Archive for Education

Experts Say “Scream Rooms” Untherapeutic, Harmful to Children and Others at School

Here is a follow up on the “Scream Rooms” that are being used in Connecticut public schools.

By KATHLEEN MEGAN, The Hartford Courant

Experts Call ‘Scream Rooms’ Untherapeutic, Harmful To Children And Others At School – State Broadening Its Investigation In Middletown; Civil Rights Complaint Filed

Please click to view news video.

Every morning Michael Sexton hears the same thing from his 8-year-old son: “Daddy, I don’t want to go to school. Daddy, I don’t want to go.”

Sexton says it’s because his son, Robert, spent too much time alone in a small room — sometimes called a scream room, a timeout room or a safe room — as a way to control his behavior at a public school run by Area Cooperative Regional Education Services in North Haven.

Sexton heard about the outcry in Middletown last week when parents learned that children with troublesome behaviors at Farm Hill School were put into a 10-by-6-foot room with a window on the door — as a place to calm down.

Sexton said he was glad to hear that people were speaking out against the use of these rooms.

“It’s like torture for kids,” said Sexton, who lives in New Britain. “That’s like sitting in jail, sitting behind bars. It’s not good for them.”

Many national and state advocates for children agree, and say that “scream rooms” or seclusion rooms should be banned, calling them untherapeutic and harmful to children and to the school community.

“We think it’s an absolutely horrific practice that has no basis in research,” said Denise Marshall, executive director of the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates in Towson, Md. “It’s extremely traumatic to everyone. … We have had situations where students have died in this type of room.”

Jane Hudson, a senior staff attorney with the National Disability Rights Network in Washington, said there was no evidence that secluding a child had any therapeutic value.

“These are archaic methods to control behavior and to try to keep people safe,” she said. “Can you imagine how frightening this is for a 6-year-old? Of course, they are going to react, that’s why the screaming occurs: ‘Get me out of here!'”

Hudson said it was far better to provide “lots of training for staff about how to de-escalate children and positive behavior intervention. … Schools are behind the curve in getting the appropriate training.”

In Connecticut, a group of attorneys and advocates for children with disabilities filed a complaint Friday with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education, charging that the practice of using the seclusion room chiefly or exclusively for children with special needs at Farm Hill School violates their civil rights.

U.S. Sen. Thomas Harkin, D-Iowa, has introduced legislation that would ban the use of seclusion rooms for children in schools.

“I think Connecticut needs to know that this is an issue the whole country has been grappling with,” said Mary Beth Bruder, director of the A.J. Pappanikou Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the University of Connecticut Health Center, “and the whole country is moving toward banning seclusion and restraint.”

Law Requires Monitoring And Parental Notification

In Connecticut, the use of seclusion rooms is allowed under a 2007 law for students with disabilities “as specified in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) … as determined by a team of professionals that includes parents of the child.”

The law goes on to provide information about how and when a child can be secluded and calls for frequent monitoring and notification of parents when a child has been in a seclusion room.

The outrage in Middletown erupted when parents said they witnessed two school staff members holding a door shut on a “scream room” while a child inside kicked and screamed uncontrollably. A meeting was held last week at which parents said that their children were distracted and intimidated by the screaming, and at least one child said that it was “scary” and made it hard to concentrate on her work.

“This is a classic example of why this kind of technique should never be used in a school,” Marshall said. “It’s just traumatic for a school.”

At a press conference Friday, Middletown Superintendent Michael Frechette addressed an issue that has been of concern — the occasional use of the timeout rooms by students without IEP programs.

“I wanted to make clear that I have directed all administrative staff in the district to cease, immediately, using timeout rooms for students who do not have specialized, legally created IEPs,” Frechette said.

Frechette said that the timeout rooms would be relocated to a new “suite area” on the second floor of the building and that the rooms would be used by “a very small, specialized population with behavioral, emotional or other support needs.”

It is this practice — using the rooms chiefly or only for children with disabilities — that prompted the complaint filed against the Middletown public schools on Friday by 19 Connecticut lawyers and advocates for children with disabilities.

“It breaks my heart to say that children are learning in this school in Middletown that it’s acceptable to treat children with disabilities as if they don’t have any rights,” said Jennifer Laviano, a Sherman attorney who signed the complaint. “The image of a child thinking it’s acceptable for adults to treat other children as second-class citizens, locking them away, banging on the door. …”

She said she also was incensed to hear that the Middletown district “will simply move this room so as not to bother the other children.”

