A mother tells Round Rock ISD it is time to end the systemic culture of abuse

Today’s guest author is Tatiana Alfano.

Tatiana is a mother and an advocate for change in Round Rock, Texas. Tatiana’s son was violently thrown into a “calm down” room and restrained in a special education school in Texas.

What follows is the written transcript of public comment delivered to the Round Rock, Texas, Independent School District school board by Tatiana Alfano. Tatiana’s son Quintin was thrown into a “cool down” room by a school administrator.

Trigger warning: The video shows a school administrator throwing a child against a wall.

Round Rock Independent School District has a dangerous, misinformed, and systematic culture of abuse. 

Every restraint and seclusion performed on a child is considered an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), AKA trauma

As professional child educators, I am confident I do not have to educate you on the outcomes of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their impacts on the individual, the family, the community, and overall public health. 

My son, Quintin, has been a special education student his entire academic career. He’s been at GOALS for three years and was in the elementary ACHIEVE program before that. He reports witnessing approximately one restraint seclusion almost every day at GOALS Learning Center. To be clear, this is a school with only about 30 students. In the elementary program, it’s happening even more frequently. Multiply that by a 180-day instructional calendar – That is a gross failure. 

In 2009, the Governmental Accountability Office found hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death related to restraint seclusion in schools. It’s admitted were more than that because largely, it goes unreported as 88% of restraint and seclusion is performed on children with disabilities, many who are non speaking, and because reporting requirements vary by state and district. The Governmental Accountability Office has testified that restraints “can be dangerous because they involve physical struggling, pressure on the chest or other interruptions in breathing.”

In 2012 Federal guidelines from the resource manual on restraint and seclusion were published and outlined 15 principles. 

In part, it reads, “Every effort should be made to prevent the need for restraint seclusion…Physical restraint and seclusion should not be used except in situations where the child’s behavior poses imminent danger of physical harm to self or others, and other interventions are ineffective and should be discontinued as soon as imminent danger of serious harm to self or others has dissipated. Restraint seclusion should never be used as punishment, a means of coercion, retaliation, or as a convenience. Restraint seclusion should never be used in a manner that restricts a child’s breathing or harms a child.”

I would argue that all restraints harm, and the most commonly used restraint, the face down, “prone position” restraint, does restrict breathing and has killed students, and it should be noted that it is banned in over 30 states. 

In 2014, a Senate Report published that “there is no evidence that physically restraining or putting children in seclusion in the K-12 school system provides any educational OR therapeutic benefit to a child. In FACT, use of EITHER in a nonemergency situation poses a SIGNIFICANT physical AND psychological danger to students.” END QUOTE. 

In 2016, an intergovernmental “Dear Colleague” Letter was published. I’ll highlight within that letter the following admonishment directly to the Department of Education. “The use of restraint seclusion may have a traumatic impact on that student, that even if she were to never again be restrained or secluded, she might nevertheless have new academic or behavioral difficulties that, if not addressed promptly, could constitute a denial of FAPE.”

The classroom trauma cycle

The only safe restraint is a consensual one. All restraint seclusions are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). End the classroom trauma cycle for our disabled students. Ask me about free, safe and effective, well-researched, and documented educational hands-off alternatives- for which there are many. Many schools have gone hands-free with great success. Our students deserve better. 

Finally, I’ll refer again to the Federal guidance resource document. “Any behavioral intervention must be consistent with the child’s rights to be treated with dignity and to be free from abuse.” 

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