LA PORTE, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana couple has accused a special education teacher of strapping their 8-year-old autistic daughter into a homemade restraining chair in the classroom.
Charles and Heather Castle allege in a federal lawsuit filed last month that the teacher and two paraprofessionals at Kingsford Heights Elementary School tied their daughter down to a plywood chair with a belt, causing bruises and abrasions to her body, the (Northwest Indiana) Times reported .
The lawsuit alleges the La Porte Community School Corp. violated its own policies regarding student restraint and never informed the parents that their daughter was placed in the device. The defendants include the school district, the South La Porte County Special Education Cooperative and its administration, Kingsford’s principal and administrative assistant, and the teacher and paraprofessionals accused of restraining the girl.
The parents had concerns about their daughter’s care before this past school year, the complaint stated. The girl came home from school in April 2017 wearing no shoes, socks or coat. The bus driver told the Castles the girl was not wearing those items when she got on the bus at school. The child came home next month with bruises, which her teacher said happened when fell on a desk, the lawsuit said.
The Castles grew suspicious after the fall semester began, when their daughter began exhibiting “new and troubling behaviors” at home, including emotional outbursts and a refusal to wear a seat belt, according to the lawsuit. The parents also noticed bruises and abrasions on the girl’s hips, back and arms, the complaint stated.
Charles Castle says the school stopped him from escorting his daughter to the classroom each morning. Castle walked into the classroom Sept. 21, where he was “shocked” to see a homemade wooden restraint desk with his daughter’s name on it and a tan belt next to it, the lawsuit contends.
The girl’s individualized education plan did not allow for the use of a restraint chair, and the Castles said they never received an incident report detailing the use of restraint.
The parents met with school officials a week later, where they told the Castles that an attorney for the district said “they had not done anything wrong” and that the teacher’s father built the chair, the lawsuit states.
Indiana Administrative Code prohibits the use physical restraint in schools except where “the student’s behavior poses imminent risk of injury to self or others.” Furthermore, it prohibits using all “mechanical restraints,” or devices attached to or adjacent to a student’s body so that the student cannot remove them.
Superintendent Mark Francesconi and special education cooperative Director Paula Nichols didn’t reply Thursday to the newspaper’s request for comment.