James McGaughey, executive director of the state Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, said that he was broadening the scope of his office’s investigation at Farm Hill to include another elementary school in Middletown and possibly others.

“We began by interviewing administrators and touring this particular school,” McGaughey said, “but this appears to be a feature of other schools in Middletown as well.”

His investigation will look at whether any abuse or neglect has occurred at the schools. The use of seclusion rooms appears to be widespread in Connecticut, McGaughey said, because his office has been receiving calls from parents in other towns who also are distressed with the use of timeout rooms at their children’s schools.

He said he’s had telephone calls from parents who say that particular schools “made us sign a paper to say it’s OK to do this.”

Almost Every Day

Michael Sexton said that when he enrolled his son, Robert, in the ACES school in North Haven, he was told that a timeout room might be used for his son.

“They said they don’t use it often and they won’t put him in there unless they have to,” Sexton said, but he said that Robert, who has attention difficulties and epilepsy, came home complaining that he was put in the room almost every day.

Sexton said that his son began begging not to go to school. After about 18 months at ACES, Sexton said that he withdrew his son last spring. Now Robert attends a school run by the Wheeler Clinic in Plainville.

Robert’s experience at the Wheeler Clinic has been much better, Sexton said, but his son still often begs not to go to school even though a timeout room is not used there.

“It’s post-traumatic stress,” Sexton said.

Robert Parker, a spokesman for ACES, said that the timeout rooms at the ACES special education schools are called “alternative learning areas.”

He said that staff members were trained to use them properly, but that they were “used relatively infrequently and only when absolutely necessary.”

A student might be sent to a timeout room, he said, when they “can no longer successfully learn in the classroom because of their behavior” or when they are a danger to themselves or others.

Diane Willcutts, an education advocate from West Hartford, said that parents whose children have been put in seclusion rooms have told her that their children are “throwing up at the thought of going back to school. They’ll start talking about the size of the room. … They are traumatized.”

She said she knows of a kindergartner who was locked in a bathroom and spent the time rocking back and forth, banging on a pipe. When the child went home, her mother found a softball-sized bruise on her back.

“It’s hard to imagine a 5-year-old child in imminent danger or causing imminent danger to others who couldn’t be helped any other way,” Willcutts said. “There are other ways to help kids without locking them in a room.”

One mother said that her 10-year-old son, who is mildly autistic and attends a public school in the Farmington Valley, is in a timeout room almost every day, sometimes spending an entire afternoon there.

“It’s a shame because he measures the success of his day on how long he spent in the timeout room,” said the mother, who asked that her identity and town not be revealed. “And that’s wrong. That’s really not the way it should be.”

She said she believes that he winds up in the room — often with the door open — because his educational program is lacking and because staff are not sufficiently trained.

“My issue has always been, if you don’t think you can handle my child, then you need to ask for help,” she said.

A timeout room should be “a last resort,” she said, not something that happens every day.

“He hates it,” she said. “He says it’s cold in there.”

‘An Act Of Desperation’

Ross Greene, the author of “The Explosive Child” and “Lost at School” and an associate clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, said that the use of timeout rooms could be greatly diminished if schools were more pro-active.

Throughout the country in recent years, he said, there’s been a move to dramatically reduce the use of seclusion and restraints in juvenile prisons and in mental health inpatient units.

But at schools, Greene said, the use of seclusion remains “extremely popular.”

When students begin spending a lot of time in seclusion rooms, Greene said, it’s a clear indication that a child is not understood and is not receiving the care he needs.

“It’s an act of desperation” when a teacher brings a child to a seclusion room, he said. “It’s what adults do when things are already completely out of control to calm things down.”

Greene said that much of this trouble can be avoided if an effort is made to help kids acquire crucial skills: flexibility, frustration tolerance, problem-solving and others.

“I think we should be bending over backward to not be using them and to not be needing them,” he said of the rooms.

If schools are using the seclusion rooms often, he said, certain questions arise. “Do we have adequate staff? Are they adequately trained? Are we overwhelmed by numbers? Do these kids need treatment we may not be able to provide?”

Keep squeaking your wheels.  This has to stop.

Scream Rooms In Connecticut Schools

Scream Room

Scream Room

Children with disabilities being placed in seclusion in public schools across the country including here in Florida.  The students in Connecticut have dubbed them “Scream Rooms.”

