Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Open Letter to Florida Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities

This email was sent out to the Florida Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities (Florida's equivolent of the National Disability Rights Network, aka Protection and Adovcacy) to request they investigate the arrest of a 9 yr old girl with mental illness who was arrested after being placed in "time out" at the Royal Palm School in Lee County, Florida.

P&A's have the legal authority to investigate suspected abuses in school settings.

I'll let you know what I hear from them.

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Jennifer Searcy and I am the Founder and Director of Public Policy and Affairs for The Coalition for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. My organization promotes the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports in place of aversives, such as restraint, seclusion, and other abuses and documents and publishes instances of suspected abuse.

I just came across a recent article about a 9 yr old girl with mental illness who was handcuffed and arrested at The Royal Palm School in Lee County, Florida after being placed in a "time out room." Royal Palm School is a school specifically for children with disabilities, yet this little girl was still arrested after being placed in "time out." Allegedly the arrest occurred because she spit on two teachers who were "trying to control her." My question is, why were two teachers trying to "control her" if she was placed in "time out?" From reading the article, it seems like the two teachers were trying to restrain her - while in "time out." Ths is NOT an appropriate use of seclusion, and is frankly, quite disturbing because both the girl and staff could have been seriously injured.

The girl's mother is Tarina Williams and she could really use some help in dealing with this situation. She believes that her daughter doesn't know what she's doing because of her illness and was unfairly punished due to this disability. Unfortunately, I do not have her contact information, but I'm sure this information could be obtained from WINK news, which reported the story.
I have copied and pasted the article, along with the link, at the bottom of this email for your review.

Unfortunately, my organization cannot legally investigate this situation - all I can do is share her story with others; however your agency CAN legally investigate this situation. Please use that legal investigative authority and contact this family and this school to investigate what happened and why.

If I can be of any assistance, please let me know. I can be reached at Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Best regards,

Jennifer Searcy
Founder/Director of Public Policy and Affairs
The Coalition for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

9 Year Old Arrested at School
By WINK News

Story Created: Oct 15, 2008 at 6:19 PM EDT
Story Updated: Oct 15, 2008 at 7:05 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - A 9-year-old girl was arrested at Royal Palm School on Tuesday and is now facing two felony charges for battery on an education employee.

Her mother, Tarina Williams, tells us she's at her wits end, "I was really devastated about it."

We are not naming the girl because of her age.

In a report released to WINK News, the school resource officer says he was called to the school's time out room regarding an out of control student.

The report says the girl purposely spit on her two teachers while they tried to control her.

The girl told us, "They came up to me and said you have the right to remain silent...they had handcuffed me, they had em on real tight."

The fourth grader was transported to the Juvenile Assessment Center.

Williams says she was out of the county when she got the call.

"The lady was like she's been charged with two felonies and I was like...two felonies? For what??" recalled Williams, "That's kind of steep because she's only 9."

Williams says her daughter suffers a mental illness, "She's incapable of knowing what she's done."

She explained the illness is the reason why her daughter attends Royal Palm School, a school designed for special needs students.

According to the arrest report, the 9-year-old has had a troubled past, accused of kicking and throwing chairs at teachers, and threatening to stab them.

Williams says it's the illness and she doesn't know where to turn anymore.

"She's been to several schools and I've lost several jobs because I have to be a stay at home mom to be on point at times for [her]," said Williams.

"If only the person knew the things I go through, the depression I'm going through because I'm at my wits end," said Williams, "It's like my back is against the wall."

WINK News spoke with the Lee County School District about the case.

A spokesman would not comment on the girl's case, however we are told it is not the school's intent to punish the child.

When it comes to situations like this, the spokesman explained there comes a time when the schools have to get other agencies involved so they can begin the process of getting a child the help they need, which would be above and beyond what the school district can provide.

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