Friday, December 18, 2009

ACTION ALERT: FLORIDA - Public Hearing Jan 19, 2010 to Discuss Excluding Alternative Schools From Accountability

Forwarded Message from Attorney Rosemary N. Palmer:

Please forward this email as widely as possible, asking your friends and friends of those who oppose discrimination to write the Board of Education in opposition to excluding alternative schools from the same accountability as other schools.

FLDOE has just announced its differential accountability rule, which is set for public hearing January 19, 2010 in Tampa (unknown time and place, contact The rule sets out what schools where students aren't learning have to do to fix it. The rule excludes alternative schools, including special education day schools, second chance schools which are disproportionately populated by students of color and students with disabilities, whether or not identified under IDEA or 504, who have typically been sent there because school districts have failed to provide research proven interventions in less restrictive environments, and similar schools, from full accountability when they continue to fail students .. (See )

Apparently school districts have argued that the populations are too fragile and and too mobile for school districts to be required to close them when they cannot fix the problems after 1 year in Intervene status (which follows multiple years in prevent and correct status --- most of the ESE schools are now in Correct or Correct II status throughout the state).

However we know that students with disabilities whether or not identified and students of color ought to be equally entitled to the benefits of differentiated accountability. After years of knowing that such schools do not implement research proven interventions with fidelity and do not produce results (not to mention assigning personnel to such schools after they have failed in some way in non-alternative schools), we all know that school districts will NOT have any incentive to fix the problems until they know that they must implement interventions that actually educate in those schools too, and they are subject to ultimate sanctions of disbanding the schools if they cannot find a way to successfully educated the students there assigned, just like other schools are. Indeed, exempting alternative schools gives districts additional incentives to throw away students with disabilities rather than educate them, and also continues practices of using more restrictive environments that clearly don't work any way, which are also in violation of the law..

I say that students with disabilities (and students of color to the extent that they are disproportionately represented in alternative schools) deserve to be in schools that teach. Let's tell FLDOE and the Florida Board of Education that passing a rule exempting alternative schools from Intervenor status is discrimination, pure and simple.

People you need to contact
Dr. Eric J. Smith Commissioner of Education
Office of the Commissioner Turlington Building, Suite 1514
325 West Gaines Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
Phone: (850) 245-0505
Fax: (850) 245-9667

(850) 245-9661
325 W. Gaines Street
Suite 1520
Tallahassee, Florida 32399

President and Chief Executive Officer of the Urban League of Greater Miami, Inc.

PETER BOULWARE, Vice president of Legacy Toyota, Tallahassee FL
DR. AKSHAY DESAI, President, CEO and Chairman of Universal Health Care, St. Petersburg, FL
ROBERTO MART├ŹNEZ , Colson, Hicks, Eidson, Coral Gables FL

Thank you for your help. It will take us all writing and calling to make a difference.

Rosemary N. Palmer
Attorney at Law
FBN 070904 UBN 005004
5260 Pimlico Drive
Tallahassee FL 32309
850 668 9203

Thursday, December 17, 2009

MT: Human Rights' Bureau Confirms Discrimination

December 17, 2009
By Jennifer Searcy
Founder/Director of Public Policy & Affairs
The Coalition for Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports

On December 16, 2009, reported that the Montana Department of Labor & Industry's Human Rights Commission has confirmed that discrimination did occur in North Middle School in Great Falls, after a 180 day investigation into the abuse allegations of a teen diagnosed with autism.

In a report sent to [the teen's mother Tifonie] Schilling, [who had filed the complaint with the bureau], the bureau investigator says there is reason to believe unlawful discrimination occurred, noting, "...unlikely the educational agents would've treated an able-bodied, verbal student in the same manner."

Although the school system had denied discrimination occurred, district superintendent Cheryl Crawley reportedly said the district had taken action right away and that it would continue to take action in cases of possible abuse.

Tifonie Schilling, however, was quoted as saying that the report was "a small win" and that she hoped the findings would push the district to hire someone to assess the district's program and to find and implement changes.

It's not a win in the sense that all this occurred in the first place. It's a very sad situation and heartbreaking for our family, but it's a win in that it's an outside agency that investigated all of this.

For More Information, please click the following link:

Monday, December 14, 2009

IL: Belvidere Community Unit School District PBIS Newsletter

Belvidere Community Unit School District has released their December 2009 newsletter. Included is an article entitled, "Belvidere Central Middle School Bus Drivers "TRREK" Students for Positive Behavior," as well as a list of the November 2008 PBIS 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade Winners.

