SCHOOL IS NOT SUPPOSED TO HURT

Youg boy with sad look and hands in front of his mouth

“Theresa” (this is a fictional name) is a young woman with autism who attends a larger high school in Nebraska. She has a history of being physically aggressive with her teachers. During one of those incidents, the school resource officer, who is also a police officer, restrained Theresa. He held her down in a prone position on the floor until her father arrived roughly 20 minutes later. After the incident, Theresa was suspended for “attacking” a teacher.

At the request of Theresa’s parents, an advocate from Disability Rights Nebraska attended a school meeting to determine if Theresa’s behavior was a manifestation of her disability. When we questioned the use of the prone restraint by the school resource officer, the school district could provide no documentation or explanation of the situation. They maintained that if the “Police” took over, there was nothing that they, the school, could do.

After that meeting, our advocate had a long conversation with the school resource officer / police officer regarding the incident. He had no training of proper restraint/seclusion procedure for individuals with developmental disabilities. Although he refused to participate in the school’s sponsored training, he did agree to familiarize himself with Theresa’s IEP and behavior plan, as well as defer to district trained staff if a situation like this arose again.

End Result: We secured a full de-briefing of the incident for Theresa’s parents with the reassurance that school staff would be the first to respond in the future to manage the situation. The use of “law enforcement” would be the last resort. Further, the school changed its policy so that reporting to parents was done even if a situation was ultimately managed by the police department.