Thursday, November 26, 2009

What Does It Feel Like To Tie Up A Child?

What Does It Feel Like To Tie Up A Child?

Rich La Belle, Executive Director
Family Network on Disabilities

So, I've been wondering. What does it feel like to tie up a child? What does it take for an adult to think it's a good idea or even just ok to tie up a child? It seems to be happening all the time, most recently in Hillsborough County, Florida: . All the time, that is, as long as the child in question has a disability.

What goes through the mind of an adult that actually moves them to tie up (or down) a child placed in their care? In this latest case, it appears that a teacher tied a student in his class to a chair with a coaxial cable, like a tv cable.

The story in the Tampa Tribune says that the teacher had been teaching for four years and was certified to work with students in exceptional education. The teacher, however, says he had no formal experience with students with severe disabilities.

Ok, I can understand a lack of experience, but how does that translate in the mind of a trained educator into "it's ok to tie up a kid with a tv cable"? Before anyone asks, the student wasn't being unruly and he wasn't a danger to himself or others (not that that would automatically justify tying him up). He was simply identified as a "runner". For that, he got tied up - by his teacher.

What happened to the teacher? The district investigated, the sheriff's office investigated and - you've got to know the story by now - no charges were filed. Even though the sheriff's office found "signs of child abuse and neglect." The school district closed its investigation in August. It suspended the teacher for five days, which can be spread out by the teacher over the course of the school year. I can feel that slap on the wrist all the way across the bay.

That brings me to another question - why does the law seem to be suspended when it comes to these type of cases? Why are there few prosecutions? Why are the administrative punishments of those who do these things to our kids so weak? I don't have an answer for this. I just think it's outrageous - and it's beginning to give other educators a bad name. That's another real crime.

So, what's happening now? The family is suing the school district. I recently heard that a preliminary estimate of the cost of providing initial Positive Behavioral Supports training for a school is about $2,000.00. That's not even going to cover the cost of the District's lawyers to file an initial response to the family's lawsuit. Can't we spend our money better than this? If I lived in Hillsborough County, I'd be really ticked off that my tax dollars were going to pay lawyers to defend against something like this. This might be an issue to raise with the school board at their next meeting. What do you think?

Help end this - join and build the Cause (over 1,200 members as of this writing):

* Please note my new email address:

Richard La Belle
Executive Director
Family Network on Disabilities
2196 Main St. Suite K
Dunedin, FL 34698
(727) 523-1130/(800) 825-5736
Fax: (727) 523-8687

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