For more information, please click the following link:

USA Today: Q& A with Rep Miller re School Abuse "Nightmare"

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, is co-sponsoring legislation that prohibits or limits restraint and seclusion of students except in rare cases, when there is "imminent danger of injury." USA TODAY education writer Greg Toppo asked Miller about the proposal:

Q: First things first: What got you interested in this issue?

A: Last winter, the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) released a report detailing hundreds of cases where abusive uses of seclusion and restraint by school staff injured or traumatized schoolchildren, including cases where children were pinned to the floor, handcuffed, locked in closets and other horrific acts. To get a better sense of how widespread this abuse was and what protections children had, I asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate. Their work backed up what the NDRN and other groups have found: This abuse was happening in public and private schools around the country, it was happening disproportionately to students with disabilities, and in a number of cases, children were dying. The types of abuse these kids are suffering are so disturbing, you'd think these were stories about torture tactics used at prison camps. Instead they're happening to some of our youngest children, in our schools.

Q: Why focus on schools? Don't a lot of disabled children face much harsher handling elsewhere?

A: Currently, there are federal laws in place that restrict the use of restraint and seclusion to emergency situations for children in hospitals, community-based facilities and other facilities that receive federal health funding. But — and many people will be surprised to learn this — classrooms, where students spend the majority of their day, are not covered by these laws. It isn't acceptable for parents to treat their kids this way, and it isn't acceptable for staff in other facilities to treat kids this way. Why should our schools be any different?

As parents, when we send our children to school, we expect that they will be in safe, healthy environments. Our children deserve the same protections in schools that they receive in other settings. This is about making our classrooms safer for the entire school community: students, teachers and other staff.

Q: In testimony before your committee last May, a Texas mother told of how her 14-year-old foster child was smothered by his teacher, who'd placed him in a "therapeutic floor hold." Cases like this are extraordinarily rare. Why does Congress have to regulate all teachers' behavior on the basis of a few tragic cases?

A: Part of what GAO told us is that these tragedies are not as rare as we might think: There have been hundreds of abusive cases in recent years, and tens of thousands of restraint and seclusion incidents take place every year in our schools. This abuse is a nightmare for everyone involved — it hurts the victims, who can suffer long-term physical and emotional consequences; it hurts their classmates, who witness these terrifying incidents; and it hurts the rest of the teachers and staff, who are trying to give students a good education. As long as school systems continue to lack the tools they need to create good policies and properly train staff, these incidents will continue. Nothing in this bill stops teachers from maintaining order in the classroom — but it does say that it is against the law to use restraint and seclusion unless danger is imminent and there are no alternatives. Our first priority should be the well-being of our students. We don't think this is too much to ask of our schools.

Child Abuse Still in Schools?

In her article entitled "Can It Still Be True: Child Abuse in Schools?", Judy Molland wonders:

What's wrong with the education system in this country? Every industrialized country in the world now prohibits school corporal punishment, except the U.S. and Australia. (In Outback regions only) Yet here, not only do twenty states permit corporal punishment in public schools, but in the 2006 - 2007 school year, 223,190 school children in the U.S. were subjected to physical punishment. And that's just the cases that were reported.

As the National Assocation of School Psychologists states, "Corporal punishment negatively affects the social, psychological, and educational development of students and contributes to the cycle of child abuse and pro-violence attitudes of youth." Shouldn't this be a no-brainer for anyone involved in education?

It's a sad statement on the U.S. that there has to be a school law banning the use of mechanical restraints, prohibiting the use of restraints that restrict breathing, and forbidding staff members to deny students water, food, clothing, or access to toilet facilities in order to control behavior. But at least we can thank Representatives Miller and McMorris, and Senator Dodd, for introducing this legislation that will begin to address this issue, by outlawing the worst cases. And then we can wonder: what do educators think they are achieving by physically abusing a child?

A school discipline policy should be designed to guarantee the safey of students and staff, create an effective learning environment, foster respect for others, and teach students how to resolve conflicts.

Corporal punishment achieves none of these goals, so why is it still around?

What do you think should be done to deal with this?

To post your answer to Judy's question, please follow the link:

VT: Compliments Abound at Wheeler School in VT

December 6, 2009

By Molly Walsh


Teachers at Wheeler are finding that by making more of a fuss over children who do the right thing, the number of children who do the wrong thing has dramatically declined. The school is among 54 in Vermont that have implemented an approach to discipline known as the positive behavioral support (PBS) model. Beneath that jargonish moniker lies a simple premise - set the rules, teach them and lavish praise on kids when they follow them.

After the program was instituted at Wheeler last year, suspensions dropped by more than half, from 74 days to 21 days. Less serious discipline problems are also way down. In the 2007-2008 school year, children were required to leave the classroom for misbehavior 600 times at the school, compared to 198 times last year.

