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Lock-up for Boy
September 19, 2012 permalink
A medical report on an Arizona boy named only as TN said sugary foods caused him to have severe behavioral problems. His school gave him foods packed with sugar, then treated his misbehavior by locking him for hours at a time in a padded cell. In an earlier case, two children were locked up by their school in Newmarket Ontario:  .
Noyes Family Claims Arizona School Locked Son In Padded 'Scream Room' And Ignored His Severe Allergies
An Arizona couple is suing their son's former school district for allegedly throwing him in a tiny, windowless room for bad behavior they say was caused by officials ignoring his severe allergies and feeding him foods packed with sugar.
Leslie and Eric Noyes of Glendale, Ariz., filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Court last week against Deer Valley Unified School District No. 97 and Desert Sage Elementary School, where their son attended second grade last year.
The complaint, obtained by Courthouse News Service, charges school officials with assault and battery, false imprisonment, gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress on their son.
The couple is seeking compensation for their son's medical treatment and transportation costs to send him to a school outside his district as well as general damages.
According to the lawsuit, the boy -- identified only as T.N. -- was 7 years old at the time of the alleged abuses. The Noyes say school officials provided various foods containing sugar to their son, even though they had been formally told the boy had "severe food allergies" and was "on a very strict, controlled diet and must avoid all foods that cause an allergic reaction." School officials had been notified, they said, that "foods containing sugar caused behavioral issues."
Despite those warnings, the complaint said, school officials insisted that T.N.'s allergies and behavior were unrelated and punished his acting out by putting him in a seclusion room as often as four times a week over a period of more than four months from October 2011 through February. Despite numerous trips to the time-out room, some lasting most of the school day, the Noyes say they were notified only twice -- a violation of district policy.
The complaint said school officials would "punish T.N. by grabbing him and dragging him down the hallway, forcing his head down toward the floor with two teachers on either side of T.N." The parent said their son suffered multiple bruises and that once a staff member fell on top of him and dropped him on his head. He also was made to "face down on the floor forcing him to inhale residue from carpet cleaning chemicals to which he is severely allergic and putting pressure on his back."
During his confinement to the 5-foot by 5-foot padded room, the boy "showed signs of respiratory distress and panic attacks," the lawsuit alleged.
He also was denied permission to go to the bathroom, causing him to twice urinate on himself "for which he was reprimanded." The complaint went on to say that the school's " 'behaviorist' concluded that the boy urinated on himself "to 'get attention,' apparently ignoring how humiliating the act of urinating on oneself is for a little boy." The child was "further humiliated and embarrassed" when school officials ordered him to change his wet clothes in front of them.
All this left the second grader "in a constant state of anxiety and fear" and because of "repeated overly punitive actions and false imprisonment, T.N. missed out on school, suffered nightmares, sleep disturbance, and stomach aches" and has "suffered serious personal and emotional injuries."
The Noyes first brought attention to what some call "scream rooms" in February when they were interviewed by a local TV station. At the time, the couple said they had been told their son, who was in a special education class, was "'out of control." They made no mention on air of their contention that school officials were feeding their son foods that could cause behavior problems.
The CBS 5 News segment featured video secretly recorded by Leslie Noyes. It showed the padded, windowless box in an empty classroom.
"My son has said he's been there anywhere from a few minutes to almost all day," she told the TV reporter. "He has been complaining about being restrained -- he uses that word, restrained. And being put into cool down."
School district spokeswoman Heidi Vega declined to discuss details of the pending litigation with The Huffington Post.
In a statement, the district said, "If a child requires the use of seclusion/physical intervention, parents are notified immediately. Two adults always accompany the child when secluded. This is the last method of behavior management schools use with a student. Our staff is fully trained on non-violent crisis intervention and put student safety first at all times. The safety of all students is important and remains a top priority in Deer Valley."
The use of cool down rooms in the same county whose controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio has forced prison inmates to wear pink underwear isn't unique to Arizona. School officials across the country have used seclusion rooms, most often for special education students or those diagnosed as autistic. The practice is controversial. In 2004, a 13-year-old Georgia student hanged himself after his parents said he was traumatized by being put in a time-out room.
Arizona has written policies on the use of seclusion and restraint but, according to the U.S. Department of Education, it has no laws regulating its use in schools.
Source: Huffington Post
Addendum: The same treatment in Ohio.
Probe: Kids wrongly put in seclusion
Rooms misused for punishment, report says
The Columbus school district has used its seclusion rooms — some as small as a closet, some reeking of urine or covered in spit — to punish children with special needs, a state investigation has found.
