Have you or anybody you know ever been trapped in an elevator? Do you know anyone who has ever been trapped in a car after a traffic accident? Have you thought about what you might do if you were ever in such a situation? For us, we would look for alarm buttons or phones in the elevator or use cell phones or OnStar from our cars to call for help. We would also be screaming and yelling in the hopes that someone would hear us and summon help.
When our daughter, Jessica, who had intractable epilepsy and a rare mitochondrial disorder as well as cognitive impairments, was in second grade [age 7] she came home from school one day with a hand imprint on her face. I asked her what happened and she told me her teacher slapped her at school. I immediately called the school to find out what had happened and the administrator said she knew nothing about any incident and suggesting that, it might have happened on the bus.
We arranged a meeting at school for the following day to discuss the incident. At that meeting, they told me Jessica had been forcibly put into a small closet because she kept running out of her classroom. When placed in the closet, Jessica was screaming, kicking, and pleading to be let out. The classroom parapro had opened the door and slapped Jessica because she would not stop screaming, kicking and pleading. They told us they placed Jessica in the closet several times a day because of her behavior of running out of the classroom.
We then discussed how it could be that no other solutions were available to keep Jessica in her classroom other than placing her in the closet. I asked why the classroom door could not be closed or Jessica's desk be moved across the room away from the door rather than being right next to the door. The teacher explained that closing the classroom door was not an option because she, the teacher, is claustrophobic!!!!!!!
I cannot tell you how stunned I was to learn that Jessica was being shoved into a closet for any reason. But I became even more outraged by the teacher's suggestion that it is okay to put my daughter in a small closet so the teacher does not have to feel claustrophobic by closing the classroom door that would have kept my daughter in her classroom.
I was horrified by the thought of Jessica being secluded and even more horrified when I realized she was being slapped for sounding her own alarm in a desperate attempt to be released from a situation she did not create.
When thinking about our own emergencies, such as elevators stoppages and traffic accidents, we expect and take for granted that we will have access to alarm systems ourselves or that others will hear our cries for help and summon the rescuers. We cannot imagine not getting help under those circumstances. But our children are being abused by seclusion and restraint on a daily basis, and yet no one is responding to THEIR alarms!
Jessica's situation was not an isolated experience. We all need to do everything that we can to stop the abusive practice of seclusion and restraint. We have to stop hurting kids in schools. We are participating in the Stop Hurting Kids Campaign created by Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversives Interventions and Seclusion. We invite you to join with us to sound the alarm for our children through the Stop Hurting Kids campaign. You may visit the campaign Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/stophurtingkids or visit the APRAIS Website at http://tash.org/advocacy-issues/restraint-and-seclusion-aprais/ to learn more about and to join in on sounding the alarm.
We think adults live in a certain comfort zone that says when we get into trouble all we have to do is sound the alarm and help will come. Our kids should be able to enjoy that same sense of security that we do. Jessica was punished for sounding her alarm when abusively locked into a closet. That was her last day at that school. We need to be the alarms for all the kids who are being abused by the practices of seclusion and restraint. Be their alarm.
Tricia and Calvin Luker
Copyright 2013 by Tricia and Calvin Luker. Permission to forward, copy and post this article is granted so long as it is attributed to the authors and www.ourchildrenleftbehind.com
The OCLB Team
Sandy Strassman-Alperstein, Deidre Hammon, Jackie Igafo-Te'o Shari Krishnan, and Calvin and Tricia Luker, along with self advocates Benji Alperstein, Daniel Alperstein, Hannah Alperstein, Rachel Alperstein, Brianna Hammon, Melody Igafo-Te'o, Michael Igafo-Te'o, Sebastian Igafo-Te'o and Nicholas Krishnan