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Friday, December 23, 2011

"Therapy Bag" -- More on the Kentucky Case

Ensuring national attention, AP is covering the story of a Kentucky school that stuffed a 9-year-old autistic boy, Chris Baker, into a bag.
At a meeting with school district officials, the bag was described as a "therapy bag," [Sandra] Baker said, though she wasn't clear exactly what that meant. She said her son would sometimes be asked to roll over a bag filled with balls as a form of therapy, but she didn't know her son was being placed in the bag. She said school officials told her it was not the first time they had put him in the bag.
So far, almost 700 people have signed a petition on the website Lydia Brown, an autistic 18-year-old Georgetown University freshman from Boston, said she started it after reading a story about Chris. 
"That would not be wrong just for an autistic student. That would be wrong to do to anyone," Brown said.
Advocates for the autistic were outraged.
Landon Bryce of San Jose, Calif., a former teacher who blogs about issues related to autism, said the school's treatment of Chris was "careless and disrespectful."
"A lot of the damage that we do to students with all kinds of disabilities is by treating them as though they deserve to be treated in a way that's different from other people," Bryce said.
Baker said she heard different accounts about her son's behavior that day.
Baker stopped short of calling for the dismissal of school employees, but she said they should be suspended. They also need more training, she said.
In Kentucky, there are no laws on using restraint or seclusion in public schools, according to documents on the state Department of Education's website.
Nirvi Shah reports at Education Week:

A U.S. Senate bill filed late last week would limit physical restraint and locked seclusion of students—measures often used with students with disabilities who are considered out of control, harmful to themselves or others, or in need of being calmed.
Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin's "Keeping All Students Safe Act," is similar to a bill filed by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., in April. The U.S. House has previously passed the bill, but it wasn't taken up by the Senate. However Rep. Miller's bill has bipartisan support. Sen. Harkin's bill has no cosponsors, at least not yet.
Among other things, the bill would: ban the use of physical restraints except in emergency situations; prohibit physical restraints that affect a student's primary means of communication; forbid putting seclusion or restraint into a student's individualized education program or IE; require states to collect data on the use of the measures, and ask schools to meet with parents and staff after a restraint is used and plan interventions that would prevent their use in the future.