Monday, May 11, 2015

Abuse of students with disabilities in school (CW: Restraint, seclusion, abuse, police violence)

Recently, near my hometown and current residence, a special educator dumped an autistic child into a garbage can while taunting him. She had a track record but complaints against her were not taken seriously. This is just one recent example in many cases of educational abuse of children with disabilities. While Georgia has stringent laws in place for these, there are no requirements as for what constitutes punishment. There should be.

“Students with disabilities (served by IDEA) represent 12% of the student population, but 58% of those placed in seclusion or involuntary confinement, and 75% of those physically restrained at school to immobilize them or reduce their ability to move freely. Black students represent 19% of students with disabilities served by IDEA, but 36% of these students who are restrained at school through the use of a mechanical device or equipment designed to restrict their freedom of movement.”

Restraint and abuse is a rampant problem for students of color and students with disabilities. Despite states making policy changes, students with disabilities continue to be retrained and secluded at a high rate. Oftentimes for students of color, it results in being arrested for having a meltdown, as is the case of Kayleb Moon-Robinson, or being handcuffed for escaping the classroom and climbing a tree while having a meltdown, and being pulled roughly down and handcuffed and restrained.

Many states have no policies regarding restraint and seclusion, and of the states that do, fewer have state regulations and statutes addressing it. According to the Government Accountability Office in 2009, officials in Illinois stated that “seclusion and restraint cases involving children and adults with physical or mental disabilities typically have low rates of prosecution.” In Georgia in 2014, educator Melanie Pickens got away with cruelty to children with disabilities by using a clause in Georgia state law, O.C.G.A. § 20-2-1001, that would give her immunity if she was disciplining them believing her actions to be in good faith.

Little has also been done to address the problems of common school-to-prison pipelines, resulting students of color being disproportionately targeted for discipline, especially those who also have disabilities, like Kayleb Moon-Robinson, declared a felon at age 11.

Students are being abused, restrained, handcuffed, and secluded against their will. Students with disabilities and students of color experience this at disproportionately high rates. Federal bills fail to push through the Senate. States slowly enact statutes, but prosecution is low. What is to be done?  

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