These numbers illustrate a dramatic turn-around, said Jim Drown, a behavior specialist at Wheeler who vividly remembers how frantic his early days were at the school ten years ago. “There was no expectation on behavior. There were kids literally running out the doors,” he said. Drown struggled to help teachers maintain order. “It was just run from one room to the next, put out one fire after another and not be able to do anything.”

To read the rest of the article, please click the following link:

WI: Teacher Charged with Disorderly Conduct for Cutting Off Child's Braid

December 14, 2009
By Jennifer Searcy
Founder/Director of Public Policy & Affairs reports that police have ticketed an as-yet unnamed first grade teacher at Congress Elementary School (located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) $175 for "disorderly conduct" after the teacher admitted to cutting off one of her student's braids.

The student, seven-year old Lamya Cannon, has been described as being "angry, confused, and scared" by the incident.

Lamya reported that her teacher had called her to the front of the classroom and then proceeded to cut off one of the offending braids with a pair of classroom scissors - because the child had continued to play with the beaded braid after the teacher asked her to stop.

The child has been quoted as saying:

"I went to my desk and cried. And they was laughing. [The teacher] threw [the braid] away, and she said, 'Now what you gonna go home and say to your momma? ' And I said, 'That you cut off my hair.'"

Lamya's mother, Helen Cunningham, reportedly went to the school to confront the teacher and told the teacher, "Well you know, you cut a lot of her hair off.' And she was like, 'Well, I do apologize.' She said, 'But I was frustrated.'"

The Milwaukee Public Schools District has admitted that the teacher, who remains in the classroom, is being investigated through the district's "disciplinary process."

Milwaukee Public School's spokeswoman Roseann St. Aubin was quoted as saying,"The main thing is, from the heart of the principal, and me speaking for the district, we're very sorry that this happened."

While Lamya's mother indicated she appreciated the apology, she wanted the district to question whether the teacher should keep her job. In the meantime, Lamya has reportedly been moved to another classroom.

WISN reports that the Milwaukee police investigated the case and referred it to the district attorney for possible physical or mental abuse of a child charges, but that the district attorney's office declined filing criminal charges.

It was this decision that led police this week to issue the teacher with the $175 ticket for disorderly conduct.

For more on the story, please click the following link:

FL: Glynn school board to consider bringing back corporal punishment

Some want corporal punishment to come back to Glynn schools.

BRUNSWICK - When the Glynn County school board's Safety and Discipline Committee meets Tuesday to discuss issuing Tasers to school police officers, it will also consider reinstating a form of discipline that could be even more controversial: corporal punishment.

Board member and committee chairman John Madala believes paddling is an effective tool needed to enforce student discipline. He placed the issue on the committee's Tuesday agenda.

Corporal punishment has not been used in Glynn schools in more than four years. The school board voted unanimously July 12, 2005, to remove it as a student discipline option.

At the time, school systems nationwide were banning paddling amid concern about potential lawsuits from parents and questions about its effectiveness in improving student behavior.

Madala, whose wife is a teacher, advocates bringing paddling back in at least the elementary and middle schools where its use potentially will be most effective.

"We've got to equip the teachers with the tools they need to maintain structure and control in their classrooms," he said. "Corporal punishment would be another tool in the box to control unruly students."

Unless unruly students are brought under control, they will continue to disrupt the classroom, resulting in the other pupils missing out on educationalopportunities, he said.

teresa.stepzinski@jacksonville. com, (912) 264-0405

Sunday, December 13, 2009

NY: Man extradited from Guatemala in child sex-assault case


BEDFORD — A man has been extradited from Guatemala to face charges he sexually abused a 9-year-old Bedford girl in a case that touched off a firestorm of allegations that school officials knew about the abuse for months but didn't notify police.

Cesar Joel Sagastume Morales, 30, was taken into custody Friday by Bedford Town police detectives and the Westchester County police warrant squad, Bedford police said.

"After a three-year investigation the Bedford Police Department is pleased to report the extradition of Cesar Joel Sagastume Morales," Bedford police said in a brief statement about the arrest. A Bedford police sergeant said no one was available Saturday to comment on the arrest.

The case led to the firing of Bedford Hills Elementary School Principal Victoria Graboski in 2006 and the filing of criminal charges against her for allegedly failing to report the abuse. The mother of the girl charged in a lawsuit filed in April 2007 in state Supreme Court in White Plains that school officials knew about the sexual abuse in December 2005 but failed to properly notify authorities.

The sexual assaults continued until August 2006 when Bedford police charged Sagastume Morales, a day laborer, with first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, according to prosecutors in the criminal case against Graboski. It is unclear when Sagastume Morales fled the country.

