent, Special Ed. Director, Assistant Superintendent, and Transportation Director, were already present. The School District Superintended, continuously denied the child abuse, this was unusual since our son’s abuse was caught on video tape. Afterward, arrangements were made allowing Logan to ride the bus by himself along with the paraprofessional that had been with him since he was in second grade.
My Husband filed a complaint with the County Sheriff's Department, regarding the abuse we witnessed on the video.
August 12, 2009-Two investigators with the Sheriff's Department also viewed the video, and afterward found it imperative that our County's Sheriff, request the assistance of the Georgia Beauro of Investigation (GBI) to aid the Sheriff’s Department with the investigation.
My husband and I, along with a few media outlets, were told by The County School Superintendent and also by the Assistant District Attorney, “The GBI, along with the Assistant District Attorney, had found "No Criminal Acts after viewing the bus video."
This made no sense to me so I decided to inquire as to how the GBI, came to this unjust decision. I was able to speak with the ASAC, who stated to me at that time, “The agency has nothing in their computer system, regarding our son or the abusive bus monitor."
Later that same day the ASAC called me, stating that he had found a record where the Sheriff did request GBI help, assist with the investigation. However, upon the Agents arrival, Assistant District Attorney turned the agent away, citing no criminal acts had taken place. The ASAC stated I could quote him in saying: “The GBI has not conducted an investigation into the School Bus incident, but will be more than willing to conduct a full investigation, pursuant to the District Attorney’s request.”
When I learned of these events, over 100 friends and I began calling our District Attorney. When the District Attorney, finally decided to return my phone call, he stated at that time, that he was requesting the assistance of the GBI to investigate the abuse our child endured.
I began asking the DA difficult questions such as- Why the GBI had not been allowed to investigate previously, and why my husband and I were told the GBI had conducted an investigation, when in fact they had not. The DA's reply was "A GBI agent did watch a portion of the video, with the Assistant District Attorney."
I asked- why just a portion- his reply was- "I don't know."
I asked who the agent was- his reply- I don't recall."
I asked what day, had the agent viewed the video? - His reply - "Umm- sometime last week."
At that time I told Mr. Lavender that I do not trust him, and question his motives.

Early the next morning I began calling the GBI office, before the agency opened. I needed to speak with the ASAC, before anyone else had the opportunity. At that time, I was informed "The ASAC was out of the office, and was not expected back for quite some time." My call was then transferred to the SAC, who had taken charge of our son’s abuse investigation.
The SAC and DA had identical stories with minor details which differed. ASAC stated; “An Agent did watch the "majority" of video.” But this time he was sending “His best child abuse/molestation Investigator, to conduct a full investigation.”
I questioned the SAC, who the Agent was that previously viewed the video, which day, and why the agent had not watched the video in its entirety. The SAC could not answer any of my questions. It was apparent to me at that time, the SAC and District Attorney, were obviously working together at that time.
I made the request to both our School District Superintendent, and the SAC for a copy of the bus video, and was denied by both.
August 25, 2009- Our son was transferred into another class-room; with a male teacher weighing over 200 lbs. Logan came home from school and removed his shirt, revealing the most horrible abrasions, bruises, lacerations surrounding his torso area, under his arms, on his legs and began repeating the phrase “No Touchy” Logan has NEVER received similar injuries or stated no touchy, until this day. I contacted Logan's Doctor, who is his primary care provider, and was told to bring my son in.
I then contacted the male teacher, and began questioning him about how our son, sustained these extensive injuries. The teacher stated to me- “He HAD to use Mindset Restraints on our son, AS A LAST RESORT, AFTER TYING HIM IN A CHAIR SEVERAL TIMES. “
I expressed my extreme concerns about our son’s extensive injuries, and also about the use of restraints. The teacher's response to my dire concerns was through laughter. I have documentation proving this male teacher retained an attorney on this same day.
Our son’s Doctor and I agreed that we should contact DFCS, due to the corrupt nature of the August 10, 2009 case.
A week later, I contacted DFCS, and spoke with the Supervisor in charge of child protection- who stated to me, that she had turned the case over to the P.D. and that DFCS does not investigate schools, only parents.
September 9, 2009- once again our son arrived home from school, and removed his shirt, revealing injuries. The entire length of his spine and kidney area, were bruised. I contacted our son’s Doctor, and was told she was out of the office. I was instructed to file a police report.
My husband filed another complaint, this time with the Hartwell Police Department, and learned that DFCS had never turned the August 25, 2009 case over to the Police Department. The Police Department had not been contacted about the injuries our son had sustained on August 25, 2009. The Police Department Investigator stated he could only investigate September 9, 2009 because August 25, 2009 had never been reported to the department. A Police Investigator conducted the investigation, and could not prove wrong doing by the teacher. The Investigator also expressed concerns regarding the atmosphere within the School District, stating that he often goes into the schools and is always met by employees and students who are eager to “point their fingers at others.” He said that this investigation was different because no one was talking at all and the teacher acted odd during questioning, asking if he (teacher) needed his attorney present, so the Investigator “had to back off.” The Investigator, did not have difficulties gathering our son’s school records, because the Georgia Advocacy Agency (GAO) had requested already requested our son’s records which were due to the GAO the next day.
The September 09, 2009 investigation concludes; our son did receive injuries, however it is inconclusive as to whether they occurred at school or elsewhere.
My husband and I hesitated in allowing our son to return to school, however the Investigator, suggested we do so.
October 26, I learned the administrators removed the paraprofessional who had been with our son since he was in the second grade, from the classroom, which is when I removed our child from the public school environment.

