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May 19th, 2009
11:54 AM ET

Special ed students, teachers - and cases of abuse

SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHERS MAY HAVE THE TOUGHEST JOB IN THE BUSINESS.
AS A FATHER OF A CHILD WITH AUTISM, MY FAMILY'S BEEN BLESSED WITH A WONDERFUL TEACHER THIS YEAR.
BUT NEXT YEAR MIGHT BE DIFFERENT.
IN SOME SCHOOLS, TEACHERS MAY NOT HAVE THE BEST TRAINING, OR CLASSROOM STRESS MAY LEAD THEM TO MAKE POOR DECISIONS.

TODAY, THE HOUSE EDUCATION AND LABOR COMMITTEE IS PRESENTING A GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE REPORT DETAILING ABUSES IN SPECIAL ED CLASSROOMS.
LAWMAKERS ARE LOOKING AT SETTING NATIONAL STANDARDS ON WHAT TEACHERS CAN AND CANNOT DO IN DEALING WITH DISRUPTIVE KIDS.
YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT THIS AT CNN.COM.
BUT WE'D ALSO LIKE TO HEAR FROM YOU ON THIS ISSUE.
POST YOUR OPINIONS AND YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES.

BY PHIL RILEY
SENIOR WRITER


Filed under: Anchors • Heidi Collins • In the Newsroom
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Colin Dean

    WHY ARE WE YELLING?!

    THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO GET OUT OF THE BUSINESS OF EDUCATION.

    FIRST AND FOREMOST, CONGRESS IS NOT GRANTED THE CONSTITUTIONAL POWER TO MAKE LAW REGARDING PUBLIC EDUCATION. IT GETS AROUND THE WORD OF THE LAW BY TYING EVERYTHING TO FUNDING. THIS IS NOT IN THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW.

    TYING A TEACHER'S HANDS WHEN IT COMES TO DEALING WITH DISRUPTIVE KIDS CAN CREATE A SITUATION WHERE THE "RIGHT THING TO DO" IS NOT IN THE BEST INTEREST OF EITHER THE DISRUPTIVE CHILD OR THE INNOCENT BYSTANDER CHILDREN. TEACHERS MUST USE THEIR OWN JUDGMENT AND MORALITY AND FACE THE CONSEQUENCES IMPOSED BY THEIR PRINCIPALS AND SCHOOL BOARD IF PARENTS, STUDENTS, OR OTHERS FEEL THE ACTION OR INACTION TO BE APPROPRIATE.

    A PROPER RESPONSE TO A SITUATION IN CHICAGO MAY NOT BE A PROPER RESPONSE TO A SITUATION IN SNOW SHOE, PA.

    May 19, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  2. RJ

    While such ailments are a tradegy to mankind they are are fact of matter that we have to deal with. While I feel sorry for kids who have such disabilities I also feel our obligation to our kids who dont have these disabilities. I can tell you from my own experience and my kids I sent through school, these kids with disabilities or handicapps should be in schools set aside from the regular schools as these kids only hamper or hinder normal kids who are trying to learn. They need to be in special schools with special teachers! They should not be thrown in schools where normal kids are trying to learn! I know from my own kids being in school that the policy was to force these mentally retarded and handicapped kids into the same classes as normal kids and it was nothing but a big distraction to the normal kids and they had to be held back do to the learning curve of the special kids, which in turn was not good for the special kids who needed a different kind of setting to make their learning easier for the teachers! As sad as it may be these kids deserve to be in a school of their own and not thrown into schools where normal kids learn!

    May 19, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  3. Angela from Tampa Florida

    Expose the freaking Teachers!! Who are they what are there names!! Why are the teachers being protected?

    May 19, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  4. Clay Henson

    Your irresponsible coverage of this tragedy is not only disgusting but libelous. i thought i was watching Fox News. If what you take as fact is true, any teacher who killed a student would be in jail, not the classroom.
    You should be ashamed !

    May 19, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  5. Jamie D.

    CNN Newsroom just announced there are NO rules/laws concerning restraint for Special Ed students. That is simply not true. I just "google'd" and learned there are indeed standards-who can, where, how long, qualification, etc.–I even went to the TN link as saw the criteria. It explained IEP's must address, what person could, area needs, time allowed, etc.

    Surely, if TN has regulations, other states do also. i would believe ALL are under federal regs. Maybe not all schools obey the laws/rules, but I'm sure they are "on the books".

    May 19, 2009 at 2:30 pm |
  6. Bob in Seattle

    I totally agree with Colin's comment above.

