Saturday, June 1, 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

National Down Syndrome Congress

Restraint/Seclusion Bill Introduced in U.S. House of Representatives Please call your Congressman!
Congressman George Miller (D-CA), ranking member of the House Education & Workforce Committee and Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS) this week introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act, HR 1893, a bill to protect all students nationwide from restraint and seclusion.
NDSC was one of the founding organizations of APRAIS, the group whose mission is to protect children from restraint, seclusion and aversives in schools, and who has worked on development of this bill for several years. 
Please contact your members of Congress and ask them to Cosponsor and Support the Keeping All Students Safe Act, HR 1893. Dial 202-224-3121; ask for your Representative's Office, and then ask for the individual who deals with education issues. 
If you are unable to call and need to use email, go to The link to Congressman Miller's speech is here.

Tell your Congressional representative that:
  • A 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found that children were injured, traumatized, and even killed through restraint and seclusion in schools. The GAO documented 20 deaths of school children.
  • The Civil Rights collection data shows that 40,000 children were physically restrained during the 2009-2010 school year.
  • Restraint and seclusion are disproportionately used upon students with disabilities and minority students.
The Keeping All Students Safe Act will protect children in the following ways:
· ban restraint/seclusion except in emergencies where someone is in danger of physical harm.

· require that parents be informed if their child was restrained/secluded on the same day that the event occurred.

· ban restraints that impede breathing, mechanical restraints, and chemical restraints.
· prevent restraint/seclusion from being used when less restrictive alternatives, like positive supports and de-escalation, would eliminate any danger.

If you have questions, please contact

Saturday, April 27, 2013

CPS removes special-ed teacher after abuse complaints from parents

A special-education teacher at Finkl Elementary School in the Little Village community has been removed from her classroom, Chicago Public Schools confirmed Tuesday — with the move coming after parents of her students complained of physical abuse against their children.
Luis Murillo said his 7-year-old autistic son had kept coming home from school with bruises on his body since early in the school year. The school told him it was from children fighting, Murillo said. The child also returned home with the knees of his pants ripped out, as if he had been pulled across the ground.
The boy cannot speak but started drawing this year, and he drew like crazy with colored markers on lined paper in a binder: Pictures of stick-figure children looking scared and sad, saying “no.” Tall stick figure women — three of them — with angry brows and giant teeth. A stick figure saying “help.”
“Every time he drew, we just thought he was drawing,” Murillo said.“He needs psychological help; not only him, but the other kids, too.”
Jessica Sanchez said her 8-year-old son, who has Down syndrome, came home with deep scratches on his face in early March, and the mark of what looked like an adult’s hand on his forearm last Thursday. An aide wrote a note that the boy scratched himself on a table, but the teacher told her the aide scratched him by accident.
Sanchezpicked him up early one day for a doctor’s appointment, and her son scurried behind her as soon as he saw her.
“He grabbed me, hid behind me and pointed at the teacher,” Sanchez said. “I was like, OK, what is the teacher doing that he’s pointing at her?”
She said she has been trying ever since to get answers from the principal, who told her he would contact the Department of Children and Family Services.
“All he said was he can’t get me any information until DCFS contacts me,” she said. He told her on Thursday that the teacher and aides had been removed from the classroom. She was at the school Monday when Chicago Police arrived.
None of the parents who contacted the Chicago Sun-Times knew who was to blame in the classroom for first-, second- and third-grade special-education students was to blame. They said the teacher had two aides working with her and the 13 children. They did not know what happened to the aides, but they didn’t want them around children.
The Sun-Times is not naming the teacher or aides because no one has been charged in connection with the matter.
CPS would not say why the teacher hadbeen removed, nor would the district confirm what, if anything, had happened with the aides.
“The teacher has been removed from the classroom and has no contact with students. Appropriate further action will be taken pending the outcome of the investigation,” CPS spokesman David Miranda said in an email.
The Department of Children and Family Services would not confirm whether they had been called. Chicago Police hadnot made any arrests as of Monday afternoon, according to spokesman John Mirabelli.
CPS would not provide further information about the teacher, including how long she has worked for the district.
On her LinkedIn profile, she wrote that she has worked for CPS since March 2012 and is a special-education teacher.
None of the phone numbers listed for the teacher was in service. A message left for her on Twitter was notreturned. A woman identifying herself as the teacher’s mother said she would relay a message, but her daughter was told not to talk to anyone.
The teacher did not call back.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

HB 291 - Use, Prevention, & Reduction of Seclusion & Restraint on Students with Disabilities in Public Schools

If your child attends a public school and has an IEP this should concern you.
In school year 2010/11 in Broward there were 459 restraint incidents reported, and 237 in 2011/12. There were 86 seclusion's in 2010/11 and 93 in 2011/12.

Broward does better than most. In 2010/11 Orange lead the State in restraint with 2,350 incidents, 29% of the 10,500 Statewide.

