Real Stories of Restraint & Seclusion

Real Stories of Restraint & Seclusion

These four stories told by parents share in detail how their young sons were restrained and/or secluded in their school environments. Each story illustrates the devastating physical and emotional injuries that children suffer during abusive episodes and the devastating effects that each child experiences because of these unnecessary acts, effects that can continue for years. In many cases, parents are never notified or ever told that restraints and seclusions have been or are being used.

If you or a loved one have experienced restraint and seclusion in school, and would like to share your experience, please click here.

Note: stories are posted in the format in which they were received. Some identifying information may be removed/altered at the request of the submitter.

Anna, Mother

My son’s name is Isaiah. He is on the Autism spectrum, high functioning & mainstreamed. He was only 7 years old & weighed 5 lbs when the restraining’s began. Isaiah has always been a very well behaved child. He exhibited behavior that earned him conduct grades of “Excelling at grade level expectations”.

I know of 4 restraining’s that he suffered in a month and a half period of time, towards the end of the school year.  Isaiah doesn’t have behavior issues he has sensory issues. We taught Isaiah tools that he could use when he felt overwhelmed. He would put his head down or go into the bathroom that was inside the classroom. This was fine until the teacher decided Isaiah was choosing this behavior on purpose not that it was a manifestation of his disability. The teacher referred to him on several occasions as being defiant and manipulative. Her misinterpretation of his disability & coping strategies put Isaiah in harm’s way.  If I go into detail about each of the 4 restraining’s and the emotional & physical abuse Isaiah had to endure this letter will be to long so I am condensing and going into the last and most severe restraining.

Isaiah wasn’t restrained because there was imminent danger to himself, others or property. Isaiah was restrained because he was merely an inconvenience. They had no intention on ever telling me what they did to Isaiah. I was never notified. The last restraining was so severe he suffered a cervical sprain, a busted lip, bruised back & ribs, he had bleeding under the skin, on his face, the inside & outside of his arms, his torso & neck area. The force was so excessive his polo shirt was imprinted into his body. He couldn’t move his head backwards for several months. His arms were crisscrossed over his face so his mouth & nose were covered. He said he couldn’t breathe, his eyes started to close & he started to fall over. Isaiah was almost suffocated to death and his neck was almost broken.

They did all of this while I was sitting in the front office and never notified me. They left me sitting there for over an hour while they had a meeting with staff, police and my son (I have video to prove this). I have filed several police reports & multiple DCF (Department of Children & Families) reports. The police won’t do anything because I have to prove intent. I have to prove these people woke up that day & intended to injure my child. DCF investigated and they did find that this man abused my child but that’s all they can do. According to them they have no authority/jurisdiction over schools it’s up to the police. Last time I checked child abuse was a crime so how are school systems getting away with it? If I abused my child they would take him away and I would be front page news! How are schools literally getting away with abuse? This man is still working with children… He also had 4 DUI’s in his background, probably more by now. The 4th one was a month after he abused my son. During his deposition he was asked if he was an alcoholic and his response was “I don’t know”. It’s rather ironic “A behavior analyst who can’t control his own behavior”.    We sued the (County) school district and they settled. It had nothing to do with money it was my only option for some sort of justice for Isaiah. I have ample documentation, police reports, DCF reports, pictures, video etc.. I am more then willing to show you and anyone else who will listen.

Isaiah will be 13 in a few months and he still wakes up screaming from nightmares, doesn’t like to leave the house, won’t use the bathroom by himself… He also started gorging himself with food and gained 40lbs just after the restraining’s and has continued to gain. Schools are using restraint & seclusion as first response and punishment. Our children need your protection immediately.  My son is high functioning and verbal what about the children who aren’t?

