Not only was a six-year-old boy with special needs duct-taped to his chair earlier this month by a first-grade teacher at Clara Hall School in Monroe County, Louisiana, because he would not stay in his seat. The child’s mother, Kilya Haynes, only found out about the inappropriate disciplinary measure after four days and not because school staff or a note from the teacher told her. Haynes found out about the incident because a local newspaper reported about it. Haynes was told that “she was not contacted because the incident was under investigation.”
As soon as she had learned about what had happened, Haynes went to the school and spoke to the school’s principal, Lametria Robinson. Haynes gives this account:
“My son got up to get a Kleenex to blow his nose and the teacher yelled at him and told him to sit down,” she said. “She asked him if he was mad and when he didn’t answer, she grabbed the tape.”
Haynes said she was told that her son had been moved to another teacher’s classroom. Despite the change, Haynes took her son from the school and asked him about the day he was taped down.
“He said he was just sad. The other kids were laughing at him,” she said. “ He said, ‘I was having a bad day.’”
After that investigation, School Superintendent Kathleen Harris said that the highly inappropriate measure will not be brought before the school board. The district has investigated, she says, has “taken steps to address the matter.”
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the school district has violated the rights of the child in more than a few ways. If a school district proposes using restraints and other such measures on a child with disabilities, the district needs to explain why before doing so — and there is very likely another solution to address the child’s behavior issues. There are far less harmful and intrusive measures including positive behavior interventions and supports that a teacher can take in the classroom. A special needs child might, for instance, have difficulties communicating and therefore behavior issues; a teacher needs to be aware of such difficulties and put pro-active appropriate measures in place.
As the editorial board of The News Star states:
We can only hope Monroe City School Board members will ask questions and review disciplinary procedures including corporal punishment at our schools.
We’re not sure this couldn’t happen to another child — or that it hasn’t happened before. The system and the board need to determine that and make sure appropriate disciplinary policies are well understood by all employees.
It is not yet clear how the teacher will be disciplined. Haynes says that she is considering taking legal action and is moving her son to another school. As she says,
“You send your child to school thinking he will be safe. If someone is going to pick on them, you expect that it would be another child, not a teacher.”
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