9 Florida Districts use mechanical restraint, here Orange County demonstrates theirs:

21 Florida Districts had increases in the numbers of restraints from 2010/11 to 2011/12.

There is no reason for these numbers to be so high. Several States and a few Florida Districts have policy restricting restraint to only emergencies and have banned seclusion, which is solitary confinement in a cell. They have had very few problems and none have gone back to their previous barbaric policies.

Call your State Representative, call all of the Broward Representatives. E-mail them and stop by their offices and talk to their staff about reducing the medieval practice on our children. Find them here:

Ask them to please co-sponsor HB291 sponsored by Representative Katie Edwards:

HB 291 - Use, Prevention, & Reduction of Seclusion & Restraint on Students with Disabilities in Public Schools

General Bill by Edwards

Use, Prevention, & Reduction of Seclusion & Restraint on Students with Disabilities in Public Schools: Requires that manual physical restraint be used on student with disability only in emergency when there is imminent risk of serious injury or death to student or others; requires that school provide medical evaluation after student is manually physically restrained; prohibits school personnel from placing student in seclusion; requires that school personnel be trained & certified in use of manual physical restraint; requires that school district develop policies relating to use of restraint

Effective Date: July 1, 2013

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Why do school districts continue to restrain and put children with disabilities in solitary confinement?

Why do school districts continue to restrain and put children with disabilities in solitary confinement and then try to convince the public that they only use this as a last resort or that it's therapeutic?
There is NOTHING therapeutic about restraint and seclusion and many school districts do not use this violent treatment as a last resort. 
How can any professional think that restraint and seclusion is calming and helpful to a child with a disability? 
Why do school districts not understand that many children use behaviors as a way to communicate and get someone's attention? 
Imagine that you cannot talk to get your needs and wants known so you act out to get attention and you are now held down by adults in a prone restraint unable to move or get up and tell me if this is helping you?
Imagine you are dragged to a small isolation room or box and the door closes and you are all alone crying and not understanding why someone is doing this to you. Now tell me if restraint and seclusion is something that you think would help you?


Debunking the Myths of Restraint and Seclusion


Preventing Restraint, Seclusion & Aversive Interventions

Every day, school children are at risk of restraint, seclusion and other aversive interventions that cause physical and emotional trauma, and even death. These harmful practices are used by adults entrusted with our children’s well-being, and often without the knowledge or consent of the parents, and they are used despite evidence of positive approaches that have been demonstrated in schools across the country in which physical coercion has been replaced by a positive culture of support. Federal protection against such practices is needed, but until such protections are afforded to every child in U.S. public schools, protecting children from restraint and seclusion is up to you!
Understanding the Effects of Trauma on the Lives of those we serve: Developing Trauma Informed Systems of Care - Restraint and seclusion are very dangerous practices with serious and long-lasting effects far beyond when the incident occurs. Through this session, we’ll dive deep into the long-term effects of trauma on the lives of people subjected to these practices, including what the research in mental health and child development tells us about enduring psychological harm caused by restraint and seclusion.
Shouldn’t School Be Safe? Preventing and Eliminating the Use of Aversives, Restraint and Seclusion.
The Business Case for Reducing Restraint and Seclusion Use.

I will try to Forgive, but I will never Forget

Children should never be afraid to go to school, and parents should never have to worry that their children will be harmed by the people taking care of them while they are at school.
Forgiveness isn’t possible when negative emotions stick around and cloud my thoughts about restraint and seclusion.  I am trying to forgive, but I will never forget. 
Forgiveness can’t be doled out quickly when constant reminders of an offense that happened to my child while in the public school system surrounds me.
As many times as I’ve thought about how to come to terms with the violence my son was subjected to, finding forgiveness hasn’t been one of those things on my list of things to do.
To forgive and let all the pain of what my child and our family went through wash away—the guilt, the pain, the anxiety, the despair seems so difficult to do.
Can I really do that?

Can I truly forget how my son’s downward spiral of regression, depression, anxiety attacks began? He was so little, so innocent and just didn’t know how to cope with everything around him.
Can I honestly forgive the people who abused my child by restraining him over and over and by putting him in seclusion because they didn’t try to understand him, because they didn’t try to understand his disability?

Can I totally forgive the people who turned me away when I asked them to get my son some help?
Can I totally look past their denial of what they did to my son and the retaliation and pain we are still going through today?

Can I forgive myself for overlooking the signs that my son was showing me that “something was wrong”, but I wasn’t seeing because I thought he was in good hands?  If I can’t forgive myself then how can I ever forgive you?

Can I fully embrace the struggles we have gone through to find justice for the violence my son was subjected to at the hands of others?
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I ask myself why I didn’t listen to my son when he told me, “No school Mommy, no like.”  He used to love going to school.  What happened to make him so fearful of school?