    I'm also a little disturbed to see that CNN and Abbie Boudreau are only reporting this story from one angle, and ultimately seem to be blaming the teacher.

    In a vacuum, a 2-hour time out for an incredibly disruptive child does not strike me as being *unreasonable,* let alone "torture" as the father ridiculously claimed. It's not like the child was shackled or water boarded; he was just sitting alone, apparently drawing all over himself with a washable marker. What would Ms. Boudreau have had the teacher do? Why didn't she ask the *parents* some tough questions, like, "What were you doing at home to ensure that your child was not being disruptive in the classroom and undermining 25 other children's education?" and/or "How frequently did you volunteer in your child's classroom to help ensure that your child was being treated well and behaving properly?"

    Teachers aren't psychologists or miracle workers. They get paid a whopping $35k per year to *teach* 20-30 children for 6-7 hours per day. One disruptive child can make an already-tough job virtually impossible. So, gimme a break, and report the story even-handedly.

    May 19, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  7. Deb

    While it is a tragedy to hear that children have died at the hands of their teachers, I wish to speak out for those "good" special needs teachers. I have a family member that currently teaches "learning disabled" children and prior to this they taught autistic children. Yes, there were times where this individual may have had to restrain a child from hurting themselves or others, while they themselves were injured by the child in the form of being bitten, punched, hit or kicked. Furthermore, when a child did bite, they the teacher, were REQUIRED to have a HEB B test done where as the child was not. Many of these teachers receive physical abuse from these children day in and day out, without receiving any help from their supervisors nor the parents. Not only is there a need for "standards" to be set by the schools, not government, to prevent unqualified individuals from improperly restraining a child, but there needs to be some type of system set up to help these teachers when they are physically hurt by the children.

    May 19, 2009 at 2:38 pm |
  8. Dorothy

    We are a family of teacher. My husband and two daughters are special ed teachers. These stories are tragic. Any death of a child is terrible. We are hearing one side of these stories. Remember everyone is consider Innocent until proven guilty. Teachers file reports for any accident in the classroom and there are hearings to which all interested parties can attend and respond.
    Parents or foster parents who have concerns about their children can ask for IIP ( a special meeting with the teacher, principal, school psychologist and other school professional.
    My daughter in dealing with a violent second grader was kick and suffer a miscarriage. Teachers do and should continue to receive training to deal with all children.

    May 19, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  9. John Van Ness

    The biggest hurdle a teacher for special needs children is the ability to work with each of them . I stress the EACH. The regular class will normally work as a group or as groups. This special class is never normal . If that teacher hopes to do the job that is expected of them , they must have the extra help to respond when any one ,or all , of the children are doing their thing. A member of our family is a teacher of such a class and has been for over 12 years. She comes home bruised from being hit and bitten , soiled because a child has thrown up on her and emotionally drained because a parent has demanded that their child get more individual attention. Every year she has threatened to quit. But no. " These children need me."
    SO THEN FOR THE BIGGEST HURDLE , the principal , once again says that you will have only one aide. And by the way , we cannot relieve you for your lunch as your aide is not qualified to manage the class.
    This is my daughter and i tell tell her to " explain the problem ". I have long ago learned that this is not the support she needs.

    If you want to understand the problem , first spend some time in a class room. Then ask the principal , the school board chair and their attorney to join you in that classroom.

    I do not defend all teachers but I'll be the first to tell you that I could not nor would I do what they do.

    Thank God for teachers like my daughter !

    John Van Ness
    Allen County , Kentucky
    .

    May 19, 2009 at 3:08 pm |
  10. John

    I viewed your report on the "Time-out" given to this autistic student with disgust.
    .
    I have worked in classrooms with autistic and other learning disabilities. It is quite obvious you did not do your homework for this interview such as attend one or two classes that the students attend. Students in these classes can be quite disruptive and physical. Timeouts are very useful. This young man may have had a bad day and needed the time alone.

    Your interview showed the young man a very normal child but in reality could change to any type of behavior in an instant. This was an unfair interview with a family who is in a lawsuit and giving them more amunition to fleese the school system for money! How naive of reporting a sitruation. You took a one sided story and ran it for whose benefit?

    You need to be replaced with a more mature reporter!

    If you had attended any of these classes, you would find very dedicated and caring teachers.