A lawyer representing the alleged victim's mother did not return phone calls and e-mails Saturday seeking comment. Susan Elion, the president of the Bedford Central School District Board of Education, also did not return calls seeking comment.

Sagastume Morales, the boyfriend of the alleged victim's mother, abused the girl at her Bedford Hills home, according to the lawsuit against the school district, Graboski, and former school psychologist Kelly Cieslinski-Schluter.

In December 2005, the girl told other students she had sex with an adult and those girls were then overheard discussing it at a slumber party the next day, prosecutors in the criminal case against Graboski said. A parent of one of the girls told Graboski about the allegations. At another point, the girl's mother came to the school to ask if the girl's behavior had changed at school because she was "acting sad at home," according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors said that instead of reporting the abuse to authorities, Graboski undertook her own investigation.

"As a result of the defendant's failure to report the suspected child abuse, the 9-year-old child victim continued to be sexually assaulted repeatedly over a period of approximately eight months following the victim's disclosure," prosecutors said in court papers filed in the criminal case against Graboski.

In December 2006, Graboski agreed to be part of a public education effort on reporting suspected abuse as part of a deal to have Westchester County prosecutors drop misdemeanor charges against her. She was re-hired by the school district that same month as a special education teacher at Fox Lane High School.

Graboski, Cieslinski-Schluter, and four other school staffers were placed on leave while the school districts investigated the allegations that they failed to report the abuse.

Sagastume Morales is due in Westchester County Court on Monday, according to booking information from the Westchester County jail, where he is being held without bail. Bedford police said he was extradited with the help of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office, Westchester County police, and federal authorities. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted

MT: Attorney general won't investigate alleged school abuse


Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock rejected a request Thursday to conduct an investigation into allegations of abuse in a special education classroom at North Middle School.

Two former teacher's aides already have been charged with felony assault on a minor and misdemeanor endangering the welfare of children after parents said the aides took an autistic 13-year-old to a sink and held the boy's head underwater for dozing off in class.

After reading media accounts of the alleged abuse, state Rep. Bill Wilson, D-Great Falls, wrote Bullock asking for an impartial investigation and saying that a school resource police officer investigating a potential felony in the school he is assigned to could be a conflict of interest.

"I think the best disinfectant is sunlight and quite frankly, it is sorely lacking here," Wilson wrote.

Bullock thought otherwise after discussing the matter with prosecutors and Great Falls Police Chief Corky Grove, said Justice Department spokesman Kevin O'Brien.

"He has been briefed on the situation and he will continue to remain in contact, but he believes this is a local matter," O'Brien said.

Wilson said Thursday that he understood the AG's position, but his job as a state legislator is to ask tough questions about situations that concern his constituents.

"I'm still uncomfortable with the initial internal investigation," Wilson said. "I'd rather see an outside detective immediately brought in when allegations are this serious.

"We also need to take a hard look at the screening processes and training for teacher's aides," Wilson said. "Obviously, not all people are well suited to work with special-needs students. The Legislature may be able to give some direction on these issues.

One of the aides charged in the case, Julie Ann Parish, made an initial court appearance in state district court Monday, where bond was set at $5,000. Another aide, Kristi Kallies, has been located in San Antonio, Texas, and arrangements are being made to have her return to face charges, Deputy Cascade County Attorney Kory Larsen said.

Prosecutors considered charging special education teacher Heidi Budeau, but found no evidence that she directly abused the boy. Several witnesses said she knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it, but Larsen said that was less a criminal matter than a professional competency matter for school officials to weigh.

Great Falls Public Schools Superintendent Cheryl Crawley said Budeau no longer works for the district.

The Bismarck, N.D., public school system confirmed that Budeau is now a special education teacher at Wachter Middle School in Bismarck. She did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Tifonie Schilling, the mother of the alleged victim Garrett Schilling, now 14, said another special education aide told her that Garrett was abused in three specific ways in his special education classroom at North.

CO: Comparison - federal and Colorado’s limits on use of restraints and seclusion in schools

December 12, 9:47 PMDenver Special Education ExaminerJeff Konrade-Helm

Comparing the federal “Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act (HR 4247)” to Colorado’s "Protection of Persons from Restraint Act" and its subsequent rules limiting and regulating similar practices; the two measures have more in common than differences.

Basically, each approach limits the use of such interventions to instances where the student is at “imminent” risk of harming him/herself, staff or other students, only for as long as absolutely necessary and they must cease their use immediately when it is clear the risk is no longer present.

Likewise, both the state and federal measures call for the use of such methods by properly trained and qualified personnel who receive continuing updated training (reflecting current best practices) on a periodic basis.

