New GAO Report: Schools Abuse Disabled Kids

[“GAO” = Government Accountability Office, United States of America]

From a new entry on the Mother Jones blog:

GAO: Schools Abuse Disabled Kids

— By Jen Phillips | Tue May 19, 2009 11:07 AM PST

A new GAO report shows that the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts isn’t the only place where developmentally disabled and emotionally troubled kids have been physically punished and restrained. The [new GAO] report, which came out today, details cases at public and private schools across the nation where children as young as five have been sat on, lashed to chairs, isolated for hours, starved, and humiliated as punishment for actions like “slouching and hand waving.” In dozens of cases, these punitive measures resulted in students’ deaths…

[continued at blog title link above]

– – –

The GAO Report:

Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers

GAO-09-719T May 19, 2009
Highlights Page (PDF)
Full Report (PDF, 62 pages)
Accessible Text


In Process

GAO found no federal laws restricting the use of seclusion and restraints in public and private schools and widely divergent laws at the state level. Although GAO could not determine whether allegations were widespread, GAO did find hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death related to the use of these methods on school children during the past two decades. Examples of these cases include a 7 year old purportedly dying after being held face down for hours by school staff, 5 year olds allegedly being tied to chairs with bungee cords and duct tape by their teacher and suffering broken arms and bloody noses, and a 13 year old reportedly hanging himself in a seclusion room after prolonged confinement. Although GAO continues to receive new allegations from parents and advocacy groups, GAO could not find a single Web site, federal agency, or other entity that collects information on the use of these methods or the extent of their alleged abuse. GAO also examined the details of 10 restraint and seclusion cases in which there was a criminal conviction, a finding of civil or administrative liability, or a large financial settlement. The cases share the following common themes: they involved children with disabilities who were restrained and secluded, often in cases where they were not physically aggressive and their parents did not give consent; restraints that block air to the lungs can be deadly; teachers and staff in the cases were often not trained on the use of seclusions and restraints; and teachers and staff from at least 5 of the 10 cases continue to be employed as educators…

– – –

[now back to me]

Obviously (to anyone who bothers to pay attention to such things), the described atrocities are constant and pervasive in US culture. But I haven’t seen a report of this kind for years. The last one that was even remotely similar was a California study on Abuse and Neglect of Adults with Developmental Disabilities in institutional and “half-way” settings.

So, if the problem is so horrendous, why are such studies so few and far between? It would seem that funding for such studies is extremely hard to come by. Untold millions of taxpayer dollars are endlessly rushed to the cause of “researching” pharmaceuticals and other (enormously high-profit) medical practices, in order to get them onto the market as quickly as possible while maintaining the pretense that they have been “proven safe and effective.” When it comes to exposing the blithely sanctified atrocities that are routinely inflicted upon “defective” citizens, however, there’s just not a penny to be found.

But why?

The first and most obvious answer is that those who hold the purse-strings are not motivated by any sincere ethical concerns. But that’s just part of it. Far more fundamental is the fact that the general public — the so-called “normal” masses — don’t know how to identify with the victims, don’t see it as their problem, and don’t want to be reminded of any of it. They pay to have these things quietly swept under the rug, not dragged out into the open, where their self-exalted “empathy” and “morality” might be called into question. That would be embarrassing. And threatening. And above all, inconvenient.

There’s nothing more eminently “normal” than habitual evasiveness in the service of ego-defense.



One Response to New GAO Report: Schools Abuse Disabled Kids

  1. Ari Ne'eman says:

    Thanks for posting this. Passed it along to our listserv. Will be at the White House about this issue next week. It’s one of our key issues.

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