    May 19, 2009 at 3:40 pm |
  11. Maria K. Gaebler

    I was appalled by the report about children being abused and even killed at the hands of their teachers. How do we counter such horror? Let's start with putting people first. Don't say "special needs children" say "children with special needs." That might seem trivial unless it's your child.
    I have been a special education teacher for many years. I specialize in teaching children with severe special needs. Times have changed. No one specializes anymore. Teachers are trained for "cross categorical" certification. That means they can teach anyone diagnosed with a disability whether it's a learning disability, cognitive delay, behavior disorder, etc. What's missing from the pre-service teacher training are courses on severe disabilities. These courses are only offered at the graduate level. The vast majority of teachers are highly motivated, caring, dedicated men and women who want all children to achieve, but if teachers are not trained in proper intervention techniques more children will be hurt or killed.

    Denying children with severe disabilities qualified, trained educators is a serious violation of their civil rights.
    I call on CNN to use its vast resources to encourage universities and school districts to properly educate and train pre-service special educators.

    Maria K. Gaebler

    May 19, 2009 at 7:23 pm |
  12. Curt

    There are videos where a Missouri School was taken to court. It is amazing how little training these people recieve.

    check out http://WWW.JeffCoLeaders.com

    May 20, 2009 at 8:51 am |
  13. Hope from Virginia

    As a parent of an Autistic child who was educated in the public schools and abused (in my eyes as well as many) I have to say regulations exist in IDEA, (disapline of handicap individuals) however these regulations are open ended for the descression of the district. In my son's situation another child who we believe was the culprit of harassmsent and threats to my son went to a teacher and said my child was scratching on the wall of the bathroom.... PLEASE READ THE LINKS BELOW!!!! Josh was accused of scratching FU** Josh U in the 4th grade bathroom wall; he was then taken to the office and interrigated for nearly 2 hours then after the grueling verbal, mental and I'm sure threatning style of "questioning"..... Josh was then forced to scrub human feces dried on the wall of the 3rd grade bathroom (the principal admitted the feces was another childs because it was dried) , all toilets and urinals of the 3rd and 4th grade bathrooms. Now with back door antics in investigations, justice is absent for these children! (READ THE STORY) I went to this school armed with a tape recorder and got the idiot of a principal on audio tape admitting what had happened and the poop he made my son clean up was someone elses.... but no justice came!!! I have sat with senators and shared our story, I hand delivered a 3" file to our governor when he was in town just to have NOTHING HAPPEN!!! I Filed complaints with the VDOE just to be told we do not regulate things such as this... I filed a lawsuit simply because I want JUSTICE for my son!!! and it was dismissed under souvern immunity!!! so basically here it is in a nutshell. we can our child to school and school staff can do anything to them they want and are immune from prossicution. they get away with it, and they know it!
    Sure Social services investigated this, at first a guilty of mental abuse causing moderate to severe harm was found, and then on appeal (that by the way the VICTIM is not allowed to attend) cleared the abuser of all alligations.
    Some of the handicap children do need specialty schools but remember it is a money thing, the more special needs students a school district has the more federal funding they recieve. If per say ALL handicap children are to be in specialized education programs in specialized schools the public school system would be near empty. I believe the statistics are 1 in about every 10 students suffer a handicapping disability. what is needed is a system of equality! if I had done this to my child I would be prossicuted, he would be in foster care and I would probably be in Jail serving a sentence.

    http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/99782
    http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/165616
    http://www.valawyersweekly.com/vlwblog/2009/02/23/schools-found-immune-from-student-lawsuits/#more-1131

    I know as you have searched the story and read what was reported some will say well the child did it... but he didn't !!! you see Josh cannot write with pen/ pencil and paper much less on a wall. the accusation reported against him was to protect the district not the child! and what about the feces... Josh is a compulsive hand washer!!! he was never in the 3rd grade bathroom where the feces was found... (Human rights testimony by the 1 on 1 therapyst with him at all times) and the feces was dried and lets not forget the principal admitted on tape it was another childs!

    God help these children from the idiots like this calling themselves educators and hide behind immunity when they should be prossicuted!

    May 20, 2009 at 9:45 am |
  14. Angela

    Laws already restrain criminal and juvenile court judges from wanting to deal with special education children and cases in their courtrooms. Parents and activists have rallied to have laws passed protecting the children, which has in turn made it impossible to have assistance from local judges. Because of the way laws already read....many students know they can do things and get away with it....because they are in the special ed program. Why are teachers the ones that lawmakers want to penalize??? Reform the laws on how judges can be involved with special education students so that judges are not afraid they will be sued for doing their jobs. Reform the laws so that school principals and superintendents are not afraid to suspend special education students with learning and behavior disorders for fear of being sued. Lack of consequences for these students does not help prepare them for the real world.