Horrible – but true!

Officials: ‘Scream rooms’ common in Connecticut schools

FIU offers program for students with special needes

WEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. (WSVN) — A local school is giving students with special needs the opportunity to go to college.

Florida International University started it’s Project Panther Life for intellectually disabled students. “It’s important for people to realize that an intellectual disability does not limit you from so many other things that you can do in your life” said a Liliana Demoya, a mother who helped start the program.

SB 144: Seclusion and Restraint on Students With Disabilities in Public Schools

Child In Florida School Being Restrained

Again this year we try to enact legislation that will help reduce the harmful and often abusive seclusion and restraint of our children with disabilities in our public schools.

Senator Anitere Flores is sponsoring SB 144.  Seclusion and Restraint on Students with Disabilities in Public Shools.

In a nutshell the legislation will do the following:

Seclusion and Restraint on Students With Disabilities in Public Schools; Requiring that manual physical restraint be used only in an emergency when there is an imminent risk of serious injury or death to the student or others; providing restrictions on the use of manual physical restraint; prohibiting the use of manual physical restraint by school personnel who are not certified to use district-approved methods for applying restraint techniques; requiring that each school medically evaluate a student after the student is manually physically restrained; prohibiting school personnel from placing a student in seclusion; providing requirements for the use of time-out; requiring that a school district report its training and certification procedures to the Department of Education, etc.

In the 2010 – 2011 School year we had over 10,000 incidents of restraint reported in our public schools.

Thank you Sen Flores for sponsoring this legislation.  We need to protect our children.

Remember School Is Not Supposed To Hurt.

Keep squeaking those wheels.  Ask your legislator to support or co-sponsor this legislation.



DA Investigates Abuse of Student with Disabilities in Fulton County

From Georgia:Families Against Restraint And Seclusion

ALPHARETTA, GA (CBS ATLANTA) – Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard confirmed Thursday that a criminal investigation has been launched into the abuse that allegedly took place five years ago at Hopewell Middle School in Milton.

The announcement comes as CBS Atlanta News continues to ask Tough Questions about the abuse allegedly covered up by the Fulton County School System.

In a statement, Howard said, “Let me first begin by applauding CBS Atlanta’s continued reporting of this matter. There is nothing more important to my office than the protection of children and holding accountable those responsible for bringing harm to our most innocent victims.”

Howard continued to say that Fulton County Schools and Roswell Police Departments are jointly investigating allegations of abuse by former special education teacher Melanie Pickens dating back to 2006.

Lisa Williams, the mother of a special needs child reportedly abused, got emotional when told of the criminal investigation.

“That’s what I wanted,” said Williams to reporter Jeff Chirico when he broke the news to her.

Williams said she believes Pickens and others within the district who knew but didn’t stop the abuse should be prosecuted.

Alex Williams, now 18, was reportedly shoved, cursed at and isolated by Pickens at Hopewell Middle School in Milton during the 2006-2007 school year.

Lisa Williams, who said she learned of the abuse from another student’s mother in 2010, testified that the district never told her about the abuse. Williams also said the district blocked out her son’s name in a copy of the 2007 investigative report she requested. The district also withheld other records, she said.

“I was totally unprepared for the corruption. I feel they covered it up in an intentional attempt to prevent me from finding any of this out,” said Williams during a due process hearing in administrative court Wednesday.

The Williams family is requesting that the Fulton County School System pay for Alex’s future education costs estimated at $2.5 million. “I will not send him back there,” said Williams referring to Fulton County schools.

An investigation was commissioned by the Fulton County Board of Education in 2007 to explore possible abuse of a student, Jake Marshall. The 29-page investigative report concluded that former special education teacher Melanie Pickens apparently mistreated six students.

The Fulton County School System has come under fire for failing to tell parents that their children were named as abuse victims in the report which called Pickens’ actions “possibly criminal.”

On Tuesday, Fulton County School Board President Linda Schultz testified she did not know more than one student was abused by a special education teacher because she didn’t read the investigative report.

Schultz testified that she did not know other children were abused until she saw news coverage about it in 2011.

Williams’ attorney, Chris Vance, said the school system should have notified police of the abuse. However, district officials did not notify police until 2009 when it forwarded information to its own police department. Fulton County school police Captain Felipe Usury testified Tuesday he was instructed by his superior to close the case without forwarding the information to the district attorney’s office to determine if laws were broken.

