Wednesday, May 20, 2009

GAO Report - Alleged Abuse at Schools & Treatment Centers

On May 19, 2009 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a 62 page report entitled Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers. The one page highlights version of the GAO's testimony before the House Committee on Education and Labor gives background and examples about the use of restraints and seclusions in public and private schools that resulted in abuse or death. To prepare the report, GAO reviewed federal and state laws about the use of restraints and seclusions in schools, examined allegations of abuse from the past twenty years, and looked at police reports, autopsies, and school policies of closed cases. GAO personnel also interviewed parents, attorneys, and school officials and searched to find the current employment status of staff involved in the cases.

GAO found the following common themes in the 10 cases of restraint or seclusion they examined that resulted in either a criminal conviction, a civil or administrative liability finding, or a large financial settlement:
  • 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
  • teachers and staff from at least 5 of the 10 cases continue to be employed as educators.
The highlights version of the report also contains a chart with details about four of the ten cases.