Here’s what I can accept.  I can accept that all of that did happen to my child, but I will not accept that it had to happen because I know for a fact it did not have to happen.
Here’s something else I haven’t been able to accept.  Not because I turned it down but because this too hasn’t happened yet—no one has yet to apologize to my son for what they did to him.  Instead I have heard nothing but excuses of why he was treated with such violence and that they felt they did what had to be done.  Do you even remember my son?  I’m sure you have moved on with your life and long forgotten my little boy.

What I can’t accept is how these same people continue to destroy him by using unprofessional evaluations that make him look bad so that they can justify what they did to him as being the right thing to do.

Come to think of it, I think my whole family could use an apology.  Shouldn’t someone have said sorry to me and my husband for the extra stress they have caused us, the time lost with our son and the things we’ve been denied as our child’s parents? 

When are those apologies coming?  I’m not saying I’m holding out for those before I can forgive and forget, but it sure would be nice for someone to admit that they played a role in my son’s regression, depression, and anxiety attacks that developed from all the restraint and seclusion abuse he went through at the hands of people who were supposed to be helping him? 
Forgive and forget.  As much as I’d love to, oh how I’d really love to be able to say to several of  my son’s past school staff, “I forgive you,” but right now, today, this week with what he went through and what we’ve gone through as a family, I’m just not ready to say, “I forgive you.”  In fact, it might be a long time before I am ready to forgive and move on.

To offer forgiveness, if I really, really had to do that today would be a bit jaded.  It would go something like this:
Dear Teacher, Teachers Aide, Principal and Behavior Specialist (and whoever else had a hand in destroying my child’s life),
I know you are all just human, and you thought the violence you subjected my son and other children to was the right thing to do.  I understand that some of you have more professional training under your belt and loads more formal education than I do.  I understand that you have a hard job.  I have a feeling though that your lack of training of my son’s disability, your refusal to help and understand him when I pleaded with you, your power struggle with my son over his behaviors that were not in his control, and your pride muddled your thoughts.  How else did you let what happen to my son happen?  How could you keep restraining him and putting him into seclusion when it was obvious that it was making him worse?  And how did you not see that these violent acts were starting to affect him mentally and were causing him to regress in his academics and social skills?  You had to see he was in mental pain, and yet you continued to restrain him and put him in seclusion.  Why?  Please tell me why so I can try and understand, and if I can understand maybe I can find it in my heart to forgive you and move on.

I totally get that you’re super busy and that you have a lot of children with behavior issues, but that does not make what you did to my son or other children right.  That does not make what you are still doing to children with disabilities right.  Don’t you understand that behaviors are a form of communication for our children who are nonverbal or who can’t express themselves?  Don’t you understand even now that restraint and seclusion doesn’t help children with disabilities and that it can cause long lasting trauma and escalate behaviors.  Clearly you must have been overwhelmed and understaffed.  What other excuse could you give for watching my son go through such mental torment and regression?

I’ve waited a long time to figure out if I need to forgive you, but I’m honestly at a standstill even thinking about it.  I really don’t know how to say this, but I do think it’s time for me to say something.  So, here goes.

I’m sorry you didn’t open your eyes to see the red flags being waved right in front of your face that my son was suffering mentally from your actions and was regressing at a fast pace.  I’m sorry you were clueless and that your ignorance failed my child.  I’m sorry your educational knowledge of children with disabilities failed my son.  I’m sorry you never knew that behaviors are a form of communication.  I’m sorry you refused to update his functional behavior plan.  I’m sorry you were ignorant of my requests to get him help.  I’m sorry you bullied me at several IEP meetings and made me cry.  I’m sorry you wasted my time telling me, ‘He did this and he did that but you never told me what you were doing to him.’  I’m sorry I waited until my son had a breakdown before I pulled him out of school.  I’m sorry you’re still doing the same thing to other children as you did to my son and that you are still bullying parents.  I’m sorry you haven’t learned a thing from your past violent actions.

No parent should feel as alone, scared, worried, angry and as destroyed as I felt the day I picked up my son from school as he cried hysterically begging me to take him home.  No parent should witness what happened to their child like I did.  No one should witness that and later be told, “We didn’t do anything wrong.”

No parent should walk through life not knowing what to do next or not knowing where to turn for help.  No parent should have to face the agonizing decisions I’ve had to.  No parent should have to fight as hard as scores of parents now have to do to keep their children safe when they go to school.  No parent should be left high and dry with nowhere to turn for help like so many other parents have.  No parent should expect or demand an apology from someone who promised to do no harm in the first place.  None.

One more thing.  When one forgives his offender the last part of the apology usually includes not only a renewal for the relationship to be whole again, but also a promise, a promise to never commit the offense again.  See, that’s a problem.  Not on my end but for your apology, when you make it….it won’t be a true apology if you are still doing to children what you did to my son.  You still don’t see the big picture and that what you’re doing to children with disabilities is physically and mentally harmful.

You can’t help make this all go away until you take a step back.  Take a step back and look at the children with disabilities as children who need help with the behaviors that are not in their control because right now you are only looking at them as unruly children.  They are not unruly; they are children with disabilities that have a tough road ahead of them!  When you stop and realize how you played a role in damaging my son’s future, and after you rectify what you are doing is wrong, then we can talk about forgiveness.