Where the two measures differ is in the use of the term “emergency,” but it is not a substantive difference with respect to overall intent. The Colorado rule uses “emergency” to describe the situation in which such restraint and/or seclusion can be used; whereas, the federal bill describes in nearly identical language the situations potentially warranting such interventions, it uses “emergency” to identify instances where such measures may be practiced in absence of properly trained, qualified staff.

This will surely be an area to be ironed out by the states should this or similar language end up in the final version.

Friday, December 11, 2009

TN: Coaches' Paddlings of High School Basketball Player Upheld

A federal appeals court today upheld frequent paddlings of a high school basketball player in Memphis by his coaches over missed practices, tardiness, poor grades, and even, allegedly, for missed shots during basketball games.

Noting that Tennessee law permits corporal punishment by teachers "for good cause in order to maintain discipline and order within the public schools," a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, ruled unanimously that "a reasonable juror could conclude that the paddlings administered by [the two coaches] were for disciplinary purposes, and were not 'excessive' in severity, frequency, motivation, or means."

The case brought by Martin Nolan, a student at Hamilton High School in Memphis from 2001 to 2004, against the two basketball coaches, school administrators, and the Memphis district alleged that the paddlings violated his 14th Amendment right to substantive due process of law.

At trial, the coaches denied paddling Nolan for missing shots, saying he may have been paddled for demonstrating poor technique on the court. But they acknowledged paddling him for disciplinary reasons and, on a few occasions, for poor grades. The district's then-superintendent testified that she believed one of the coaches paddled basketball players for missing shots and that she suspended him from coaching as a result.

The coaches said they did not use much force in paddling Nolan, and the defendants presented evidence that the student did not suffer any serious injuries. The jury ruled for the defendants on all claims.

In its ruling in Nolan v. Memphis City Schools, the 6th Circuit panel said the paddlings "did not amount to a brutal and inhumane abuse of official power that shocks the conscience."

"The Nolans contend that paddling a high school student for a nondisciplinary reason cannot be tolerated in a civilized society," the court said. "The jury, however, was entitled to draw a different conclusion."

PA: Editorial: No justice, no peace

School district officials must act more aggressively to reduce tension and ensure safety at South Philadelphia High School, which has been rocked by racial attacks on Asian students.

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman was slow to publicly respond to the first major crisis in her administration. Now, she must work harder to reassure anxious students and parents that racist violence won't be tolerated.

In heart-wrenching testimony Wednesday before the School Reform Commission, Asian students painted an ugly picture of hostility against them by African American students that has been rampant for some time.

Even more troubling, they said the problem extended beyond fellow students to school staff, who allegedly not only turned a blind eye to the verbal and physical abuse by black students, but even encouraged the assaults and hurled racial slurs.

In at least five separate attacks last week, inside the school and on nearby streets, 30 students were assaulted, and at least seven landed in the hospital. The student body - 70 percent black and 18 percent Asian - has a serious race problem.

Afraid for their safety, about 50 Asian students boycotted school this week, missing out on instruction time to send a strong message to the district. Given the district's tardiness, they say they are also working on their own solutions.

Meanwhile, the district will announce a new safety plan today that calls for additional security officers, counselors, and translators at the school to facilitate easier reporting by students and peer mediation. The district is also wisely looking beyond South Philadelphia High by appointing a district-wide racial and cultural task force, and implementing a U.S. Justice Department program to help students deal with racial and ethnic divisiveness.

Those are welcome moves, which should not have been delayed by Ackerman's letting days pass before commenting on the situation. By not publicly addressing the racial violence for nearly a week, she gave the impression that it was not a priority.

The superintendent planned to finally visit the school today. "We're going to make it right," she said, "There's no tolerance for violence."

But her late visit may do little to reassure wary students that it will be safe to return to school next week. Ackerman should meet with everyone, from the janitors to the principal, to make sure they understand that the high school's environment of hostility must change.

In her remarks at Wednesday's SRC meeting, Ackerman said the violence was a reflection of the racism that exists in the larger community as well. Absolutely, which is why administrators must be sensitive to the plight of all of the minority groups in their schools that look to them for protection.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Announcement: Justice4Children Internet Radio Show 12/11/09!

Forwarded message from Theresa Edwards:




My featured guest will be Mrs. Debra Peoples.

What is the color of hatred?

She will be sharing the story of Student X, who on the most prestigious day for the children of the United States another child is hog tied with handcuffs. Let's tell Cobb County, GA we're not gonna take it no more.

Our other guest will be Micheal Robinson an advocate from Hawaii. Let's find out where he stands on corporal punishment, restraint and seclusion, and the new proposed federal legislation to protect our children.