Educators testified Monday about student abuse they allegedly witnessed at the hands of Pickens.

Several former and current employees of the Fulton County School System told similar stories of abuse and neglect including hitting, kicking and shoving special needs students.

According to testimony Monday, Williams was shoved often by Pickens during the 2006-2007 school year. Williams, who was 14 at the time, does not communicate verbally and has trouble walking.

Teaching assistant Denise Baugh testified Pickens burped, passed gas and shook her buttocks and breasts in students’ faces.

Several educators said they reported abuse to then principal Frances M. Boyd who ignored it.

In a bombshell admission, a coordinator for special education services for the Fulton County School System admitted that administration knew Pickens was abusing students for years. Pettes said she had recommended administration not renew Pickens’ contract after her first year as a Fulton County employee in 2002. Pettes said Pickens had trouble handling the students.

The Fulton County School System investigated the abuse of student Jake Marshall in 2007 after a teacher contacted the Division of Family and Children Services about an incident involving another student, Jake Marshall. Marshall, now 19, is nonverbal and has trouble walking.

While being restrained on May 21, 2007, Jake defecated and smeared feces on his body and the chair in an attempt to clean himself, Marshall’s mother Judy said.

The incident led the Fulton County Board of Education to launch the investigation.

Pickens resigned from Fulton County Schools on July 25, 2007, five days after the school system completed the investigative report that confirmed allegations of abuse.

The report indicated the abuse occurred between 2004 and 2007. More than 10 teachers and school staffers gave statements to investigators indicating they witnessed Pickens “hitting Jake on the back of the head.” Statements also revealed Pickens kicked, cursed, pushed and regularly restrained Jake in a seclusion room for long periods of time.

“The investigation determined that the May 21, 2007 incident was the most recent occurrence in an extensive pattern of inappropriate and possibly criminal conduct Pickens subjected upon her special education students,” the report read.

“I never anticipated that school would damage him,” Lisa Williams, Alex’s mother, said.

Doctors diagnosed Alex with post-traumatic stress disorder after leaving Pickens class.

“He refuses to say the word ‘happy’ and that was one of his first words,” said Williams.

Attorney Vance said school officials should have reported the abuse to police long before 2009.

“It is a crime not to report abuse of disabled students,” Vance said.

Police have not charged anyone with a crime.

Vance said she believes the abuse and cover-up is symptomatic of a culture of abuse.

“It was tolerated, accepted and condoned. It is a complete lack of concern for children with special needs,” Vance said.

Marshall said she settled with Fulton County Schools but could not talk about the agreement. The Fulton County School System would also not release the terms of the settlement, despite several requests by CBS Atlanta News.

Riding the Short Bus is Not Supposed to Hurt

Yet another school bus driver is caught on camera abusing a student with disabilities.  Please I am in no way painting all bus drivers as abusive.  It is a hard and thankless job. However, we had numerous reports of school bus drivers abusing children physically or verbally.  Additionally, we have had numerous reports of children, especially children with disabilities being left on the bus.

Watch the video.

This should be an indication of a pattern.  School bus drivers need to be better screened, trained and monitored.  Our children, no matter what their ability or lack of ability, should be safe on the school bus.

Just as School is Not Supposed to Hurt – Riding the Short Bus is Not Supposed to Hurt.

The short bus, of course, is the bus for the children with special needs.  They are not allowed, in most school districts, to ride the regular school bus.  I actually remember the principal of an elementary school saying that she did not want “Those kids mixing with the normal students.”

This is an attitude that most find offensive.  It is also an attitude that most parents probably believe does not exist.  I can tell you that it does exist.  Our children; those who ride the short bus; those who have disabilities; those with special needs; are routinely segregated.

Most parents believe that their special needs children are better protected on the short bus.  They believe that their special needs children will be safer on the short bus.

Take a look at this video and you will see that they are not safer. You will see that children with disabilities who ride the short bus are vulnerable.

They are vulnerable because the employees who are entrusted with protecting our children do not do their job.  They claim they are stressed or over worked.  Join the club.  Ask the mother or father of a child with special needs how hard it is to parent them.  If anyone should be burned our, stressed or over worked, it is the parents.

School is Not Supposed to Hurt – Riding the Short Bus is Not Supposed to Hurt.  But hurt is does.

Keep squeaking those wheels – you do not have to take it anymore.