It’s with a heavy heart that I apologize that I cannot truly offer any forgiveness to you.  I pray to God that I can because it’s nearly impossible for me to stop thinking about how my son and countless other children ended up where they are today.  Someday I hope to have the strength to completely move past the pain and sadness you brought to my child and my family.  One day I’ll be able to find forgiveness.  Until then I’ll be here waiting for you to offer yours.


                                                     Please HELP me!
                                         STOP Restraint and Seclusion


Inspired by “Forgive or Forget” from Age of Autism

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children

IN my public school 40 years ago, teachers didn’t lay their hands on students for bad behavior. They sent them to the principal’s office. But in today’s often overcrowded and underfunded schools, where one in eight students receive help for special learning needs, the use of physical restraints and seclusion rooms has become a common way to maintain order.

It’s a dangerous development, as I know from my daughter’s experience. At the age of 5, she was kept in a seclusion room for up to an hour at a time over the course of three months, until we discovered what was happening. The trauma was severe.
According to national Department of Education data, most of the nearly 40,000 students who were restrained or isolated in seclusion rooms during the 2009-10 school year had learning, behavioral, physical or developmental needs, even though students with those issues represented just 12 percent of the student population. African-American and Hispanic students were also disproportionately isolated or restrained.
Joseph Ryan, an expert on the use of restraints who teaches at Clemson University, told me that the practice of isolating and restraining problematic children originated in schools for children with special needs. It migrated to public schools in the 1970s as federal laws mainstreamed special education students, but without the necessary oversight or staff training. “It’s a quick way to respond but it’s not effective in changing behaviors,” he said.
State laws on disciplining students vary widely, and there are no federal laws restricting these practices, although earlier this year Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote, in a federal guide for schools, that there was “no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective.” He recommended evidence-based behavioral interventions and de-escalation techniques instead.
The use of restraints and seclusion has become far more routine than it should be. “They’re the last resort too often being used as the first resort,” said Jessica Butler, a lawyer in Washington who has written about seclusion in public schools.
Among the recent instances that have attracted attention: Children in Middletown, Conn., told their parents that there was a “scream room” in their school where they could hear other children who had been locked away; last December, Sandra Baker of Harrodsburg, Ky., found her fourth-grade son, Christopher, who had misbehaved, stuffed inside a duffel bag, its drawstrings pulled tight, and left outside his classroom. He was “thrown in the hall like trash,” she told me. And in April, Corey Foster, a 16-year-old with learning disabilities, died on a school basketball court in Yonkers, N.Y., as four staff members restrained him following a confrontation during a game. The medical examiner ruled early last month that the death was from cardiac arrest resulting from the student’s having an enlarged heart, and no charges were filed.
I saw firsthand the impact of these practices six years ago when my daughter, Rose, started kindergarten in Lexington, Mass. Rose had speech and language delays. Although she sometimes became overwhelmed more quickly than other children, she was called “a model of age-appropriate behavior” by her preschool. One evaluation said Rose was “happy, loves school, is social.” She could, however, “get fidgety and restless when she is unsure as to what is expected of her. When comfortable, Rose is a very participatory and appropriate class member with a great deal to contribute to her world.”
Once in kindergarten, Rose began throwing violent tantrums at home. She repeatedly watched a scene from the film “Finding Nemo” in which a shark batters its way into a tiny room, attempting to eat the main characters. The school provided no explanation or solution. Finally, on Jan. 6, 2006, a school aide called saying that Rose had taken off her clothes. We needed to come get her.
At school, her mother and I found Rose standing alone on the cement floor of a basement mop closet, illuminated by a single light bulb. There was nothing in the closet for a child — no chair, no books, no crayons, nothing but our daughter standing naked in a pool of urine, looking frightened as she tried to cover herself with her hands. On the floor lay her favorite purple-striped Hanna Andersson outfit and panties.
Rose got dressed and we removed her from the school. We later learned that Rose had been locked in the closet five times that morning. She said that during the last confinement, she needed to use the restroom but didn’t want to wet her outfit. So she disrobed. Rather than help her, the school called us and then covered the narrow door’s small window with a file folder, on which someone had written “Don’t touch!”
We were told that Rose had been in the closet almost daily for three months, for up to an hour at a time. At first, it was for behavior issues, but later for not following directions. Once in the closet, Rose would pound on the door, or scream for help, staff members said, and once her hand was slammed in the doorjamb while being locked inside.
At the time, I notified the Lexington Public Schools, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families and the Department of Mental Health about Rose and other children in her class whom school staff members indicated had been secluded. If any of these agencies conducted a formal investigation, I was not made aware of it.
Rose still has nightmares and other symptoms of severe stress. We brought an action against the Lexington Public Schools, which we settled when the school system agreed to pay for the treatment Rose needed to recover from this trauma.
The physical and psychological injuries to children as a consequence of this disciplinary system is an issue that has found its way to Congress. Legislation to ban these practices has been introduced in the House and the Senate, but no vote is expected this year.
Meanwhile, Rose is back in public school and has found it within her to forgive those involved in her case. “They weren’t bad people,” she told me. “They just didn’t know about working with children.”
Bill Lichtenstein is an investigative journalist and filmmaker.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Hands Off from Kayt Jonsson on Vimeo.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Florida Districts Most Likely to Seclude Or Restrain Students