If you have any announcements that you would like to have put out on the air please submit them to me at

MA: Lexington Public Schools to ease records release

By Emily Costello/Staff Writer

Thu Dec 10, 2009, 06:18 AM EST

BURLINGTON - Lexington Public Schools have re-examined how they treat records related to child abuse or neglect, after a couple brought pressure on the school district for keeping some of their son’s records from them.

In April, the school district filed a report with the state’s Department of Children and Families about Jean and Michael Morrisey’s son, who was in the eighth grade at the time. The state’s mandated reporter statute requires school officials to file such reports when they have concerns about abuse or neglect.

The state agency “screened out” the report, meaning it chose not to pursue a detailed investigation.

The Morriseys requested to see the records filed by the school, including the notes compiled by a child protection team made up of school administrators and staff members, and were repeatedly turned down by the district.

Lexington Superintendent Paul Ash said that although student records are always accessible to parents in the school system, the requirement to release the mandated reporter records was less clear-cut.

The district appealed to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for a recommendation in the matter. It recommended that the records be released once the child protection agency concludes an investigation or decides not to investigate.

Ash said this week he felt the DESE recommendation was well reasoned and that he has since turned all of the Morriseys’ son’s records over to his father. He said the district would comply with similar requests from other parents, if any came forward.

Michael Morrisey referred questions about the case to Mary Jean, founder of Children First Advocacy in Leominster, who helped the family during their dealings with Lexington Public Schools.

Jean alleges that the school filed paperwork with the state Department of Children and Families to create a “reversal of positions” — similar to filing a counter lawsuit.

CT: Dodd Bill Targets Physical Restraints On Students

U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd proposed legislation Wednesday to prevent a growing problem in public schools nationwide — the increasing use of restraints on troubled children.

Dodd and Rep. George Miller of California unveiled the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, a bill similar to legislation that Dodd helped pass in 1998 concerning restraints on children in psychiatric facilities.

Dodd proposed that bill after a series of stories in The Courant revealed that children were dying in psychiatric hospitals as they were being physically restrained by staff. The stories documented 142 deaths throughout the country over a 10-year period.

The new bill addresses many of the same issues — the lack of reporting, poor training of staff that apply the restraints and little oversight.

"The tragedies associated with the inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint are not only unacceptable, they are unconscionable," Dodd said in a press release. "There is no place in our schools for what amounts to torture, and we need clear standards for the use of tactics that lead to the physical and psychological abuse of children. This legislation will set clear guidelines so that children and educators alike can be sure of a safe learning environment."

Earlier this year the Government Accountability Office released a 62-page report on the growing problem of restraints and seclusion in public schools.

"Although we could not determine whether allegations of death and abuse were widespread, we did discover hundreds of such allegations at public and private schools across the nation between the years 1990 and 2009," the GAO report said. "Almost all of the allegations we identified involved children with disabilities."

According to Dodd, the new bill would:

•Prohibit the use of restraint and seclusion unless a student's behavior poses an immediate danger of physical injury and less restrictive interventions would not work.

•Prohibit the use of any mechanical, chemical or physical restraint that restricts air flow to the lungs, and any other intervention that compromises health and safety.

•Require adequate training for school personnel who would impose restraints and seclusion.

•Require immediate parental notification and a school debriefing after an incident involving restraint or seclusion.

•Require states to create a plan incorporating minimum standards, and to report yearly on the number of restraint and seclusion incidents.

•Provide competitive grants to help develop and implement state plans, train and certify school personnel and implement positive behavioral supports.

•Instruct the U.S. Department of Education to give Congress an assessment that analyzes data on restraint and seclusion, and practices to prevent and reduce such incidents.

Dodd is a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and chairman of its subcommittee on children and families. Miller is chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

"Children should not be abused under the guise of discipline, but time after time, we've heard horrific accounts of what is nothing less than torture in classrooms at the hands of untrained staff," Miller said. "It is unbelievable that children have protections against harmful restraint and seclusion in other facilities, but not in school, where they spend the majority of their time."

The GAO report cited several deaths in public schools throughout the country, including a 7-year-old who died after being held face down for hours by school staff, 5-year-olds being tied to chairs with bungee cords and duct tape by their teacher and suffering broken arms and bloody noses, and a 13-year-old hanging himself in a seclusion room after prolonged confinement.

The report also concluded that no federal agency collects information on the use of these methods or the extent of their possible abuse.

Connecticut is far ahead of many states in dealing with physical restraints in public and private schools. It is one of only two states, along with California, that require annual reporting on the use of restraints, one of 17 states that require selected staff to receive training before being permitted to restrain children and one of 19 states that require parents to be notified after restraints have been used.

