We don’t like to use the word “crippled” today — because we prefer to gloss over that historic, condemning, label with “disabled” — but the Government Accountability Office recently reported that schools are now restraining and punishing crippled children just because they are disabled.

Children with disabilities are being secluded from classmates and restrained against their will to control their behavior, a new investigative report finds — interventions that have led to harm and, in rare cases, deaths. …

In one case, a New York school confined a 9-year-old with learning disabilities to a “small, dirty room” 75 times in six months for whistling, slouching and hand-waving. In another, a Florida teacher’s aide gagged and duct-taped five misbehaving children to their desks; and police say a 14-year-old boy died when a special-education teacher in Texas lay on top of the student when he would not stay seated. Police ruled it a homicide, but a grand jury rejected criminal charges.

The findings from the GAO, Congress’ investigative arm, stop short of attaching a hard number to how many children are subjected to the practices, but investigators say they found “hundreds of allegations” of abuse involving restraint or seclusion at schools from 1990 to 2009; in Texas and California, they say, public schools recorded a combined 33,095 instances in the past school year alone.

The report details 10 children’s cases, four of which ended in death. Unlike in hospitals or residential treatment centers, there’s no federal system to regulate such practices in schools — and teachers are often inadequately trained, GAO says.

We once punished the “ugly and the crippled” in the United States until reason, and compassion for all humanity became the ethical station of the day.

Unfortunately, when money wanes and war wins — the first casualties in the homeland are the misbegotten, the unfortunate, and those who rely upon us for their critical care and slivers of happiness.

6 Comments

  1. It’s really horrible when children are abused on top of the problems that they face each day just from having their from-birth disabilities. What can be done to fight this?

  2. I think mainstreaming disabled children has its curses, Gordon. You really need to give them intensive, one-on-one attention — but that is incredibly expensive. It’s easier to just dump the borderline kids in with everyone else and hope it all works out.

  3. What a dismal awareness this article provokes … certainly necessary!
    For such children, just the everyday routines of life are difficult. Why should the school atmosphere contribute to their struggles rather than providing a nurturing, learning environment that will assist them to live life to the fullest of their abilities?
    I have been an aide to the severely handicapped. It takes a great deal of patience, love, understanding and a genuine concern for the child’s future. It can not be just a paycheck! There is a child’s life weighing in the balances!
    We must never forget … that children (handicapped or not) are always going to behave like children! They get too loud sometimes. They are unruly sometimes. They are overly friendly or laugh out loud when nothing is really funny! That’s one of the treasures of being a kid! When their behavior merits disciplinary action, it must been administered in a professional, loving, caring way!
    I agree whole-heartedly! Mainstreaming handicapped children is only denying them the proper care, teaching and training needed to help them in their life skills! We’ve been blind sighted by cost! Hey, why not have the state lotteries contribute to the cause of making a difference in the lives of the handicapped children by equipping the local school systems with the proper training and necessary tools to prepare these children for a promising future?

  4. Excellent points all around, Kimberley!
    30 years or so ago disabled children were given special, separate, attention in the public schools. It was truly one-on-one learning that helped a great deal but, it was incredibly expensive and many taxpayers refused to continue to pay for these “broken children.”
    Since children are entitled to a public education, the system had to find a way to handle these severely disabled children and, to save time and money, they began mainstreaming them. The children were often left out and confused and ridiculed by their “peers” and it just didn’t work in reality, but it worked okay on paper and, so, that became the new disabled child mandate for education and even the ADA couldn’t really make that big a difference in the “equalness” of the education in the classroom.
    You’re right that disabled children have many special needs and not everyone is made to be able to serve them in the appropriate way.

  5. So much for progress! Huh?
    We seem to be shooting ourselves in the foot on this matter! Unfortunately, the handicapped children of our country pay severally. By the time anyone stands up and takes notice, so many of these precious little lives will have fallen through the cracks! I’ve literally seen this take place. It is so hard to buck the system! We should be daring enough to project a voice on the behalf of these children! If we do not … who will?
    We have to ask ourselves … “Where will these children be in ten years?”
    I do not have a crippled child but I have dealt, on a personal level, with my daughters own handicaps! She deserves the same chance at life as any other ordinary child. I remind her that she is not ordinary … but extraordinary! She is unique and one of a kind! That makes her priceless, a rare treasure!
    Life will not cut them any breaks! We have to prepare them to aspire for great things, persevere through hardships, get back up when knocked down, achieve their goals, bask in the limelight and relish the moments that made them strong! Only by this will they ever live a rich full life with purpose!

  6. Well said, Kimberley! We need to honor the best in us and find the best in others — it’s an especially difficult task with the disabled, but if we don’t try, we lose a bit of our humanity in the rejection.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.