08/16/2012 By  John O'Connor

Please click on the link below to read the full article and view the restraint and seclusion numbers for 2011 and 2012 for the state of Florida. (Not all districts have turned in R & S numbers to the FLDOE)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Leake & Watts boy's death: 'I can't breathe,' boy shouts after staffers piled onto him, witness says

Apr. 19, 2012 - by Will David and James O’Rourke of

Corey Foster, a 16-year-old resident who died Wednesday night at Leake & Watts residential treatment center, went into cardiac arrest while being restrained by staff who were trying to force him off a basketball court, according to two witnesses.

A half dozen staff piled onto Foster after he became angry, they said.“When they got off of him, he was on the ground and wasn’t responsive,” said Antonio Reeder, 17, a resident who said he saw the confrontation

Please click on the link below to read the full article.

Another tragic death of a child due to restraint. What could have been going through the minds of the people who did this, and how could they think what they were doing was ok?

                                                                         Corey Foster

News from the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA)

Another Child Dies in a US School: When will the Abuse Stop!

“What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?”
~ Neil Young

COPAA is outraged and horrified that another child has lost his life in school - this time because in anger ”he took a [basketball] shot that ricocheted into the head of one employee.” Like too many before him Corey Foster, a 16-year-old resident who died Wednesday night at Leake & Watts residential treatment center,went into cardiac arrest while being restrained by staff who were trying to force him off a basketball court, according to two witnesses.

Read the full story here:
Each day in the United States children are traumatized, hurt, and killed through the imposition of such restraint. This is not an isolated incident. How many times must another family lose a child; must we urge action to prevent such senseless, yet predictable, tragedies?

Federal minimum guidelines must be passed that set a bright line and a clear expectation that school personnel and administrators will ensure the safety and welfare of all students, create positive school climates, prevent the need for such physical intervention, and reduce the imposition of known deadly and traumatic responses to challenging behaviors.

Once again we ask elected officials and Secretary Duncan – just what on earth are you waiting for? Protect our children NOW.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Shouldn’t School Be Safe?
It’s a simple question, yet each day, children with disabilities are at risk of restraint, seclusion and other aversive interventions that cause significant physical and emotional trauma. And while we continue to work toward federal legislation that would restrict these practices, there is something you can do to make a difference in your schools and communities. Join us for a four-part webinar series which is available for 24/7 access between April 4-May 4, 2012, and gain the tools, knowledge and resources needed to prevent and respond to restraint and seclusion, and become a powerful advocate for change!

Learn more at

This four-part series covers a number of important topics, each designed to equip parents, educators and advocates with the tools and know-how to put an end to restraint and seclusion in their schools and communities. Each session is available on its own or with the entire series. Read the full session descriptions at

Shouldn’t School Be Safe? Preventing and Eliminating the Use of Aversives, Restraint and Seclusion | Pat Amos, a parent and an advocate for people with disabilities and their families for more than 25 years. She currently works as an Inclusion Specialist with the Youth Advocate Program’s Autism Institute.  

The Business Case for Reducing Restraint and Seclusion Use | Janice Lebel, a licensed psychologist with more than 25 years experience in public mental health. She oversees Massachusetts’ $25 million system of inpatient and secure residential care for youth, and leads the Department of Mental Health’s Restraint/Seclusion Prevention Initiative. 

How to Protect Students with Disabilities through Manifestation Determination | Barbara Ransom, who has more than 20 years experience as a plaintiff’s attorney in disability rights, including advocacy for students with disabilities and their rights to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. 

Understanding the Effects of Trauma on the Lives of those we serve: Developing Trauma Informed Systems of Care | Joan Gillece, director for the SAMHSA National Center for Trauma Informed Care, and SAMHSA Promoting Alternatives to Seclusion and Restraint through Trauma-Informed Practices. Joan has 30 years experience working in the behavioral health field. 

For those who want to do more ...

We know this is an important issue, that’s why we want to get the word out about this webinar to everyone we can. You can help. We’ve created a resource (download here) that contains a news brief (perfect for e-mails, letters and blogs), along with Facebook and Twitter messages. We’re also using the social hashtag #StopRS. Together we’ll ignite a grassroots movement to end restraint and seclusion!