SAMSHA's 10 Essenstial Values for Dealing with a Crisis Situation

Ten Essential Values Are Inherent In An Appropriate Crisis Response, Regardless Of The Nature Of The Crisis, The Situations Where Assistance Is Offered Or The Individuals Providing Assistance:

(As reported by Wellsphere at

1. Avoiding harm. Sometimes mental health crises place the safety of the person, the crisis responders or others in jeopardy. An appropriate response establishes physical safety, but it also establishes the individual’s psychological safety. For instance, restraints are sometimes used in situations where there is an immediate risk of physical harm, yet this intervention has inherent physical and psychological risks that can cause injury and even death. Precipitous responses to individuals in mental health crises—often initiated with the intention of establishing physical safety—sometimes result in harm to the individual. An appropriate response to mental health crises considers the risks and benefits attendant to interventions and whenever possible employs alternative approaches, such as controlling danger sufficiently to allow a period of “watchful waiting.” In circumstances where there is an urgent need to establish physical safety and few viable alternatives to address an immediate risk of significant harm to the individual or others, an appropriate crisis response incorporates measures to minimize the duration and negative impact of interventions used.

2. Intervening In Person-Centered Ways. Mental health crises may be routine in some settings and, perhaps, have even come to be routine for some people with serious mental health or emotional problems. Nevertheless, appropriate crisis assistance avoids rote interventions based on diagnostic labels, presenting complaint or practices customary to a particular setting. Appropriate interventions seek to understand the individual, his or her unique circumstances and how that individual’s personal preferences and goals can be maximally incorporated in the crisis response.

3. Shared Responsibility. An acute sense of losing control over events or feelings is a hallmark of mental health crises. In fact, research has shown “feeling out of control” to be the most common reason consumers cite for being brought in for psychiatric emergency care.12 An intervention that is done to the individual— rather than with the individual—can reinforce these feelings of helplessness. One of the principal rationales for person-centered plans is that shared responsibility promotes engagement and better outcomes. While crisis situations may present challenges to implementing shared, person-centered plans, ultimately an intervention that considers and, to the extent possible, honors an individual’s role in crisis resolution may hold long-term benefits. An appropriate crisis response seeks to assist the individual in regaining control by considering the individual an active partner in—rather than a passive recipient of—services.

4. Addressing Trauma. Crises, themselves, are intrinsically traumatic and certain crisis interventions may have the effect of imposing further trauma—both physical and emotional. In addition, people with serious mental illness have a high probability of having been victims of abuse or neglect. It is essential that once physical safety has been established, harm resulting from the crisis or crisis response is evaluated and addressed without delay by individuals qualified to diagnose and initiate needed treatment. There is also a dual responsibility relating to the individual’s relevant trauma history and vulnerabilities associated with particular interventions; crisis responders should appropriately seek out and incorporate this information in their approaches, and individuals should take personal responsibility for making this crucial information available (for instance, by executing advance directives).

5. Establishing Feelings Of Personal Safety. An individual may experience a mental health crisis as a catastrophic event and, accordingly, may have an urgent need to feel safe. What is regarded as agitated behavior may reflect an individual’s attempts at self-protection, though perhaps to an unwarranted threat. Assisting the individual in attaining the subjective goal of personal safety requires an understanding of what is needed for that person to experience a sense of security (perhaps contained in a crisis plan or personal safety plan previously formulated by the individual) and what interventions increase feelings of vulnerability (for instance, confinement in a room alone). Providing such assistance also requires that staff be afforded time to gain an understanding of the individual’s needs and latitude to address these needs creatively.

6. Based On Strengths. Sharing responsibility for crisis resolution means understanding that an individual, even while in crisis, can marshal personal strengths and assist in the resolution of the emergency. Individuals often understand the factors that precipitated a crisis as well as factors that can help ameliorate their impact. An appropriate crisis response seeks to identify and reinforce the resources on which an individual can draw, not only to recover from the crisis event, but to also help protect against further occurrences.

7. The Whole Person. For individuals who have a mental illness, the psychiatric label itself may shape—even dominate—decisions about which crisis interventions are offered and how they are made available. An individual with a serious mental illness who is in crisis is a whole person, whose established psychiatric disability may be relevant but may—or may not—be immediately paramount. That the individual may have multiple needs and an adequate understanding of the crisis means not being limited by services that are compartmentalized according to healthcare specialty. An individual’s emergency may reflect the interplay of psychiatric issues with other health factors.And while the individual is experiencing a crisis that tends to be addressed as a clinical phenomenon, there may also be a host of seemingly mundane, real-world concerns that significantly affect an individual’s response: the whereabouts of the person’s children, the welfare of pets, whether the house is locked, absence from work, and so on.

