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Parents Sue School District Over Teacher Who Allegedly Strapped Their Autistic Daughter To Chair

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An autistic girl from Indiana is enrolled in a special education program and undergoes an individualized education plan. Her parents are now suing the school district after learning that her teacher had been strapping her onto a chair to restrain her during class.

‘New And Troubling Behavior’

An 8-year-old girl has been in the LaPorte school District’s special education program since preschool because she was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some of her symptoms include difficulty adjusting to change, struggling with mutual conversation, and sensitivity to stimuli, but she is also said to be artistic and intelligent.

In April of 2017, she came home from school without any shoes, socks, or coat, and then with bruises on her cheekbone and elbow the month after. After the fall semester, her parents state that the 8-year-old began exhibiting “new and troubling behavior” including extreme meltdowns, nightmares, refusal to wear the seatbelt in the car, and losing interest in art. They also began to notice several bruises on her back, hips, and arms.

According to the lawsuit, it was also around this time that the school began preventing the girl’s father from bringing her to her classroom himself. In September, he brought his daughter to the classroom himself and discovered the wooden restraint chair with his daughter’s name on it. It is said to be made of plywood and had partitions attached to some parts of it, and he also noticed a tan belt on the similarly constructed chair beside the one with his daughter’s name.

Prohibited Physical Restraints

On Sept. 29, just days after the discovery, an emergency meeting was held, where the girl’s parents were allegedly told that the chair was made by the teacher’s father, and that the school had done "nothing wrong." According to the parents, her individualized education plan did not include using the restraint chair, and they never received any notification or incident report about having to use the chair on their daughter.

Autism spectrum disorder is marked by autistic characteristics such as repetitive behavior, having difficulties with communication, and other symptoms that may make it hard for the individual to properly function at work, in school, or other areas of life. On the other hand, ADHD is marked by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. People with ADHD may quickly lose focus, talk nonstop, have difficulties in staying put even when they have to, or appear constantly on-the-go.

That said, the Indiana Administrative Code prohibits the use of physical restraints in school, including all mechanical restraints or devices that are attached to a student’s body to prevent him or her from moving. The only time such materials may be used is when a student poses an imminent injury risk to self or others.

The family is seeking damages for civil rights and constitutional violations against their daughter.

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