Investigators also found that some city schools continue to use a type of physical restraint so dangerous that it’s banned in Ohio because it restricts breathing and can kill children. Staff members aren’t properly trained, the investigation found, and though district policy says the rooms are only for “crisis situations,” they’re often used to punish students who are noncompliant or disrespectful.
Some parents thought their special-needs children were getting therapy when they actually were spending time in seclusion rooms.
The investigation, conducted by the Ohio Legal Rights Service, a state agency that works to protect people with disabilities, began in December 2011 when the mother of an autistic boy complained that he was traumatized inside a room at Eastmoor Academy. He spent hours at a time there, where he once took off his clothes, lay in his own urine, and developed a staph infection. He was sent there often for minor infractions, such as refusing to sit down or asking for more food at lunch.
The report mirrors the findings in a joint investigation by The Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio, a collaboration of NPR and Ohio public-radio stations, which found that many Ohio districts misuse seclusion rooms. Published in August, “Locked Away” found that, in many schools, children were locked in closets, cell-like rooms or old offices even when they posed no risk.
Seclusion rooms — despised by many special-needs advocates but considered necessary by some educators — are meant to be a place for students to calm down if they are a physical danger to others. Often, they are small, windowless spaces stripped of furniture. Many, including the ones in Columbus, have doors to keep children inside. The district has seclusion rooms in 10 of its 116 school buildings; one school dismantled them in April.
Legal Rights wants the district to stop using seclusion and dangerous restraint and to notify parents of incidents right away. The district says it plans to respond to the agency by the deadline on Oct. 15, but it disagrees with the findings. A spokesman also said a state policy is in the works that will permit seclusion when students could do physical harm to themselves or others. Currently, the use of seclusion rooms in schools is unregulated.
“We believe that it doesn’t fully represent all of the facts as we know them,” Columbus schools spokesman Jeff Warner said of the report. The district provided documents for about 80 students, he said, but the findings were based on just three.
The report cites interviews with three students, but all 80 cases were reviewed to reach findings, said Sue Tobin, chief legal counsel for Legal Rights.
Columbus calls them “respite rooms” or “processing rooms.”
“Respite is where you go to rest, to get a break, not because you’re being punished, and there’s nothing in there except the walls. There’s no sensory materials, there’s no music, there’s no educational tools or instructional tools,” Tobin said. “It’s solitary confinement.”
In June, Columbus schools fired two employees at Beatty Park Elementary, a school for children with behavior and emotional disabilities, after they injured two students and placed them in seclusion rooms for no acceptable reason.
“These rooms are dangerous, they’re traumatizing, they’re not effective in changing behaviors,” Tobin said.
Barb Trader, executive director of the disability-advocacy group TASH, said the report’s findings are not a surprise to her.
“It repeated the same thing that we’ve been hearing over and over: Restraint and seclusion are being used for convenience and punishment rather than for kids who are truly dangerous,” Trader said. “You’d think school districts would have strict policies about the appropriateness of their use.”
In the report, the agency also urges the Ohio Department of Education to ban seclusion. The department doesn’t plan to, but it’s working on rules for when schools can use seclusion and restraint. Spokesman John Charlton said the rules should be adopted in March.
Source: Columbus Dispatch
Addendum: A New York Times op-ed reports on confinement of a kindergartner in Lexington Massachusetts.
A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children
Editors' Note Appended
IN my public school 40 years ago, teachers didn’t lay their hands on students for bad behavior. They sent them to the principal’s office. But in today’s often overcrowded and underfunded schools, where one in eight students receive help for special learning needs, the use of physical restraints and seclusion rooms has become a common way to maintain order.
It’s a dangerous development, as I know from my daughter’s experience. At the age of 5, she was kept in a seclusion room for up to an hour at a time over the course of three months, until we discovered what was happening. The trauma was severe.
According to national Department of Education data, most of the nearly 40,000 students who were restrained or isolated in seclusion rooms during the 2009-10 school year had learning, behavioral, physical or developmental needs, even though students with those issues represented just 12 percent of the student population. African-American and Hispanic students were also disproportionately isolated or restrained.
Joseph Ryan, an expert on the use of restraints who teaches at Clemson University, told me that the practice of isolating and restraining problematic children originated in schools for children with special needs. It migrated to public schools in the 1970s as federal laws mainstreamed special education students, but without the necessary oversight or staff training. “It’s a quick way to respond but it’s not effective in changing behaviors,” he said.
