Monday, February 16, 2009

Special Report: Disability Rights Network of North Carolina Refuses to Investigate Restraint and Abuse Allegations

UPDATE: NDRN claims they do not have authority to investigate complaints against state DRN's - that they are *only* a "voluntary membership organization."


Special Report: Disability Rights Network of North Carolina Refuses to Investigate Restraint and Abuse Allegations

February 12, 2009

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

A client of ours has notified us that the North Carolina’s Disability Rights Network, the Protection & Advocacy of North Carolina – an agency that is mandated to investigate and receives grant funding to investigate abuse allegations in a variety of settings, including public schools - has twice refused her pleas to investigate documented physical restraints and allegations of abuse by a special education teacher in a public elementary school against an 8 year old boy.

At our client’s request, we are keeping her name, her son’s name, the names of the individuals involved, and the district involved confidential as the district has already twice threatened to retaliate against her.

Our client contacted the DRN last October to advise them her son, a child diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and two specific learning disabilities, had been documented to have been physically restrained by a special education teacher at his Elementary School. Documentation from the teacher in her own handwriting also indicated that at times this teacher may have abused our client’s son. Some of the documented instances of alleged abuse are as follows:

 Physically pulled the child away from a wall when he wouldn’t stop trailing his hand along it
 Physically threw the child onto a rug and dragged him and the rug into the middle of the room
 Took the child into the boy’s bathroom, stood immediately outside the stall the child had gone into, notified him that she was timing him, repeatedly kept yelling at him that he was taking too long, and, upon the child’s return to the classroom, the child yelled at his regular education teacher that “she wouldn’t let [him] go.” He then got in trouble and was disciplined for yelling at his teacher. As an additional note: The child has suspected body regulation issues thought to be due to known sensory issues and he needs to take frequent restroom breaks as he has difficulty assessing his “need to go.” His behavior plan also indicated that if he returns to the classroom after leaving to use the restroom within 2 minutes, he’d receive tickets as a reward, and oftentimes this would be used against him in the form of taking earned tickets away from him for “not following bathroom rules.”
 The child was also documented to have been found two days’ prior to this incident in the boy’s bathroom by either a female teacher or aide (not sure of her position in the school) curled up on the floor of the bathroom minus his shoes, socks, underwear and pants, and to have urinated on himself.

This information was shared with the N.C. DRN.

N.C. DRN advocate Diana Burch spoke to our client and offered to attend the next IEP meeting with her since things had become tenuous with the district. Ms. Burch attended an IEP meeting with our client on November 3, 2008. Afterward, Ms. Burch consulted with N.C. DRN’s attorneys and contacted our client to advise her that the attorney’s had deemed her son’s case as “unwinnable,” and that she should sign and agree to everything the district recommended in her son’s IEP, even though the mom disagreed with the appropriateness of the IEP, because, as Ms. Burch told her, “It could be worse.”

Things did progressively get worse with the district. Since then, he’s been transferred into a BED program at another elementary school within the district - a placement which our client and the district both disputes; the district had refused transportation, and, after a battle over this issue, is now transporting him along with all the other disabled children in the elementary & middle schools on a dedicated bus that stops at multiple schools, with children on the bus as long as close to two hours one way; the district offered and my client agreed to a crisis intervention plan during mediation to stop the physical restraints after the district refused to honor her “No Restraint Letter,” but the crisis plan has been implemented for non-emergencies and has resulted in multiple altercations with School Resource Officers and suspensions.

Our client’s son has also been suffering from nightmares, upset stomach, nosebleeds, and anxiety, and has relayed he feels like a “bad kid” who is stupid. After a day at school, he once came home and asked his mother why he is “so misguided.” This child is only 8 years old.

We advised our client to again contact the N.C. DRN and specifically ask for an investigation into allegations of abuse, including physical restraints, since we and our client were concerned that possibly the N.C. DRN didn’t realize the extent of allegations weighed against the district. She contacted them again by email, forwarding a timeline documenting the alleged abuse, and was advised via email that they would re-open her case.

She recently received word that the N.C. DRN would not be assisting her as she cannot verify if her son has been suspended for 10 or more days. He has received in-school suspensions, has been suspended multiple times for single days and multiple days, and has been sent home early for “behavioral reasons,” like yelling at a teacher or another student, but it is unclear whether the “10 days” requirement N.C. DRN inexplicably set forth has been met as we have not received written incident reports to indicate whether these “early releases” were considered suspensions, though we have asked for via FERPA request, and been denied access to these records. A formal FERPA complaint has been filed.

Our client was also physically assaulted by a secretary who kept pulling the sign in book away from our client when she attempted to sign in as a visitor and yelling at our client she “couldn’t sign there” when our client made a surprise visit to the school this past Monday, FERPA letters previously sent to the district and legal requirements of FERPA in hand.

We are disappointed and dismayed that the DRN of North Carolina is refusing to help this child, especially in light of the recently released NDRN report documenting similar cases of abuse.

We have filed a formal complaint with the National Disability Rights Network on our client’s behalf and will keep you informed if and when the NDRN responds.

1 comment:

mstarvaggi said...

I applaud you for using your best efforts at the IEP meeting. You should never accept "good enough." Your school district owes your child FAPE suited to his own individual needs.