Mckay Scholarship Under Attack

The headline reads – “New Times exposé forces McKay scholarship reform”.  This has prompted legislators here in Florida to take a look at the McKay scholarship.  There has been fraud and misuse; there is no doubt about that.

The real question now is how will they respond?  Will they increase oversight on the how the scholarship money is being used?  Will they put so many restrictions on it, that it becomes worthless or so hard to qualify for that no one will use it?

The McKay scholarship is primarily for students in public schools who have a disability.  The scholarship allows the parent to remove the student from public school and place the child in a more appropriate private school environment.

Florida public schools have failed miserably when it comes to educating children with disabilities.  The abuse and misuse of seclusion and restraint results in these children being physically and emotionally harmed.  There were over 10,000 incidents of restraint in Florida in class rooms during the last school year.

Public schools in Florida have failed to provide proper and appropriate education for students with special needs.  They routinely place them on a track to receive a “Special Diploma”.  Translate into a “Worthless Diploma.”

The purpose of education is to educate.  Florida schools typically warehouse students with disabilities until they can legally pass them out into society.  These children, now adults, are unprepared and have no job or life skills.

The McKay scholarship was the one hope for many families.  It was the one chance that their child could get an appropriate education.

Now that hope is in jeopardy.  Scandal and budget shortages do not make a good match.  The fixes that the legislature enacts to prevent fraud should not prevent parents from being able to readily and easily access the scholarship.

Any restrictions on the scholarship should not affect the intent.  That being to allow children with disabilities to take their matrix money with them and attend a private school that will provide them with the education they need to be productive and successful adults.

Parents speak up and keep squeaking those wheels.

Bedford Family Alleges Abuse of Autistic Child in $20 Million Lawsuit

If it keeps costing our schools (and taxpayers) millions, maybe the abuse of seclusion and restraint will end in our public schools.

This from Bedford VA, provided by Georgia:Families Against Restraint And Seclusion

Bedford County’s school board and several current and former school employees are facing a $20 million lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, a 14-year-old autistic boy was attacked on his school bus by people who were supposed to protect him.

The alleged incidents happened more than two years ago. Attorneys for the boy’s family have produced video tape that they say shows some of the attacks.

Video captured from a school bus surveillance camera appears to show an adult woman kicking and hitting a young boy. Attorneys say the women is Mary Alice Evans, a former Bedford County teacher’s aide.

The child is an autistic boy.


We need to keep squeaking our wheels.  Wake up our children are being abused in school.  School is not supposed to hurt.

More Abuse of Students With Disabilities In Florida Schools

Child In Florida School Being Restrained

From St Lucie County in Florida comes another story of inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint.  Children with disabilities can be secluded and physically restrained in Florida public schools.  This abuse of our children needs to stop.

A First grader was handcuffed and taken to a mental health facility.  This is a First grader a child who is 7 or maybe 8 years old.

His hands were handcuffed behind him by the Sherriff and he was taken to the local mental health facility where he was baker acted.

The child was restrained after and incident with another student.

Realize that restraints can only be used if the child is a threat to self or others.  The child has to pose a serious threat of bodily harm.  How does a 7 or 8 year old who weighs less than 60 pounds create a life threatening incident?

The facts are still unclear.  The parents are having a hard time finding what exactly happened.  This despite the fact that new Florida legislation requires the school to file a detailed report with the State for all restraint incidents.  Parents are also required to be notified.
A representative for the school district declined issued this statement: “The school district and school staff are continuing to work with the family for the best educational opportunity for the child and in his best interest.”

Translate that into – the school does not want to be sued but will really not do anything to help educate this child.

We need to stop abusing our children in our public schools.  School is not supposed to hurt.

Keep squeaking those wheels. Do not put up with abuse of our children.

Miss Wheelchair Florida Runner-Up Role Model and Advocate

Laura-Lee Minutello was born with cerebral palsy. Her classmates probably never consider her beauty queen material.  She probably never thought of herself as beauty pageant material.

Now she is the runner-up for Miss Wheelchair Florida.  She was a reluctant advocate who did not want to be noticed or to stand out.

Now she is both an advocate and role model.  Congratulations for Laura-Lee we need more persons with disabilities to stand up and be heard.  She now has a platform to speak from and has not been shy about doing that.

Keep wheeling along and squeak those wheels when you have to.  You are beautiful.

Great story on Laura-Lee