Sheree J. Davenport
CEO Fragile X Press,
Assistant CEO Justice4Children,
Georgia Families against Restraint and Seclusion

Donna L.

Concerned Mom - excellent point. It is indeed a real dilemma. I think this is another area in which the biomed community is at an advantage, due to knowing that physical/medical issues are often driving these difficult behavioral issues. For these kids with severe behaviors, finding a good biomedical/non-mainstream health practitioner and getting as much lab testing as possible done on the child can be life-altering.

We went through a horrible half a year with my son - severe aggression and very dangerous self-injurious behavior - to the point where school staff, our regular doctor, and even relatives were suggesting medication and institutionalization, and with the help of two very good biomed doctors, we discovered my son's lithium level was extremely low. After several months of supplementing lithium (natural, not Rx), his behaviors improved tremendously.

Just one example of what most of us in this community already know...keep looking for the physical causes behind these behaviors...something mainstream medicine has yet to figure out.

Concerned Mom

I agree with Mr. Levine about restraint being barbaric and dangerous and it causing a lifetime of psychological injury and that for the sake of safety, it should be outlawed. But I ask myself this question all the time...What is the solution? How does one stop a confused and frightened child (who is likely in physical pain--abdominal/bowel, headache, etc.) who has limited cognitive ability from biting, punching and kicking their caregivers and other children until bruised, bleeding, or otherwise seriously injured?How can such a distraught child who has an extremely limited ability to understand what he or she is doing from throwing things, banging their own head, or biting their own arms/hands/fingers until bleeding and serious injury occur? These unfortunate and frightening incidents leave psychological injury, too, along with physical injury. I imagine It has to be overwhelmingly traumatic for a child who is biting him- or herself until they bleed but they just can't stop. And what about the other children and teachers/caregivers witnessing this but are powerless to help that child stop? I don't think there are any easy answers to this but then again, lack of easy answers is just another part of autism.

Alan Levine

Thank you for posting this excellent manual for parents of disabled children. The often brutal and life threatening practices of restraint and seclusion (or as I call them, control by violence and solitary confinement) ought to be illegal. They have no therapeutic or educational value, yet they are used so often that many innocent children die each year from the "techniques" not to mention the thousands who suffer psychological injuries from them.

Parents need to be informed so that they can protect their children for these barbaric procedures and the general public needs to be informed so that we can outlaw them. This manual does both. Excellent work. A must read for parents of the disabled, and for the general public who have no idea regarding how we treat the disabled in our schools and elsewhere.

Lorene Amet

Thank you for flagging this report- it is useful even for families living outside the US.

I wanted to flag a section of it for the AoA redears as it seems that there is some misconception regarding the values of having restraining specified in an IEP.

"Do not, under any circumstances, allow restraint, seclusion or other aversive practices to be specified and/or permitted through the IEP or BIP. Note: Parents are sometimes told that restraint and seclusion must be written into their child’s IEP to allow for emergency usage. This is not true. Schools do not need parental permission for the use of restrictive procedures on ANY student, whether or not they have an IEP, if that action is necessary to avert a highly dangerous, unforeseen emergency. It would be criminal negligence on the part of school staff to stand by and deliberately allow a student to be seriously injured or killed. However, once restraint and seclusion are in a child’s education plan, their use is considered approved, not merely as a one-time response to an unforeseeable emergency, but as an ongoing reaction to that child’s known and foreseeable or predictable daily “behavior.”

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