Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Under the Protection of the State

This is absolutely disgusting (ht Bob Murphy, more here and here). Even moreso that it happened here in Washington state. In a nutshell, public schools in Longview didn't know what to do with disabled children when they acted up. So they built specially-designed "isolation rooms" and then they locked children in these padded rooms -- in some cases without parental permission, notification or even internal documentation. Now that they've been found out, the schools are "suspending" the use of solitary confinement in the padded rooms, apparently reserving the right to use them again once the media isn't watching anymore.

Furthermore, the "alternate methods" they plan to use in the meantime (including isolation in non-padded rooms, immobility holds and aversion therapy) aren't going to work either. People with cognitive disabilities don't (usually) act out because they want to be bad. They act out because they have some need that is not being met, and they don't know any other way to have that need met. Sometimes it can take a lot of time and effort to find out what that need is, or to get the person to express the need in a socially-acceptable manner, but that's why the phrase "special needs" was coined in the first place. The problem is that every one of the proposed "alternate methods" to handle these children ignores the unmet need, and therefore guarantees the bad behavior will continue.

But it gets worse. While I try not to talk about my work on this blog, I work at a company that works directly with the disabled. We are very heavily regulated and very closely monitored by the state government to ensure the rights of our disabled clients are not infringed. If we, as a private company, did anything close to what Longview public schools did, we would be shut down immediately.

But Longview public schools, as government institutions, are protected in ways that children in their care are not. As far as I can tell, apparently nothing will be done to the teachers or schools who used the isolation rooms. Police and regulators have done nothing; the only investigation has apparently been led by ABC News and the local ABC affiliate, KATU. The teachers and school administrators who locked children in the padded rooms without parental permission, who failed to notify the parents and who failed to even document the incidents (in violation of state law) will apparently not suffer any consequences at all. And that's just as disgusting as the fact that it happened in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment