strengthen the safety & communication of special needs children in public schools

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My story:My son Anthony (6 years old) has Autism and his current school has absolutely no training in the care or safety of special needs...we were placed at this school  by the Cajon valley school district last year, I trusted the district to choose the appropriate environment based on his past two years of evaluations done by the district when he was in preschool. .At age 5 the school took it upon themselves to use a proact restraint method on my autistic son during a sensory overload (basically a tantrum that can be set off by many sensitivities such as  light and sound)one adult held him down on the ground with his arms crossed over his chest while his teacher crossed his ankles and held him down on the ground as well.. my son cried let me go I'm stuck please let me go, it hurts it hurts , they proceeded to keep in him this position for 5 mins. The school claims he was in a sensory overload.. remind you this is a 5 year old who weighed 51 lbs why do two adults need to immobilize him? the following week a child came to close into my sons space and my son pushed him away. The school principal suspended him for willfully fighting.. have you ever heard of a special needs child in kindergarten willfully fight?NO. my son had the language of a 2 year old at the time, he cannot converse so sometime he pushes to let people know 'hey too close',this all happened last year. Follow up to two weeks ago my son was in his TK/kindergarten/first grade class (6 adults and 11 children)and had experienced another sensory overload and decided to run out of the classroom which is a common thing for children with Autism to do, they elope (try to escape a situation that makes them feel scared or uncomfortable) . The school was well aware of this issue. With 6 adults in the room they let him exit the room , after 2 mins two adults decided to chase him down school hallways, through a separate building, through the office (with staff members watching), and out the gates onto  a busy street. Thank God two cars coming down the street stopped.From what I understand many of the staff were to afraid to intervene due to lawsuits. The principal even stated when asked why he did not stop him "I have a family to take care of, I'm not going to stop a child from running, I don't want to get sued." When asked what could be done in the future to stop this from happening the principal stated nothing.. he refuses to get staff trained or even try to rectify the safety situation.. how can a school completely ignore a known safety issue and not try to help a child stay safe, they are blaming him instead of helping him. I know my child makes unsafe choices but that is part of Autusm and the school is aware about these issues, they have been documented in his educational plan for the past 4 years. We are suppose to be a team trying to help my son be as successful as can be.. this school has no idea what they are doing in regards to my childs and other children's safety.

My concerns:

CONCERN # 1:Proactive restraint method: this restraining method is used daily at all public schools in America , it requires two adults to immobilize a child by holding them to the ground and pinning their arms across the chest,  the second adult crosses the child ankles and pins there legs to the ground.. staff can hold a child in this position for as long as they need too and can use this method whenever the deem, there are no set rules or guidelines.  The school is not required to inform the parents of students that staff are allowed to use  this method, in fact parents don't find out about this punishment until it is used on there child. Why do schools have the right to hide such a hands on, emotionally abusive technique without consent or informing the parent?? This must change! 

Concern #2:

No responsibility: I am a Jr kindergarten teacher associated with a preschool, I educate 4-5 year old children. We are under strict rules and guidelines set by state licensing, we have our certifications checked multiple times through the year to make sure we are current on our training, we have random pop up visits from licensing to ensure we are following the rules established to protect those children in our care, we have heavy gates that are unlocked (state law) yet to hard for a child to open by themselves, and we get fined for infractions such as a child escaping the classroom, being out of ratio, and other safety issues. Once a child reaches the public school systems (K-12) those laws and responsibilities to children's safety go out the window. 

My Solution:

My solution in regards to the proact restraint method is to have schools inform parents of this hands on punishment and to make information readily available in writing through school handbooks and open house information flyers explaining the process of proact, when it can be used and what staff members in the school are trained to do it. This will allow parents to be informed and school administrators to be forced to follow guidelines when thinking of using this hands on punishment. The secrecy needs to end and their needs to be set of strict guidelines that school follows, not loose words that can be interpreted as a school wishes.

My solution for increasing our children's safety is to have school follow the same guidelines as the preschool system. 

1)When a complaint is made by a parent or a safety issue at a school arises an outside third party agency should come in to do an investigation into the matter.

2) when a school is found to be in violation of children's safety they should be held accountable through fines, public notification of school infractions and/or termination.

Thank you for your time, please help me make our schools a safer place for all children to be at!
Kristen Dimler

 



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