Federal report: Schools hurting disabled students
The practice of restraining and secluding students with disabilities continues to get scrutinized – and now at the highest levels. Last week, the House Committee on Education & Labor held hearings on the topic, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan promised increased oversight and the General Accounting Office issued this troubling report.
The GAO found hundreds of cases of reported abuse over the past two decades, but could not determine how widespread they were because there is no Web site, government agency or other entity that tracks them. Among the cases it highlighted: One from Miami-Dade, in which a volunteer teacher’s aide was charged in 2003 with binding and gagging at least five 6- and 7-year-olds with tape.
“The aide lashed their arms to their laps, tied their ankles together, strapped their bodies to their desks, fastened their heads to the blackboard and sealed their mouths shut,” the report says. “We could find no evidence to indicate that the school trained or conducted a background check on the aide, who was at the time a felon on probation for armed burglary, cocaine possession and grand theft.”
The GAO found no federal regulations related to seclusion and restraint and wide variation in state laws. Nineteen states, including Florida, have no regulations, it said. The federal report comes on the heels of this one from the National Disability Rights Network, which drew national attention in January and lists other Florida cases.