Disability Law Colorado received a phone call about a student with disabilities being duct taped to his wheelchair by a teacher. We investigated the allegation and determined that the restraint violated the law on the use of seclusion and restraint in schools.
In 2007, Disability Law Colorado embarked on a wide-ranging initiative to eliminate the inappropriate and dangerous use of restraint and seclusion as a disciplinary measure for children with disabilities in Colorado’s public schools.
While we have made great strides in educating school personnel about the law, and our staff have provided training in alternatives to mechanical restraints, we continue to receive calls from parents and school staff about vulnerable children who have been physically restrained or locked away from their peers—sometimes for hours at a time.
Duct Tape Case
Disability Law Colorado received a phone call alleging that a student with cerebral palsy and shaken baby syndrome had been duct taped to his wheelchair by the special education teacher.
The student attended middle school in the Alamosa School District, so two attorneys from Disability Law Colorado, Jennifer Levin and Alison Butler Daniels, traveled to Alamosa to investigate the allegation. The attorneys interviewed school district personnel, including the special education teacher, and the student’s grandparents, who are also the student’s legal guardians.
According to the special education teacher, the duct tape was used to tie the student’s right arm to his wheelchair because he was gagging himself with his fingers. The teacher explained that because she was overwhelmed, she felt she had no other choice but to use this form of restraint. She also said that she inadvertently left the duct tape on the student’s arm when she placed him on the school bus that day to go home.
Inappropriate Use of Restraint
Disability Law Colorado concluded that the use of duct tape was a mechanical restraint and its use violated the Colorado Department of Education’s Rules for the Administration of the Protection of Persons from Restraint Act.
Based on its conclusion that an improper restraint was used, Disability Law Colorado recommended that the Alamosa School District ensure that all staff utilizing restraints in schools are trained at least every two years. Sadly, many teachers, like the one in this case, do feel overwhelmed and have not received the support and training they need to employ positive behavior support strategies in place of restraint or seclusion.
Our attorneys monitored the Alamosa School District for the next school year to ensure that appropriate training is provided according to the terms of Disability Law Colorado’s recommendations.