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In the wake of recent events over the last couple of months, restraining and secluding special needs children is at the forefront again. The most recent event involved two Ohio kindergarten teachers who were videotaped dragging a child with autism by his ankle down the hallway. 1)Tribune Media Wire The parent of the child is outraged because these teachers will be facing disciplinary action from the school district, but will not be criminally charged.
Bonnie McKean, the mother of 7-year-old Corbin, stated the teacher’s aide, Heather Gregory, had worked with Corbin since preschool and knew about his behavior.
She knows him better than any other teacher in that school,” says McKean. “She knows he is prone to violent meltdowns, and she was one of the best at calming him down. 2)Richland Source
Similarly, in a elementary school in Clarksville, Tennessee, a teacher is seen on camera dragging a child with autism out of her classroom and using her foot to keep him out. 3)WBIR
These are not the first instances we have heard about students being dragged and unfortunately, it will not be the last.
So as a parent what do you do to prevent this from happening to your child?
The first thing to do is understand your rights as a parent. According to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the US Department of Education, students with disabilities are restrained and secluded at a much higher rate than their typical peers and make up the majority (67%) of students who were restrained or secluded. Many special needs parents do not know this or the rights of their child.
It is important to note that any school district cannot deny a student with a disability their right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE), as well as restrain them, in a way that is discriminatory because of their disability. According to an OCR press release on December 28, 2016, there are “best practices” for restraint and seclusion in schools and should only be practiced by “trained” staff members. Additionally, schools should not use restraint and seclusion for disciplinary measures or use mechanical restraints. However, restraints or seclusion of students should only be used “if a child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others.”
If your child is restrained or put in seclusion it is the school’s responsibility to make sure positive behaviors supports are in place and being properly implemented, according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If your child does not have a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP), this is the time to meet with the IEP team to request an FBA and discuss your child’s behavioral needs. If your child already has an FBA, then it time for the IEP team to reconvene to discuss what changes can be made.
My child has not be restrained or secluded, but how can I prevent this from happening?
One of the best ways to prevent this from happening to your child is providing a “No Consent” letter to be put in your child’s educational file. A “No Consent” letter is a letter stating that you do not consent to physical management, restraint or seclusionary practices during behavioral instances. Your letter should contain identifying information (child’s name, school, date of letter, child’s disability), a statement that you clearly do not consent to physical management, restraint or seclusionary practices during behavioral instances, a request for an IEP meeting to be held and your emergency contact information if a need arises. **Read below for a sample letter.**
A restraint or seclusion can cause trauma in a child. If your child is having severe behavior issues, make sure they have an FBA that specifically addresses the behaviors at hand. Do not wait until your child has a detrimental meltdown for you address your child’s behavior.
Sample No Consent Letter
This is an adapted letter for parents that has been drafted by Tricia and Calvin Luker of The RespectAbility Law Center. Fill in the information in the parentheses to personalize the letter.
(Your telephone number) (Address)
Re: (child’s name and birthdate)
Dear (Principal, Program Director, or IEP Team Leader):
My child, (child’s name), is a ________ grade student at ______ school. (Child’s name) has (disability of child) and has been receiving special education services since s/he started school.
We are concerned that (child’s name) behavior challenges are being or might be addressed in part through the use of physical management, restraint and seclusionary time-outs. I have not authorized and will not consent to any activity that involves physically or mechanically restraining my child while at school or going to and from school. I also do not consent to time-out rooms, forcible holding or the use of deprivation from food and activity. I understand that special education law requires the use of Functional Behavior Assessments (FBAs) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) to address behavior challenges. If the school feels (child’s name) behavior is such that physical management, restraints or seclusion are being considered or used, I would like to reconvene as a team to discuss the use of a Functional Behavior Assessment and creating an effective Behavior Intervention Plan.
I am sure you are aware of the number of news reports in recent years highlighting the death of children with disabilities during or after having been physically managed, restrained or secluded. Given that special education law requires the development of behavior plans, and given the known risks to children in the use of restraint, restrictive procedures and seclusion, this letter as notice that legal options will be used if restraint, restrictive or seclusionary activities are being used and not terminated immediately.
This letter also serves as a request to convene an IEP meeting to discuss (child’s name) behavior and possible approaches to address his/her particular needs. I also consent to the performance of a functional assessment of behavior across environments and creating a positive behavior intervention program for (child’s name).
I want to work with you and with (child’s name) teachers and professionals at _____ school to be sure that (child’s name) learns to develop positive behavioral skills in an environment that is safe for him/her, his/her peers and school personnel. I am certain that you also share my concern for student safety where physical intervention has the potential to result in the student’s death. I, like you, want my child’s school to be a safe and secure environment where all students can learn. I want to work with you to help create that environment for (child’s name).
If an emergency arises and (child’s name) behavior is escalating and the school feels that they cannot handle (child’s name) in a non-threatening way, please call me immediately at (your phone number).
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