    Some students who have mild behavior and/or learning disorders know how to work the system. Others cannot help what happens but the teacher needs to be able to deal with it.

    I urge those who want to put more restrictions, laws and regulations on teachers to put themselves in the classroom with these students. These students can be and are violent.

    May 20, 2009 at 10:28 am |
  15. Hope from Virginia

    Laws protecting the handicap children from prosecution... Judges being AFRAID.... Teachers and superintendent's afraid to suspend handicap students.... are you for real..... it is obvious you have no Idea what happens to children such as this! Juvenile detention centers are full of children that suffer various forms of mental handicap! children who are in school frequently get sent home "EARLY" for 1/2 day suspension or more when they do the most minor of behavior manifestations of their disability!!! ( I have a discipline record suspending my Autistic child for 3 days for hiding under a table and kicking his feet) ( another 3 day suspension for growling at a teacher) Teachers are supposed to be educated beyond the normal population on educating and maintaining special needs children, However throwing a student to the ground to restrain them is not appropriate there is a proper restraint holds to be used to protect the student/ individual with a disability/ and the restrainer.... and do not confuse this with extended time restraint! simply put .... if the disabled child is causing harm to him/herself the hold may be used to remove the individual to a safe location where harm will not come to them or others!!!

    EDUCATE the SCHOOLS!!!
    PROSECUTE EVERYONE EQUALLY
    show no favoritism to TEACHERS/ ADMINISTRATORS using EXTREME TACTICS of punishment or RESTRAINT!
    What is applied to the general population in the law should as well be applied to the education system employees!!!

    May 20, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  16. brooke logan

    "Work the system?" How dare you. That child was in the third grade. He was 7 years old. I don't care how much of an apologist you are. It is NEVER ok for a full grown adult to sit on the thoracic (chest) cavity of a child. NEVER! And the teacher must be held accountable for his death. Period!

    May 20, 2009 at 11:31 am |
  17. Marie

    I have a special needs child who has also been abused and neglected and put down by his teachers. Was very damaging to him, and he was not learning, etc. The abuse was reported. Folks were mad at us instead of the teachers who were not acting like professional adults. After years of crap, like many parents of special needs kids, we finally gave up on public school, pulled him out of school, home schooled him, and he was working at grade level within one year. His self-confidence and self-esteem slowly came back.

    May 20, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  18. brooke logan

    Kyra is doing the story now. Cedric was 14, not 7, as I stated in my earlier post. I just wanted to correct that specific bit of information.

    Thank you Kyra. This....The public needs to know. Excellent job!!!

    May 20, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  19. David

    Behavior in this report that is sometimes exhibited by CNN anchors so, I'm sorry to say it's not surprising. Maybe some of the educators in this report watch tv.

    May 20, 2009 at 7:26 pm |
  20. Teacher

    I have been a General Ed teacher for only three years, so you can call me a rookie. My first year I got a 4/5 combination. These occur when there are not enough fourths to make a full class or enough fifths. Rookie teachers usually get these classes because as new teachers they are the lowest on the totem pole. (teaching two different grade levels at the same time takes a lot of work). I didn't mind the challenge and actually asked for it the next two years.

    In my three years I have 11 students with IEPs, meaning they are in Special Ed, but are in my class almost full time. I also have had 4 students in the last three years "mainstreamed" into my class, meaning they spend just part of the day in my class and the rest in a Special Day class where they are taught by a Special Ed teacher.

    I personally do not mind having students with special needs in my classroom. I am very flexible and most parents of special needs children have told me they find me very understanding of their kids. Growing up with issues of my own I tend to get them.

    In my classroom this year I have 5 students with IEPs and two students mainstreaming. I enjoy each and every one of my students and I am easily able to find something great about all of them. However I will not say that at times I do not get frustrated and upset.

    In any given day I may have a child crawling on the floor, obsessivily tapping a pencil, arguing with me (even though I have learned to never argue back), throwing objects, shouting out, trying to harm themselves, refusing to come inside and a plethora of other behaviors; all while I am trying to teach two different grade levels the ridiculously long list of things I am required to teach them. It is stressful, it is upsetting. There have been days where I have left in tears simply out of pure exhaustion. Other times in tears because a parent has told me I have not done enough. There have been days I have ranted and raved about the impossible task I am only paid 42K to do. There have been days that during my prep time I am racking my brain thinking of what other jobs I could apply for.

