By Steven Smith, Attorney and David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network
Children with disabilities are the unfortunate victims of improper and negligent seclusion and restraints in school systems throughout the nation. This, in turn, has lead to some serious personal injuries, and, in some cases, the wrongful and preventable death of a disabled child. In Texas, Cedric Napolean (age – 14) was one such victim who died when a teacher laid on top of the Cedric when Cedric would not remain seated in the classroom. This case went to a grand jury in Texas as a homicide. While the grand jury ultimately did not recommend pursuit of the criminal charges, the death of Cedric Napolean does help illustrate the dangers to disabled children in school systems when they are retrained in an attempt to punish or instruct a child. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that some restraints have been implemented when students are not even being physically aggressive or dangerous.
In Florida, a teacher duct taped gagged and duct tapped 5 misbehaving students to their desks when they were misbehaving. It is amazing that teachers with years of experience, certification, and college degrees would resort to such behavior. It really defies common sense and good judgment.
Seclusion is also a problem in school systems for disabled children. In New York, a 8 year old special education student was placed in a small dirty room over 70 times in a 6 month period for whistling, slouching, and hand waving in the classroom.
California and Texas reported over 33,000 instances of restraint and /or seclusion instanced during the past school year. In some instances, disciplinary action is necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of the misbehaving child, other students, and / or the teacher. However, teachers and caregivers should approach disciplinary measures or actions with common sense, good judgment, and should use their best efforts to avoid restraint and seclusion if other means of action are reasonably available and do not put the child or others at risk. You can read more about the GAO Government Study and comments regarding the same at Seclusion and Restraint of Special Education / Disabled Students.