In a report issued today by the Government Accountability Office, some schools are said to be restraining and confining children with disabilities against their will to control their behavior as a form of intervention. They report hundreds of allegations of abuse over the past ten years, sometimes resulting in injury or death. Texas and California public schools recorded a combined 33,095 instances in the past school year alone, 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. via USAToday.com
Training is only required in seven out of the fifty states for use of these methods by teachers. No federal regulations are in place, including any requirement to report deaths ensuing from these practices, according to testimony by a GAO official, who has found at least 20 deaths have occurred.
Yet, in cases involving nonverbal children, parents often have no way to know what took place at school.
Bill East, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, says the techniques, if used properly, "can and should be used" in a few instances, such as when a student is a threat to himself or others.
Congressional hearings are being held today after the Disability Rights Network, a Washington DC advocacy group, canvassed states and found instances of injury and death. In his opening remarks, Rep. Miller, who asked for the report stated:
"Recent news reports document appalling stories of teachers tying children to chairs, taping their mouths shut, using handcuffs, denying them food, fracturing bones, locking them in small dark spaces, and sitting on them until they turn blue.
One might start to wonder what could possibly cause a teacher or classroom aide to abuse a child this way. Well, we know what these children did: They fidgeted in their chairs or they were unwilling to follow directions."
Related: Restraint can dispirit and hurt special-ed students
GAO Report:Special needs kids abused in schools
Press release from Wisconsin about PBIS as alternative to restraint and seclusion
Video showing images of injuries to children and seclusion rooms used in various states.