When Shaylyn Searcy came home on Monday, she was unable to walk off her school bus on her own. The 8-year-old’s feet and ankles had been duct-taped, says the Indianapolis Star, and it took her family a good 30 minutes to remove what turned out to be industrial strength duct tape.
Shaylyn has Down syndrome and her ankles were bruised from the duct tape which, her mother says, was so strong that parts of the girl’s socks and vinyl from her shoes came off with the tape. Her family says that she will not be returning to Westlake Elementary School and have notified the State Department of Chlld Services.
Shaylyn had had a history of refusing to put on her shoes. But, says her mother, Elizabeth Searcy, teachers have contacted her before to address the situation.
It goes without saying that the use of the duct tape on Shaylyn was simply uncalled for and highlights why we need to push for national legislation regulating and limiting the use of restraints on kids with disabilities in public school settings. As Kim Dodson, associate executive director of The Arc of Indiana, tells the Indianapolis Star, Indiana is one of twenty states that have no laws to prohibit the excessive use of seclusion and restraint in public schools.
The Indianapolis Star’s account of binding Shaylyn’s legs with duct tape also points to a failure on the school district’s part to follow basic provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. If Shaylyn is having difficulties keeping her shoes on, her teacher, therapists and parents should be meeting to discuss ways to teach her to keep them on and spell these out in her Individualized Education Plan (IEP), rather than calling her mother on a case-by-case basis and certainly rather than binding her legs with duct tape.
Restraining Shaylyn with the tape was not only inhumane, but also a violation of her rights under the IDEA. Perhaps teaching staff thought they had found a solution to keep her shoes on but they simply failed to to think of the overall implications of such cruelty and of its effect on a young girl (and on anybody). As Shaylyn herself said about the duct tape, “it hurts.”
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