"Like" us on Facebook
Follow @TASHtweet on Twitter  
Learn more online at

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Shocking Video of School Torturing Student With Disabilities Released

by  April 11, 2012 
There are definitely ways to teach autistic children and children with disabilities that are effective and that take into account their different, individual, unique ways of being and interacting in the world. Unfortunately schools that often make the news employ “methods” that violate a child’s rights and that, sickeningly, cause physical and even psychological abuse. One such school is the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JREC) in Canton, Massachusetts, which has long been known — been notorious — for its use of electric shock to discipline students with disabilities including autism, mental retardation or emotional-

There are definitely ways to teach autistic children and children with disabilities that are effective and that take into account their different, individual, unique ways of being and interacting in the world. Unfortunately schools that often make the news employ “methods” that violate a child’s rights and that, sickeningly, cause physical and even psychological abuse. One such school is the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JREC) in Canton, Massachusetts, which has long been known — been notorious — for its use of electric shock to discipline students with disabilities including autism, mental retardation or emotional-behavioral issues.

On Tuesday, a stomach-turning video of a student at the JREC who was restrained and shocked for hours was played in court. Then 18-year-old Andre McCollins was a student at the JREC in 2002 when he was shocked 31 times on October 25 of that year because, as the video reveals, he refused to take off his coat. His mother, Cheryl, has filed a lawsuit.
(The video can be seen via Fox News. It is horrifying.)

A judge had ordered that the video of Andre’s ordeal be sealed eight years ago. But on Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Barbara Dortch-Okara denied requests by the JREC’s lawyers to prevent FOX Undercover’s camera from recording the video as it was played. The Boston area Fox News affiliate describes the video, which was filmed by a classroom camera at the JREC:

Andre is shown seated at a desk inside a classroom as a staff member asks him several times to remove his coat. He stays still, apparently not responding or removing his coat, until he is given a shock.
He screams and falls to the floor, yelling as he tries to hide under his desk. He was eventually restrained face-down, a helmet on his head, without breaks for food, water or the bathroom.

Cheryl McCollins testified that, on visiting Andre three days afterwards, he was “catatonic.” She had him admitted to the hospital on the same day; Andre was diagnosed with acute stress response caused by the shocks. She also described watching the video and hearing staff members laugh while Andre was on the floor.

The JREC was founded by a Harvard-trained psychologist, Matthew Israel, and has long attracted controversy, and disgust, among disability rights activists, parents and professionals. In May of 2011, Israel faced criminal charges for a 2007 incident in which two teenagers with disabilities who were residents at the JREC were wrongfully administered a number of shocks after a prank phone call by someone posing as a supervisor ordered them. As part of a deal with the Massachusetts state attorney office, Israel was ordered to step down as director of the JREC (the JREC’s website says that he announced his “retirement” on May 2, 2011) and put on probation for five years. A court-appointed monitor is to oversee JREC’s daily activities.
As Cheryl McCollins said to the jury according to Fox News, ”I never signed up for him [Andre] to be tortured, terrorized and abused. I had no idea, no idea, that they tortured the children in the school.”
My own teenage autistic son has struggled with many of the most challenging behaviors mentioned in regard to autism including self-injurious ones like head-banging. He has been doing a lot better now; the frequency of such difficult things is much decreased. There are ways to teach autistic children and children with disabilities that do not involve restraints, physical abuse or electric shock — torture — such as the JREC is charged with committing.

Footage of Judge Rotenberg Center torturing a person with a disability aired in court (Graphic)

                                      PLEASE HELP ME!

Friday, April 6, 2012

More Child Abuse in Florida Public Schools

Florida Special Education teacher accused of abusing students

April 6th, 2012 by

A special education teacher at Dream Lake Elementary in Orange County, Florida, has been charged with two counts of child abuse after the principal, Gary Schadow, called police upon suspicion of misconduct. Patricia LaMantia, 56, was arrested yesterday after school officials suspected that she had harmed two severely disabled elementary students. The incidents were believed to have happened on Monday and Wednesday, involving two different children.

Apopka police interviewed the children and witnesses who said that LaMantia took one of the student’s arms and forced her to punch herself in the face until she bled. Witnesses say the alleged abuse was in response to the student hiting LaMantia in the arm. The other student was reportedly punished for using foul language and spitting on the floor. LaMantia reportedly grabbed his face and threw him backwards over a chair.

LaMantia was questioned by police but refused to answer. She is on temporary leave from her teaching position while an investigation continues. LaMantia will continue to get paid until a verdict is reached.              
Patricia LaMantia, 56, accused of abusing disabled students. Mug Shot via Apopka Police Dept.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Survivor of school restraint and seclusion provides recommendations to the Ohio State Board of Education

March 15, 2012

A young adult with disabilities who survived restraint and seclusion in an Ohio public school described her experiences to the Ohio State Board of Education, and asked that immediate action be taken to protect children. Representatives of the Ohio Legal Rights Service (LRS) supported her as she spoke to the board at the March 2012 meeting.

The young woman described how she had loved school, was an excellent student and a star athlete and had many friends until her family moved one school district away. Then everything changed.