State laws on disciplining students vary widely, and there are no federal laws restricting these practices, although earlier this year Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote, in a federal guide for schools, that there was “no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective.” He recommended evidence-based behavioral interventions and de-escalation techniques instead.
The use of restraints and seclusion has become far more routine than it should be. “They’re the last resort too often being used as the first resort,” said Jessica Butler, a lawyer in Washington who has written about seclusion in public schools.
Among the recent instances that have attracted attention: Children in Middletown, Conn., told their parents that there was a “scream room” in their school where they could hear other children who had been locked away; last December, Sandra Baker of Harrodsburg, Ky., found her fourth-grade son, Christopher, who had misbehaved, stuffed inside a duffel bag, its drawstrings pulled tight, and left outside his classroom. He was “thrown in the hall like trash,” she told me. And in April, Corey Foster, a 16-year-old with learning disabilities, died on a school basketball court in Yonkers, N.Y., as four staff members restrained him following a confrontation during a game. The medical examiner ruled early last month that the death was from cardiac arrest resulting from the student’s having an enlarged heart, and no charges were filed.
I saw firsthand the impact of these practices six years ago when my daughter, Rose, started kindergarten in Lexington, Mass. Rose had speech and language delays. Although she sometimes became overwhelmed more quickly than other children, she was called “a model of age-appropriate behavior” by her preschool. One evaluation said Rose was “happy, loves school, is social.” She could, however, “get fidgety and restless when she is unsure as to what is expected of her. When comfortable, Rose is a very participatory and appropriate class member with a great deal to contribute to her world.”
Once in kindergarten, Rose began throwing violent tantrums at home. She repeatedly watched a scene from the film “Finding Nemo” in which a shark batters its way into a tiny room, attempting to eat the main characters. The school provided no explanation or solution. Finally, on Jan. 6, 2006, a school aide called saying that Rose had taken off her clothes. We needed to come get her.
At school, her mother and I found Rose standing alone on the cement floor of a basement mop closet, illuminated by a single light bulb. There was nothing in the closet for a child — no chair, no books, no crayons, nothing but our daughter standing naked in a pool of urine, looking frightened as she tried to cover herself with her hands. On the floor lay her favorite purple-striped Hanna Andersson outfit and panties.
Rose got dressed and we removed her from the school. We later learned that Rose had been locked in the closet five times that morning. She said that during the last confinement, she needed to use the restroom but didn’t want to wet her outfit. So she disrobed. Rather than help her, the school called us and then covered the narrow door’s small window with a file folder, on which someone had written “Don’t touch!”
We were told that Rose had been in the closet almost daily for three months, for up to an hour at a time. At first, it was for behavior issues, but later for not following directions. Once in the closet, Rose would pound on the door, or scream for help, staff members said, and once her hand was slammed in the doorjamb while being locked inside.
At the time, I notified the Lexington Public Schools, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families and the Department of Mental Health about Rose and other children in her class whom school staff members indicated had been secluded. If any of these agencies conducted a formal investigation, I was not made aware of it.
Rose still has nightmares and other symptoms of severe stress. We brought an action against the Lexington Public Schools, which we settled when the school system agreed to pay for the treatment Rose needed to recover from this trauma.
The physical and psychological injuries to children as a consequence of this disciplinary system is an issue that has found its way to Congress. Legislation to ban these practices has been introduced in the House and the Senate, but no vote is expected this year.
Meanwhile, Rose is back in public school and has found it within her to forgive those involved in her case. “They weren’t bad people,” she told me. “They just didn’t know about working with children.”
Editors' Note: September 16, 2012
An opinion essay on Sept. 9 criticizing the use of seclusion and restraint to discipline students described an episode on Jan. 6, 2006, in which the writer’s daughter, then a kindergartner, was kept in an isolation room at her school in Lexington, Mass. Several details of that episode have since been disputed.
The girl wet herself while being confined in a closet for misbehaving. But school officials, and a 2008 deposition by the girl’s mother, state that she was then cleaned up and dressed while her parents were notified — and that it was not the case that the parents found her standing alone, unclothed, in her urine.
The article incorrectly described the closet where the girl was confined. It was on a mezzanine between two classroom levels, not in the basement.
While the girl’s parents sued the Lexington school district in 2007, and obtained a settlement in 2008, the writer did not notify two Massachusetts state agencies — the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Mental Health — “at the time” of the episode, according to state records.
The girl’s parents divorced in 2007. If The Times had known before the article was published that the writer’s ex-wife was now the girl’s custodial parent, it would have contacted her.
Source: New York Times