Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Disabled children routinely abused in schools

Photo of Cedric Napoleon from USA TODAY.

Some pretty harrowing accounts in USA TODAY, which read like something out of Dickens. A report from the Government Accountability Office released today, stated that disabled children are routinely restrained, secluded from other classmates (in what would ordinarily be called "solitary")--and describes the death of 14-year-old Cedric Napoleon after his special education teacher used a "therapeutic floor hold."

Greg Toppo of USA TODAY reports:

In one case, a New York school confined a 9-year-old with learning disabilities to a "small, dirty room" 75 times in six months for whistling, slouching and hand-waving. In another, a Florida teacher's aide gagged and duct-taped five misbehaving children to their desks; and police say a 14-year-old boy died when a special-education teacher in Texas lay on top of the student when he would not stay seated. Police ruled it a homicide, but a grand jury rejected criminal charges.

The findings from the GAO, Congress' investigative arm, stop short of attaching a hard number to how many children are subjected to the practices, but investigators say they found "hundreds of allegations" of abuse involving restraint or seclusion at schools from 1990 to 2009; in Texas and California, they say, public schools recorded a combined 33,095 instances in the past school year alone. [...] The report details 10 children's cases, four of which ended in death. Unlike in hospitals or residential treatment centers, there's no federal system to regulate such practices in schools — and teachers are often inadequately trained, GAO says.

Only seven states even require that educators get training before they're allowed to restrict children, and only five states have banned "prone restraint," which ended in the death of the Texas student.
Examiner.com reports:

Cedric Napoleon suffered so much abuse in his young life that, at age 14, he was already experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, an affliction often associated with soldiers at war.

By 2002, he was under the care of a foster family and attending middle school in Killeen, Texas, in a class with a special education teacher. That's when his troubled childhood took an even darker turn, lawmakers learned Tuesday in a hearing about school discipline.

Acting out in class one day, Cedric, 129 pounds, was pinned to the floor by his 230-pound teacher, who lay on him to quiet him down, federal investigators say. When she got off or soon after, he was dead.
Unbelievably, the teacher was not charged with any crime, and is still on the job:

In Cedric Napoleon's case, government investigators said the death was ruled a homicide, but a grand jury did not indict the teacher.

A judge found that the teacher used excessive force on the child and was reckless in her actions, the report said.

"The teacher also ignored pleas and warnings that the child could not breathe and continued to hold him after he became still and quiet, the judge noted," the report said.
The rest of the Examiner.com story is here, but be forewarned, it is some difficult reading.


Robin said...

Horrifying. Absolutely horrifying.

CrackerLilo said...

This just absolutely shocked and disgusted me to read. My SIL is an education major who wants to work in special ed; we had a long conversation about this last night.

Rootietoot said...

Yeah, this is really upsetting. On one hand, disabled kids can be disruptive to a classroom, on the other hand, they have every right to a proper education, without fear of abuse. At the school my 10 yr old attends, each disabled kid has a trained attendant, who helps with classwork, etc, so the teacher can teach and the other kids are around and used to their presence.

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sheila said...

SICKENING. I saw this on CNN the other day and watched the mom testify. I cried. Senseless and stupid and sad.