At her new school she was belittled, intimidated and abused by teachers and administrators. She told of being locked in a windowless concrete basement closet. She was denied access to school work, and allowed out of the room only three times a day for bathroom breaks. She spent many consecutive days in this room. She told of being pulled into an administrator's office during lunch period and denied anything to eat or drink. She gave many examples of abuse and neglect at the hands of school personnel.

This young woman described how school administrators tried to paint her as a bad kid so no one would believe her. She noted her belief that the school retaliated against her because her parent worked hard to advocate for her, and made complaints to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

She reported that the ODE representative told school administrators that they must stop putting her in the locked seclusion room. The next week, an administrator again ordered her to the locked room. She reminded him that the ODE representative said this should stop, and she tried to return to class. She was physically abused and emotionally traumatized over several hours. That was her last day of school.
The young woman told members of the Board of Education that she had been 15 years old, in the 10th grade, afraid she was going to die and told by school administrators that she had no future.

She now lives with post traumatic stress disorder and social phobias. Despite how hard it is to be in the public eye, and knowing the reality of retaliation, this young woman provided testimony because she does not want more children to be hurt and their dreams for bright futures crushed. She asked members of the Board of Education how a child with disabilities can go to one school district and thrive and be happy and successful, then move to another and have exactly the opposite experience. She asked why the Board allows schools to restrain and seclude students. She asked, if she had died in school, would there be a law named for her, like New York's Jonathon's Law, after that thirteen-year-old child was killed by a direct caregiver. She asked if the death of a child in restraint or seclusion in school is what it will take for the Board to act.
This young woman reminded Board members that restraint and seclusion cause injuries or worse, and that children are scarred emotionally by their use. She reminded the Board that there is nothing educational or therapeutic about using restraint and seclusion on children in schools.

She also asked what is stopping the Board from requiring ODE to put an effective rule in place. She asked why would the Board or ODE object to clear definitions of restraint and seclusion and require that they be used only in an emergency when a student is an immediate danger to self or others. She asked why would the Board object to requiring that any school personnel who restrains or secludes a student have prior training in accepted techniques that are not likely to cause injury or trauma. And what objections could there be for schools to provide students with disabilities with positive behavior interventions, and require educators to be trained to use these interventions and engage students in individualized plans? She asked why would anybody not want all use of restraint or seclusion to be reported to parents and ODE, and for ODE to provide public reports.

She stated that regulations are needed, and that she and others with similar experiences know what good rules should include.

The young woman summed up her experience by saying that her future was stolen from her. Addressing the Board, she said, "You are responsible for the safety of children in Ohio schools. Please protect them now. You failed to protect me."
Her testimony resulted in praise for her courage in coming before the Board, and also some apologies from Board members for the cruel treatment she endured. The State Board assured her that they would take action to ensure that other children are protected from the kind of abuse she experienced.

The Board asked ODE for a response. ODE staff reported the Department is working internally on drafting policies for restraint and seclusion for Ohio public schools and suggested a three-year timeline. LRS responded that policies will not provide accountability and that rules must be put in place. LRS noted that students will continue to be abused in districts large and small across the state while waiting for ODE to act to keep students safe, and regulate the use of restraint and seclusion.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chairman Tom Harkin Introduces Keeping All Students Safe Act

COPAA Continues Work to Raise the Bar of Protection
December 16, 2011

We are pleased to announce the introduction of the Keeping All Students Safe Act in the Senate by Chairman Tom Harkin this afternoon. We sincerely thank Chairman Harkin for his unwavering commitment to the safety and welfare of our nation’s children. This bill would promote the development of effective intervention and prevention practices that do not impose restraints and seclusion; protect all students from physical or mental abuse, aversive behavioral interventions that compromise health and safety, and any restraint imposed for purposes of coercion, discipline or convenience, or as a substitute for appropriate educational or positive behavioral interventions and supports. Importantly the bill also works to ensure the safety of all students and school personnel and promote positive school culture and climate.

For years, schools’ use of restraint, seclusion, and aversive interventions was unpublicized and little-known, despite their widespread use. However, recent reports by COPAA and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), and Congressional testimony of the U.S. General Accounting Office have served to shine a spotlight on these abusive practices. See e.g., Unsafe in the Schoolhouse: Abuse of Children with Disabilities, COPAA (Jessica Butler, 2009); School is Not Supposed to Hurt: Investigative Report on Abusive Restraint and Seclusion in Schools, NDRN (2009); Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers (GAO-09-719T). This bill recognizes that “physical restraint and seclusion have resulted in physical injury, psychological trauma, and death to children in public and private schools,” as described in these reports. Existing laws alone have not protected students against such abuse and injury, though many do offer important protections. The bill, therefore, includes a critically important savings clause that preserves existing additional rights under state and federal law.
COPAA is a national organization of parents, advocates and attorneys dedicated to protecting the civil and educational rights of children with disabilities, whose members represent families in 48 States and the District of Columbia. As such, COPAA believes this legislation is a crucial first step toward the ultimate goals of eliminating abuse and restraint in schools and assuring that children who exhibit challenging behaviors obtain appropriate, safe, and effective educational services. COPAA is at the forefront of efforts to establish such federal protection and has been working on this issue for a number of years as a member of the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (APRAIS), and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD).

