Risks and Dangers to Disabled Students: Orange County School Leads State in Frequency of Restraining Students

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Parents send their children to school with the expectation that they will be educated, not mistreated. Although teachers are given the authority to discipline children when they are acting out of order, the methods of physical restraint and seclusion have gone too far.

It was reported that Orange County schools have physically retrained 195 students approximately 1,910 times during this school year, a number that represents almost one quarter of the 8,222 cases reported in Florida. 2,944 disabled students were restrained by teachers who forced them to sit or lay face down on the floor. Teachers also used a strap-and-mat contraption to immobilize the children. Orange County educators claim that they only use the technique in emergencies with children who have behavior problems or engage in acts such as hitting, kicking, biting, or slapping themselves in the face. Many parents, disability advocates and law makers want to put an end to the retraining methods because it could traumatize and injure students. Also reported were 3,386 incidents of seclusion involving 1,047.

Parents of five-year-old Alex Ortaliz, a disabled child, were outraged when they found out that their child had been physically restrained against his will. Alex was born prematurely and suffered brain bleeds as an infant. He was the poster child for the United Cerebral Palsy charter school where he has excelled since age two. The teacher involved in the restraint claimed that Alex was acting out of control and dangerous.

Florida parents are trying to get a law passed that would prevent school employees from holding students with disabilities face-down or shutting them in rooms to try to control behaviors associated with their conditions. For more information on this topic, see Orange students restrained more than any in FL by far.