    But the fact is I love teaching and I love my job. As do countless other teachers who do what I do every day.

    And so I find it completely insulting when media, parents, and politicians, find isolated incidences and make judgments on all. There are millions of parents who abuse and kill their children, but I do not make the generalization that parents do not know how to raise kids. I instead ask "why is this happening?" "Is it more frequent in certain areas?" "How common is this?" I use the same strategies I use with my kids, special needs or not; I inquire in a respectful way why the behavior is happening and TOGETHER we try to work out a solution. I try to put myself in their shoes and in turn, challenge them to put themselves in mine.

    I have a saying in my room, nothing substantial is gained or learned from blaming. This is something I try to teach my students. Perhaps we all need this lesson.

    May 27, 2009 at 9:15 pm |
  21. Autisticmom

    Please Kyra Phillips : Continue cover the story about Special Ed students, teachers and cases of abuse. Do you know that the teenager
    that was brutally raped by others 4 teenagers in Walker Middle School Odessa Florida with a broomstick and a Hockey Stick was a special ed student?
    The school district was also responsible for that, they were supposed to oversight these teenagers and they didn't . The School district and the ESE Department were responsible too.
    Thank you! Remember:The press is the voice of the people that don't have one.

    August 17, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  22. Nobody wins

    I've worked in a M/S classroom for 11 years – middle & currently high school. W/o question 95% of students identified as Mod/Severe (MS) are in the appropriate setting.
    Yet, every few years a student presenting severe behaviors& limited functional communication/social skills is placed in my classroom.High school is tough for gen ed. And then there are hormones, (btw, teenagers these days..Big!) SN kids experience desires and emotional flux but seldom w/same opportunities for peer interaction. In a H.S. of 2800 is overwhelming. Students are anxious, frustrated, angry, bored and sometimes ill. A severe disability w/behaviors results in sensory seeking or acting out w/screaming, slamming or jumping, escape, etc. At its worst, violent tantrums, thowing things, (furnitrue), hitting, stabbing, biting self or others. I've been bitten, recvd concussion, black eyes, back injury, clumps of hair pulled out, staff, trying to keep everyone safe. The classroom is no longer a safe place. What do you tell the other students seeing their teachers get hurt, or being hurt? Its extremely stressful and emotionally costly. Now throw in the meetings with attorneys, lack of support from administration, lack of trained staff, $$, support, males to work in special ed, confidentiality & concerned parents.
    The Truth...My program, my campus & school staff are not equipped to meet the specialized needs/intense level of intervention/svcs to meet the Ed. needs of such a student. A theraputic setting w/staff trained n behavioral science, equipment to meet sensory needs, Speech and techniques to safely address extreme behaviors; family support,
    Sadly, some parents do not agree and instead the student 'stays put' at the school of residence, costing the family & district and community 10s-100s of thousands of dollars and time.

    November 5, 2009 at 1:58 am |
  23. Aaron s

    you all have both good points on one side and on the other.but. i think everyone would agree every American child should be taught properly. you have severe cases that need to be dealt with individually. and you have mild learning delays that need bth special help and general education. the exposure to general ed helps te child with a mild probem to socialize and learn how a classroom works.ithat same child were in a special education classroom all dy with more extreme cases, the child will have a major setback.then you will see the learning become more difficult and counter productive for the child with a minor disability.although i do agree kids with a mojor disability should not be in a general education classroom, theyalso should not be pooled into one classroom. it is a recipe for disaster and i have seen it occur weekly at a local school whre i live here in NH.the kids with severe problems are put into one classrom. so they constantly fight eachother and itis dangerous for a child with a minor or major problem to even attend such a mistake of a program.i have made reports to superintendants office and called the mayor and they know about this, and maybe more then you realize.it neds to change this is not the answer and it is not fair to the kids.i even spoke to the transportation company, she had to call the police 3 or 4 times in one school year becaue the special ed kids get into fights on the bus. we ar talking about 5 to 11 year olds on one bus being transported to and from different schools.it is a broken system all ofyou people need to realize your debate is eithe left handed or right handed . look at the whole picture the kids are being pushed into one room while every other child in general ed gets a chance to suceed.the word needs to get out. there needs to be change this is unacceptable we as Americans needs to fight fo this problem. if we cannot afford the tax dollars, then shut down the stinking pubic pools across the country and inject the money into specal education.this is an outrage and this needs to be on the front page of every newspaper and webpage.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm |

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