Specifically, COPAA supports the bill because it contains many provisions that provide a minimum floor of protection that does not yet exist in many states. We are pleased that the bill establishes minimum standards for the use of restraint and prohibits locked seclusion in educational settings. Restraint may only be imposed on a student if there is imminent danger of serious bodily injury. We are very pleased that the bill prohibits restraint as a planned intervention in students’ education plans, including behavior plans and Individual Education Programs (IEPs). We applaud the emphasis on evidence-based practices shown to be effective in the prevention of the use of physical restraint; in keeping both school personnel and students safe in imposing physical restraint in a manner consistent with this proposed Act; in the use of data-based decision-making and evidence-based positive behavioral interventions and supports, debriefing, conflict prevention, behavioral assessments, de-escalation of challenging behaviors, and effective and safe conflict management.

COPAA actively continues our work to raise the bar of protection and safety for all students through the passage of this legislation. We will not rest until all students are protected in accordance with the principles outlined in our document: COPAA Declaration of Principles Opposing the Use of Restraint, Seclusion and Aversive Interventions.

We urge all of our colleagues to join us in support of this critical legislation at

COPAA Letter of Support for S 2020

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Educational Resource Sites for Parents

Shouldn't School Be Safe?

Working Together to Keep Every child Safe from Restraint and Seclusion in School

This publication was developed by parents and for parents in response to repeated requests for a practical guide to keeping our school children safe from restraint, seclusion and other aversive practices. While this problem has been most acute among children with disabilities, it is an issue of school safety that has the potential to affect ALL students, directly or indirectly, and one that all parents should know and care about.

Shouldn’t School Be Safe?
is divided into three sections:

addresses the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and behavior plan, your rights as a parent, and ways of increasing your and your child’s visibility and involvement in the school. Your child’s plan should be based on positive approaches and supported by caring relationships within the school and community. This is an essential foundation to prevent the use of restraint, seclusion or other aversive practices.

Vigilance identifies warning signs in the behavior of a child or the behavior of a school that may be associated with or alert you to the use of restraint and seclusion. No single sign or combination of signs is definitive, but their presence should prompt parents to take a closer look both at immediate signs of trouble, and also at what the child’s daily school experience is like.

Response, the third section, contains information that, hopefully, you will never need. It provides stepby- step actions you can take if you discover that your child has been restrained and/or secluded. Many possible contacts and actions are suggested because the process of finding help is not clear and simple. Across this country, there is only a poorly-made patchwork of laws and regulations that fails to adequately protect children. Parents are often told that the organizations or public agencies they contact lack the legal authority to step in and change what is happening, and that “there is no law” against restraining or secluding school children. Parents have had to become very creative and very persistent in finding solutions that protect their children, and must continue to work together to support each other and push for reforms.

Prone Restraint
means that the child is held horizontally in a facedown position.

Supine Restraint
means that the child is held horizontally in a face-up position.

involves forced isolation in a room or space from which the child cannot escape. Allowing a child to voluntarily take a break from activities is not considered seclusion.

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.”


Educational Resource sites for parents

NICHCY (National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities)

IDEA 2004 (Individuals with Disability Education Act)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a United States federal law that governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities. It addresses the educational needs of children with disabilities from birth to age 18 or 22 in cases that involve 14 specified categories of disability.
Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) Contents

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) Team

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) Meetings

NICHCYs publications are all available here, for free, on our website. Our publications cover the many topics related to children and youth with disabilities. We hope you find them helpful.

Wrightslaw - Special Education Law and Advocacy
See the full listing of topics on the left side of the homepage

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)
Functional Behavioral Assessments:
What, Why, When, Where, and Who?

Writing Functional Behavior Assessments and Positive Behavior Support Plans
Functional Behavior Analysis
Paper Trails, Letter Writing & Documentation

Procedural Safeguards & Parent Notice

Subscribe to The Free Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
The Special Ed Advocate is a free online newsletter about special education legal and advocacy topics.


Due Process Hearings

Military & Department of Defense (DOD) Special Education

Disability Organizations

TASH - Equity, Opportunity and Inclusion for People with Disabilities

COPAA (Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates)

APRAIS (The Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion)


Contact your local and United States Elected Officials


How do I file a complaint with my state Department of Education?
  • Google the question above but add your state. Example: How do I file a complaint with the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) ?
  • Follow the instructions.
  • Always keep a copy for yor files.
Questions & Answers About the Office of Civil Rights (OCR's) Complaint Proces

Note: You cannot file both complaints at the same time (Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights).
Acronyms Frequently Used in Special/Gifted Education