[Name Redacted] Mother

My son was restrained in a basket hold by an administrator for extended periods of time over a three week period and I was never informed. He started to have anxiety attacks in response to his daily restraints. My son was put in a harness and was treated with no dignity. My child was secluded from his peers and classroom. He was held daily, for seven hours in a tiny office without access to p.e, recess, music, art, or any special programs. This was his routine for years as eventually his teachers rotated to him as opposed to him being able to leave the tiny office space. My son was pinned down, face first, with a knee to the back, nose to the carpet and came home with back bruises, rib bruises and nose abrasions. No one ever informed me as to what was happening. My son was held numerous times in cement walled closets by himself, with someone on the other side of the door holding the doorknob at locked. The school never informed me. My son is ten years old today and has five, miserable years of experience in restraint & seclusion in public schools.

Janice, Mother

In 2011, I walked into my son’s school to find they had restrained him face down on a device called a Tumbleform grasshopper. He had 3 straps going across his torso and holding his arms on his back. His head was pushed back. What did he do? He sat down and didn’t want to walk into school. Even though in the state of (STATE) it is illegal to place anyone in a prone position, the behavior specialist, school psychologist, physical therapist, behavior tech, teacher and even the assistant principal thought this would be an appropriate way to “transport” him into school. Just one week prior I attended an IEP meeting and the school never told me they were doing this to him, in fact, I was under the impression they were still using the 2 man carry/drag and had requested they stop because it was not working but I had agreed to the use of a wheelchair. The school acknowledged that they had done this to him 6 times in a five day period to the police, however with further investigation we soon realized they had been doing this to him for 5 weeks, even before the IEP. The police said they had put him in danger of positional asphyxia, however the state’s attorneys office declined to press charges citing that he couldn’t prove “intent to harm.” We also discovered that he had a torn rotator cuff injury that could have only come from this type of treatment, since nothing else had happened that could have resulted in that type of injury.

I have looked at other instances similar to ours, not only here in (County) but elsewhere as well; they all show the same things: most often the children were never in danger of hurting themselves or anyone else and restraints, seclusions and exclusions are used as a first resort instead of a last resort. The children all display symptoms of abuse and most often the children can not verbalize to their parents what is happening to them. Parents must rely on a school system that either does not know the laws or choose to ignore the law completely. Please help our children be safe in school, please set the Federal laws that will protect our children and not just set the guidelines. Please make it mandatory for the prosecution of those persons committing these heinous acts against our children, because simply making laws but allowing the local agencies to decide whether to prosecute only creates a loop hole.

As a conclude, I want to relay a letter from a teacher at this same school that restrained my son. This teacher alleges that she witnessed the principal drag a student by his legs while he was face down, through the school lobby, and the doors to the outside. His offense? He sat down like my son. She says that this happened in 2009. Two years prior to my son’s abuse. Had the central office investigated the problem, maybe my son could have been spared the physical and emotional trauma that he sustained. This law is so important, please help us protect our children who can’t speak for themselves.

Sherri, Mother

My 10 year old son is Autistic. Since November of 2012 we were receiving reports home the school. 3 to 4 time in one week that he was having problems all of a sudden. We request a IEP meeting, and they could not tell us what has change. If finally came ahead in Feb of 2013. We drop our son off at school and not even a half hour later was called by my father in law stating we need to pick up our son. The school never called us. We was only a couple minutes away. We got into the school and found out our son in a closet inside of a closet. The aide had a hold of the door which was close sitting in a chair and could not see our son. Just also to let you know our son has a seizures disorder. To say the least we are upset this has happen and it was not the first time.  Of course we took him to the Dr, called social services, and file a police report. He also saw his neurologist. The neurologist stated all they have done was increase his anxiety. He was out a month of school. The investigation showed the aide did what she did and was fired. The closet doorare off and they are to never to use seclusion on our son. Since then they had no more problems at the school with him once he was back. However our son freaks out when going into small areas and the door closes behind him. I think teachers and aide need better training and never do this type of harm to any child.

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Hi there! I'm the advocacy communications manager for TASH (http://tash.org), and also the communications coordinator for the Stop Hurting Kids campaign to end restraint and seclusion abuse in schools. If you have a question about the campaign and what we're doing, send me an e-mail at jriethmaier@tash.org.
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