Tonight, Rob Petree with 105.9 wrote an article about a Seaford School District parent who is claiming a teacher took unnecessary physical measures against her child with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the Autism spectrum. The mother explained what happened. When the student was told he could not go to the office when he became upset over not finding his writing journal, the mother claims the teacher took things a bit too far:
“My son said the teacher went so far as to stand in front of the door and block the door and not let him out. The teacher told him to get back in his seat, and he said ‘no I want to go to the office,’ and the teacher told him ‘no get in your seat or I’m going to put you in your seat,’ and Landon once again said no he wanted to go to the office, so the teacher grabbed him by his arm, picked him up, carried him across the room and slammed him down in his chair. Landon said he then got back up out of his chair and tried to go out the door again and the teacher wouldn’t let him out of the door. So he went over and sat down in the chair at the round table near the door, and the teacher again was telling him to get up and go get back in his seat and Landon refused. The teacher went over to try to grab ahold of Landon and Landon got upset, jumped up out of the chair, and grabbed the back of the chair and slammed the chair into the floor, trying to get around the teacher to get out the door. He said at that point the teacher said ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ and grabbed him up by his arm and physically carried him out of the door of the classroom, banging his forehead into the metal door facing in the process, and Landon said at that point as soon as the teacher sat him down in the hallway he ran straight to the office, and that’s when he called me.”
Even more alarming is the Seaford Middle School Principal’s response to her when she asked to see the video of the incident:
Today, I had a meeting with the Middle School Principal and basically what they told me today was that the teacher said that he asked Landon to leave several times and Landon wouldn’t leave the room, and that Landon was throwing pens, pencils, chairs and desks, and that they seen this on video; however, no one was able to produce any video to me showing my son behaving the way they said he behaved. I honestly, truly believe my son, and I believe this teacher is doing nothing but trying to protect himself and the school the same way. I cleaned my son’s locker out today, and he’s not going back to that school as long as that teacher is there.
This is unacceptable. I found out today the same thing happened to the parents of the child who was assaulted last week at Caesar Rodney High School. The district refused to release surveillance footage that captured the incident (and I will have more to say on that whole thing that hasn’t been made public yet). I tagged tons of our state legislators on my Facebook page with a link to the 105.9 article asking for legislation that would demand schools release video to parents whenever their child is harmed in any possible way.
The district will not respond to any of this. They will shut up unless they have to fire the teacher. People ask me why I write so much about bad stuff happening in our schools instead of the good. Sorry, this kind of crap outrages me. You can have many great things happening in schools, but this is what folks remember and talk about. This is a travesty. Even if this teacher used proper restraint and seclusion practices as dictated by state law, the district should still release the video to the parent. Instead, they are covering their asses.
A former board member for a district did tell me that video like this is released to the police department. They will review it and eventually it would be shared with the parent(s). I explained that the video could help a parent understand what happened. It could be necessary for them to see it so the parent can seek sufficient medical or counseling treatment for their child.
I wrote an article last year on the Delaware Dept. of Education’s annual Restraint & Seclusion report. Seaford Middle School had 13 incidents of restraint in the 2015-2016 school year. Compared to Milford’s middle school which had 1. In Seaford, they had 38 incidents of restraint affecting 21 students. But if this situation played out anywhere close to what the mother is claiming, this was no ordinary restraint. If it went down how she said it did, this teacher should face criminal charges for assault. Dealing with special education students can be challenging for teachers and parents. But if you don’t have the proper training required to take action like this, you should do nothing and contact someone who can help. Sadly, for this student, it will be a day he will never forget.
I don’t care where a video is: cafeteria, classroom, bus, hallway or anywhere on school property. If a parent asks to see it, you show it to them, no questions asked. The act of withholding something like that immediately sends red flags up with parents. Or saying you have it but then you don’t. You reap what you sow with that kind of logic. In the case of the Family Educational Records Protection Act (FERPA), that applies to educational records. If a parent requests records on their child, the school is obligated to produce it. But is surveillance video considered an educational record? That will be the argument here. But I don’t care. If a kid gets hurt, you do the right thing and show the parent. Cause it could mean the difference between a parent deciding whether or not to sue the district.
This should NOT happen in our schools. Tonight, I am very pissed off. At this. At Caesar Rodney. At other districts where I am trying to help parents navigate through special education issues with schools. So much of what I help parents with are things every school should know by now. Districts and charters complain all the time about getting sued so much and the “predatory” law firms. Guess what? The very act of protecting yourself is usually what gets you sued. How does that work out for you?
Updated, 9:50pm: A big thank you to special education advocate Devon Hynson for providing a link to what FERPA says about surveillance videos-
Schools are increasingly using security cameras as a tool to monitor and improve student safety. Images of students captured on security videotapes that are maintained by the school’s law enforcement unit are not considered education records under FERPA. Accordingly, these videotapes may be shared with parents of students whose images are on the video and with outside law enforcement authorities, as appropriate. Schools that do not have a designated law enforcement unit might consider designating an employee to serve as the “law enforcement unit” in order to maintain the security camera and determine the appropriate circumstances in which the school would disclose recorded images.