8. The Person As Credible Source. Assertions or complaints made by individuals who have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness tend to be viewed skeptically by others. Particularly within the charged context of mental health crises, there may be a presumption that statements made by these individuals are manifestations of delusional thinking. Consequently, there is a risk that legitimate complaints relating to such matters as medical illness, pain, abuse or victimization will go unheeded. Even when an individual’s assertions are not well grounded in reality and represent obviously delusional thoughts, the “telling of one’s story” may represent an important step toward crisis resolution.13 For these reasons, an appropriate response to an individual in mental health crisis is not dismissive of the person as a credible source of information—factual or emotional—that is important to understanding the person’s strengths and needs.

9. Recovery, Resilience And Natural Supports. Certain settings, such as hospital emergency departments, may see individuals only transiently, at a point when they are in acute crisis and in a decidedly high-stress environment. Even when not occurring within hospitals, mental health emergency interventions are often provided in settings that are alien to the individual and the natural supports that may be important parts of his or her daily life. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that an emergency episode may be a temporary relapse and not definitional of the person or that individual’s broader life course. An appropriate crisis response contributes to the individual’s larger journey toward recovery and resilience and incorporates these values. Accordingly, interventions should preserve dignity, foster a sense of hope, and promote engagement with formal systems and informal resources.

10. Prevention. Too often, individuals with serious mental illnesses have only temporary respite between crises.An appropriate crisis response works to ensure that crises will not be recurrent by evaluating and considering factors that contributed to the current episode and that will prevent future relapse. Hence, an adequate crisis response requires measures that address the person’s unmet needs, both through individualized planning and by promoting systemic improvements.

UT: Boarding school employee charged with sex abuse of boys

A therapeutic boarding school employee was charged this week with sexually abusing two 15-year-old students.

Geary D. Oakes, 57, worked at Cedar Ridge Academy in Roosevelt for 10 years as director of social services, arranging off-site medical trips and phone calls to parents, among other jobs, said Sean Haggerty, director of admissions.

Last month, he gave a 15-year-old boy cigarettes in exchange for oral sex, once at a school building and once at his house, according to charges filed last week in 8th District Court.

He allegedly abused a second boy, also 15, once after checking him out of school to for medical treatment, and later gave him two Vicodin pills, according to the charges.

One boy reported the abuse to school administrators, and the other told his parents, who then told school officials, Haggerty said. When interviewed by police, Oakes admitted to some of the abuse, according to charging documents. He was charged with two counts of forcible sodomy, first-degree felonies, and two counts of sexual abuse of a minor, second-degree felonies.

Administrators at the school for troubled youth are contacting alumni to find out if there have been other victims, but none has come forward so far.

"We're very surprised, it's hard to believe just looking back at the history of all the good things he's done," Haggerty said. "It was difficult to see, but we followed through with the
investigation anyway."

See Related Story:

UT: School nurse faces sex abuse charges

Sensory room is ideal for people with autism

Karen Meyer

In the late 1970s, two Dutch Therapists developed a sensory tent filled with a variety of items that are used to stimulate people with autism. Last year, Seguin Services in Cicero created their own sensory room.

The Snoezelen room at Seguin Services is visually active and physically relaxing. The most amazing thing about this room is the cost: $75,000.

  • A light show featuring bubble tubes that change colors.
  • A vibro chair with relaxing music playing through it.
  • Images on a floor mat with different activities that can be played by the participants.

"Our people usually spend 20 minutes in the room, 20 minutes at a time, and the ideal situation is with one person with a disability and one person guiding them through different activities," said Lori Oppiela, vice president of Seguin Works.

"People with autism, people with dementia, it allows them to interact with their environment, and it allows them to interact with their environment. And it's a lot of stimulations, whether it's through your senses, visual , tactile, auditory, it allows people to interactively control their environment."

This is not the only Snoezelen room in Illinois.

"We actually remodeled out room after a school out in the South Suburbs," said Oppiela, "and there's also an organization that is out in the Rockford area."

The Snoezelen room is named for Pat Parker's husband. Their son Dan is deaf and blind and has been part of Seguin Services for 12 years. The Snoezelen room has been a godsend.

"Because my son really relaxes here, you can even tell he doesn't speak. He communicates very clearly that this is the place that he likes to be," said Parker.

"I have had a lot of staff say that they would like to come in here and take a snooze in here, but haven't had anybody hiding out that I know of," said Oppiela.

The success of people who have spend time in a Snoezelen room has been positive.

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