Disabled Students Are Being Restrained Unnecessarily

Disabled Children | Restraint Seclusion | The Maher Law Firm“Restraint and seclusion are totally out of control”

said Phyllis Musumeci, a Florida Brevard County parent who founded Parents Against Restraint and Seclusion.

Disabled children have been restrained for non-aggressive behavior without their parents consent.

According to data reported to the state of Florida, Orange County schools restrained their students 952 times during the 2011-2012 school year.  In Hillsborough, the report showed 913 students were restrained, in Seminole County 474 students, and in Miami-Dade, 207 students were restrained.

Disabled students in Orange County Florida public schools are forcibly restrained more than those in other Florida school districts.  School staff in this district have held students on the ground, pinned by their arms and legs and strapped to boards as part of a controversial behavioral-modification technique.

Two years ago, Florida state law changed to require incident reporting to bring such practices into the open.  Since then, Orange County eliminated the use of seclusion (children left alone in a room if they acted out) and the number of restraints dropped from 2,394 cases in 2010-2011 school year to the current 952 students in the 2011-2012 school year.

Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said, “We’re going to continue to work on bringing those numbers down, using strategies to keep students safe and staff safe.”

But the state has a long way to go, according to Phyllis Musumeci.  ”They need to understand that these children are using behaviors to communicate,” said Musumeci.

In the past year, Florida Orange County schools have retrained some of it’s staff on ways to “head off” behavioral problems. Support teams are now assembled to evaluate situations when a student is restrained more than once.  Staffers have also developed alternatives for students who had been put into seclusion rooms.

Anna Diaz, Orange County’s ‘special-education services head’ said, “We need to use restraints for students who are in imminent danger.”  Diaz plans to consult with other Florida school districts such as Miami-Dade to learn their techniques in keeping restraint numbers low.

Joe Ortaliz, a father who enrolled his son into a United Cerebral Palsy charter school in Orange County Florida said, “The damage that can be done is longstanding.  It damages their [children's] core belief that they’re safe.”

Ortaliz’s son was held down for 45 minutes in one incident and soon after developed post traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy and autism-spectrum behaviors.  Ortaliz’s son still talks and cries about the instance today.

If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered injury or death due to the negligence, abuse, or fault of another, you may have a right to compensation for your injuries. The Maher Law Firm would like to help. We invite you to contact our trial-tested personal injury attorneys today.


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