Tim Miller was restrained by teachers at his middle school.
“What Tim eventually said,” said John Miller, a podiatrist in Allegany, N.Y., about his son, then 12, “was that he didn’t want to go to school because he thought the school was trying to kill him.”
Dr. Miller learned that Tim, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was being unusually confrontational in class, and that more than once teachers had held him down on the floor to “calm him down,” according to logs teachers kept to track his behavior; on at least one occasion, adults held Tim prone for 20 minutes until he stopped struggling.
The Millers are suing the district, in part for costs of therapy for their son as a result of the restraints. The district did not dispute the logs but denied that teachers behaved improperly.
For more than a decade, parents of children with developmental and psychiatric problems have pushed to gain more access to mainstream schools and classrooms for their sons and daughters.
One unfortunate result, some experts say, is schools’ increasing use of precisely the sort of practices families hoped to avoid by steering clear of institutionalized settings: takedowns, isolation rooms, restraining chairs with straps, and worse.
No one keeps careful track of how often school staff members use such maneuvers. But last year the public system served 600,000 more special education students than it did a decade ago, many at least part time in regular classrooms. Many staff members are not adequately trained to handle severe behavior problems, researchers say.
In April, a 9-year-old Montreal boy with autism died of suffocation when a special education teacher wrapped him in a weighted blanket to calm him, according to the coroner’s report. Two Michigan public school students with autism have died while being held on the ground in so-called prone restraint.
Michigan, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have recently tightened regulations governing the use of restraints and seclusion in schools. California, Iowa and New York are among states considering stronger prohibitions, and reports have appeared on blogs and in newspapers across the country, from The Orange County Register to The Wall Street Journal.
“Behavior problems in school are way up, and there’s good reason to believe that the use of these procedures is up, too,” said Reece L. Peterson, a professor of special education at the University of Nebraska. “It’s an awful combination, because many parents expect restraints to be used — as long as it’s not their kid.” ...
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
This from the New York Times: