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Putting Disabled Students in Improvised Cages Is Not Okay, Says Sergeant Major Understatement

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cageA mother in California is rightfully losing her shit after she made an unannounced visit to her developmentally disabled daughter’s elementary school and found the seven-year-old locked up in an improvised cage made out of baby gates and bookshelves. Great job, school. No really, putting a special ed student behind bars in a soiled diaper is exactly the way to handle things. We’re all proud, and by proud I mean disgusted.

Back in May, Ledelldra Brooks went to Viking Elementary School in Fresno to see her first-grade daughter. When she found her daughter isolated and locked away behind bars, she immediately called the police, notified the principal, and pulled her daughter from the school. As it turns out, the principal, Christie Yang, knew about the cage but considered it a safety precaution that was not used for punishments. Well, that’s good. I’m sure that a seven-year-old developmentally disabled child knows that when she’s being locked up with dried feces on her legs, that it’s not being done as a punishment.

MonPere refused to talk to the police and was put on administrative leave. No criminal charges are being filed because the the police and the district attorney did not find that there was intent to commit harm. According to The Fresno Bee:

Two teachers aides interviewed by police said the special needs children were put in the gated area only when they were out of control or posed a risk to themselves and classmates, but the enclosure was not used for punishment. On the day Brooks discovered her daughter there, the aides said, she had been disruptive in class. She’d also scratched one of the aides, they said.

 

Right. Except that we don’t treat children like animals. Putting a kid like that in a cage is choosing not to deal with the problem; it’s locking them up and getting them out of the way until they calm themselves down, instead of having their teachers work with them on their behavior, which is part of the deal when you work with special ed students. Hey, let’s ask an expert and see what they think! Here’s what special education expert Joe Bowling told the Bee:

[Bowling said that] using a locked enclosure for any student is “totally inappropriate.”

“This is not something I would put a child into and claim this is for their own protection. It’s a cage, this is what you would put a wild animal in,” said Bowling, executive director for the regional board of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Bowling said there are best practices for calming students with special needs. Holding a student from behind in a bear hug is one way to deal with an outburst, he said.

“Obviously there are people in the district that need training,” he said. “I can’t believe that somebody, an administrator walking in that room and seeing it, would allow that.”

Last month the student’s mother filed two claims against the teacher Teresa MonPere, Principal Yang, and the school for $50,000 in general damages and for “future medical expenses not determined at this time.” The school board is meeting next week to discuss the case.

(Photo: Twitter)