Imagine the joy in your heart as you clear your calendar to make special time with your remarkable child during the week.
Imagine the sweet bustle of hurrying off to get to the school on time, so you can surprise your child with the simple, loving act of having lunch together.
Imagine the spring in your step as you excitedly approach the school, anticipating in your mind how your child will react to unexpectedly seeing you at their classroom door.
Now imagine the complete shock and horror when you arrive at the door of your child's room and see them wearing a poop-filled diaper, restrained HERE...
|Photo image courtesy of disabilityscoop.com|
This was the alleged scenario with a developmentally delayed, first grade student last May at a Fresno, California school. According to reports, the mother acted with swift wisdom, removing her daughter who was sitting in the "cage" in a soiled diaper, called the principal about the situation, and notified the police, who came and dissembled the gated seclusion pen.
The school, while putting the teacher on administrative leave, had a 3 year history of using this illegal area for restraint and seclusion. The principal had confessed to the police that she had seen children in it before. The special education staff interviewed by police reported that this area was used for students who were "out of control" and who were considered "a danger to themselves and others." The apparent use of this restraint that day in May of 2014 was that this little 7 year old girl had scratched one of the staff.
There are so many pieces of WRONG and heartache in this story, I was hesitant to bring it to you. This problem is more pervasive than typical families will ever realize. A student whose family I am familiar with was shown disdain and discredited by staff when she voiced her upset at watching a fellow special education student regularly pushed by a teacher when he tried to hug her, and when he was put in a corner if he didn't stay still or annoyed them by repeatedly trying to tell them something via sign language, multiple times a day. Her mother was told by the principal that her daughter "has a history of not telling the truth" and "I can't have my staff getting hurt -- We're trained in how to handle students like this."
I would like to ask these professionals, WHERE is your COMPASSION? What would your reaction be to seeing this done to your child? How would you feel if YOU were the one sitting in a soiled diaper, pushed, sent to a corner when you are pleading for help, caged when you are upset and can't convey your needs?
What compels me to share this story with you, despite how unsavory it is in nature, is a recent study by the University of New Hampshire. This research reveals a prevailing 58% rate of restraint and seclusion in students, three-quarters of whom are special education students, regardless of policy changes in recent years. This is wholly unacceptable, and SIMPLE training is surely lacking. Even California disability advocates who serve in the area where this story of the caged first-grader occurred are shocked that staff weren't trained better. The protocol for dealing with this little girl would have merely been a bear hug from behind, rather than negligence and seclusion.
Parents, given the statistics, be ever vigilant. Take your child seriously when they report concerns about seeing such behavior in adults. Stop in unannounced from time-to-time at your child's school. We need the assurance that our students are treated with love and dignity. It is unreasonable for schools to offer anything less.
For further reading:
- Claim: Special Education Student ‘Caged’ In Class
- Mom finds daughter with special needs in cage during surprise school visit
- Mommy, I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did To Me In School Today by Richard Stripp
- Report: Changes Fail To Curb Restraint, Seclusion
~ Barb Dittrich