Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Another Controversial Special Needs School Story

I’ll admit it. I have a bad habit. Especially on blogging days. Our days start so early, a mug or three of coffee help me get to lunch time. But this morning, a quick glance at the news did the trick. It was another story of yet another Special Needs student and a controversial situation involving the school.

Sure, these stories always get to me, but this one still has my blood pumping. First, the snapshot. Literally. According to, a special ed teacher placed a student into a cardboard box in order to calm him down. (Click HERE for the story and the photo, by Dianne Gallagher.) A fellow parent took a photo of the box, asked the teacher about it – then relayed what was learned to the student’s mother.

Believe it or not, the box is not the part that has me so exasperated. Yes, “exasperated.” This post isn’t about debating the alleged “merits” of being wheeled into a cardboard box. Or the psychological damage doing such may cause.

(And, for the record, the school did acknowledge that putting a child inside a cardboard box is not an approved form of discipline. Raise your hands if that admission is of surprise to you. Yeah, thought not.)

This is about school.

What irks me to no end is the lack of communication between school and home.

Listen, does this story sound familiar to you:

Student: “Guess what happened to me in school today?”
Mom: “What?”
Student: “They zipped me up in a bag, including my head.”
Mom: “What do you mean, ‘zipped you up in a bag?’ ”
Student: “They put me into this body bag, and zipped me up. Don’t worry, mom, I could see out of it and breathe just fine.”
15 Minutes in the DARK, by Julie Clark
For those who have read my book, you’ve heard it, and it was actually an amusing tale, but we are talking about a proven method; the Body Sox™. We knew OT was around the corner, we just weren’t alerted to when. So, although this was a surprise, once things were explained everything was good to go. But for many families, the converse applies. You may even be one of those families. (If so, please share your story in the comments below.) It is never acceptable for the school to administer unapproved treatments to a child.

Let me repeat.

It is NEVER acceptable for the school to administer unapproved treatments to a child.

I’ll be honest, I hear a lot of teachers complain about parents, and, honestly, many times they have a point. We can be some of the best micromanagers on the planet, while others think it’s up to the school to raise the kids. Both make a teacher’s life difficult. But I’ve also heard teachers admit they will treat a child as they see fit, whether it’s on the plan or not, whether the parents (or even doctors!) approve or not. It infuriates me to no end, and these particular individuals have their minds made up, and a level of arrogance that astounds me.

Of course, most teachers do not act as Jacob’s teacher did, but I want you to watch this and know that some do. And this happens all over the country – and not just my country. Thanks to modern technology, we now have the ability to document these instances for those who doubt, thinking we’re just paranoid parents.

But there’s the other piece of this story that has me, as we say down South, “madder than a hornet.” According to the mother, the principal was not only familiar with the incident(s), but knew that….get this…the mother did NOT know. Can anyone else infer, then, that the school not only knew, but made a conscious decision NOT to inform the parent? Somebody, please explain this to me. If I am wrong, I will amend this post.

If the school determines something unacceptable has happened to the child, I firmly believe the school has an obligation to contact and inform the family of the incidence(s) in a timely manner.

Let me repeat.

If the school determines something unacceptable has happened to the child, I firmly believe the school has an obligation to contact and inform the family of the incidence(s) in a timely manner.

This school failed on two counts.

What’s the phrase? Epic fail?

Watch the video. Pay attention to the mom as it nears the end. Feel her emotion. Have you been there? Are you concerned that will be you someday? Joy Amatuccio is right. When we send our children to school, we expect they will be taken care of, “100%.”

Take this video as an alarm. If you see a child being treated in an unacceptable way, speak up. If you hear teachers go on about how they go “off plan” because they “know best”, question them, and be prepared to go “up the ladder” if need be. And I’m talking to fellow teachers, too. Do what’s right. Help kids, especially those who are not in positions to help themselves, as that’s what we are here for – to help them.

Work to keep the lines of communication open between home and school. That’s right, I said, “work”. It is work. And it takes both sides for it to succeed. There’s no reason to go in with a list of hard and fast demands, as that’s the surest way to start off on the wrong foot. However, it is perfectly acceptable, even necessary, to be involved in your child’s time at the school, to get to know the school. To demonstrate a willingness to work together, as a team.

Life isn’t a video game, a reality TV series, or best used for social media fodder. It’s meant to be lived. To grow, to learn, to help one another cultivate our potential. And we all have potential. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. 

Please, if you agree, share their story.

(This post is dedicated to all the parents who have lived this, and to teachers who stand up and do the right thing in very difficult situations. You are amazing!)


    A somewhat similar story happened in my area very recently, see link. Ugh, All these stories lately have me nervous about sending my almost-5yr old aspiegirl off to kindergarten this fall.

  2. Dear Julie,
    I just wanted to thank you personaly for your blog. Most people just dont understand it is the sheer principal of the situation. people dont understand that this has nothing to do with the fact of whether or not Jacob suffered a physical injury. Thank you for putting this matter into proper perspective. We have created a facebook page entitled justice for jacob and on the sight are two links to two petitions we have started through Again thank you sincerely Joy Amatuccio

  3. Thank you for your blog about this incident. This happened in one of my dearest friend's daughter's special education classroom. Jacob can't go home and tell his mom what they are doing to him, he's not able. Thank GOD that the picture was taken and this was brought out for something to be done. But, guess what? The teacher was only put on paid leave for a week or so and is now teaching in the same school, same special education classroom! I believe the principal, teacher, and the aide should have been fired and their licenses revoked. As a teacher myself, I am just horrified that this has been basically swept under the rug, as if Jacob's dignity does not matter. Please help us by passing this petition around to be signed to get these people out of the school system and video cameras installed in ALL classrooms - JUSTICE FOR JACOB!