Monday, April 1, 2013
Cameras in Special Education Classrooms
This past Thursday, Ellie came home with remnants of navy blue paint smeared across her face and strategically placed in between her fingers and up her forearms so that it was sure to remain through Easter Sunday.
As I took off her shoes, I noticed that she had no socks on. Hmmm, had I forgotten to put socks on her? It has been known to happen. I removed her shoes and there, on the bottom of her right foot were two bold, blue blotches of paint.
I laughed. That's my Ellie. Taking off her shoes whenever possible. We used to joke that we needed to staple the shoes onto her for we could never keep them on! Frequently, in the car, I would hear the WHOOOSH of the velcro and then a THUNK as she tossed a shoe into the trunk. So it stands to reason that my little Chunky Chicken would take off her shoes at school.
The thing is, I was relieved to see the paint. It meant that her shoes were not duct taped onto her.
Yes, I said duct taped.
Two months ago, I read about the little girl with Down syndrome who couldn't even walk down the steps of her bus because her feet and ankles were duct taped to the point of pain and impaired movement. I was enraged. I was mortified. I also thought, this must be an isolated incident because who would do that to a child?
Until it happened to a friend of mind. Only her daughter had her hands taped together (along with repeated verbal abuse and other physical abuse). This teacher also abused an 8 year-old boy in the classroom as well. He stated that "she [teacher] was a bully"
I am going to be honest, here. I do not understand. I truly do not. Ellie has a wonderful teacher and a fabulous aide who clearly love working with kids. They love Ellie and they love what they do. My Aunt works with older teens in special education. She obtained her degree when my cousin was out of school. Ellie's babysitter, my "daughter" (people, I am not old enough to be her real mother!) is diligently studying to be a spec ed teacher. She has passion. She is excited. She is going to be awesome.
All of these people have passion. They want to work in special education. No one goes into special education for the money. So, why am I reading more and more new stories about children in special education classrooms being verbally and physically abused?
The scary part of all of this is: The parents did not know. My friend, she was contacted by child protective services. Yes, contacted by. She did not contact them. She did not know. My Ellie is nonverbal. It isn't as though she can tell me. I wouldn't know either.
These are just TWO reports since February. Go on google. I dare you to and be prepared to be mortified. There are so many more cases. So many that it is mind boggling.
Cameras in Special Education Classrooms:
I have been reading a lot about the placement of cameras in special education classrooms. The cameras go both ways. They are for the protection of BOTH kids and teachers. You have the nonverbal child who is being verbally or physically abused and cannot tell anyone. Or you have the child who self-inflicts harm and comes home covered with bruises and blames the teacher/aide. In the first instance, the camera would help build the child's case and in the second, the teacher's/aide's case.
I also know there are a lot of kinks that need to be worked out such as privacy rights of the child/children, the cost of installing and maintaining the cameras, who monitors the video feed, but I believe cameras could be a great deterrent and it bears more consideration. In a recent Texas Observer article about the placement of cameras in schools, a police Sergeant stated that the cameras in his police vehicle made him a better officer. He contends that it might do the same for teachers having cameras installed in the classrooms.
Enough Training & Overcrowding:
Moreover, I also believe that we need to fight for smaller class-sizes and more training for teachers in dealing with emotional meltdowns. Many children with developmental disabilities and autism tend to have behavioral issues. I for one, know that it can take TWO people to move my child to "circle time", sit down for lunch, or have her blood drawn (okay three people for that) or essentially have her do something she doesn't want to do. She weighs less than 30 lbs. That would take the teacher and the aide right there. Add that to the other 11 kids her in class. . . . well, you see where I am going. You can check out this article: Do Special Education Teachers Get Enough of the RIGHT Training?
I am saddened that this is happening in schools across the nation. A place where we trust our children to spend the majority of their day. A place where we expect them to be protected.
Cameras in Classrooms Petition
Cameras in Special Needs Classrooms Facebook Page
Stories about the pros & cons for Cameras in Special Education Classrooms: