You've heard of the nefarious School-to-Prison Pipeline. But how about that gateway intramural system preceding it, where jail cells within the schools have become almost as ubiquitous as classrooms? In educational Newspeak, they are euphemistically called "Scream Rooms." They are gulags within gulags.
You might think that handcuffing children and locking them up in tiny isolation chambers would be rare, or at least limited to Texas and other law-and-order "red" states. But it's prevalent, and growing throughout the country, even in small, liberal Connecticut. As Senator Chris Murphy learned, there are 30,000 instances of physically restraining pupils or placing them in padded rooms reported every single year in his state. And so, he has introduced legislation to ban the practice nationally.
“That way to deal with behavior just does not work. Actually kids don’t respond to that,” Murphy said in an interview with local news station WTIC.
“There are just better ways to deal with behavioral issues than just locking kids up in padded rooms,” he said.
The rooms are as small as 4’x4’ or 6’x6’, he said.
A "disproportionate" number of the abused children have been black and Latino.( No surprise there, in a state just over the line from the "Stop & Frisk" capital of the world, where until recently, virtually every black and Latino man had been restrained by police at least once, simply by virtue of existing.) And 40% of the maltreated children have Autism. So much for the great American Race to the Top. The Core is more rotten than Common, it seems. When the kids balk at taking the corporate standardized tests administered by Mr. Gradgrind, then Mr. Squeers comes to the rescue to add a little incarceration to the indoctrination.Murphy said an overuse of restraint or seclusion could lead to mental and physical injury to children as well as to other children witnessing the practice.
As an ABC News investigation found in 2012, no national standards exist for student discipline. Criminal statutes that ban unlawful imprisonment, assault, and terroristic threats are typically not enforced to protect helpless children against the adults in the room. Poorly trained school personnel in overcrowded and underfunded schools make up their own rules as they go along. At least 20 children have died as a result, many others severely injured, and an untold number both experiencing and witnessing the abuse are emotionally traumatized. And to their shock, parents have found that they often don't even have recourse in the court system.
The practice of meting out extreme remedies for fractious student behavior has long been rampant in schools for the developmentally disabled, and as those students became increasingly "mainstreamed" into public schools, so-called"normal" children also got caught up in the fray. Simply witnessing the restraint and isolation of their peers also has an untoward effect on the kids who do "behave."
Jessica Butler, an attorney and parent of a child with Autism, has written a report called How Safe is the Schoolhouse? -- a state-by-state analysis of pupil restraint and seclusion practices. Only 19 states have laws restricting such remedies for all students, and 32 have partial protections for students with disabilities. Only 12 states collect even minimal data on the use of restraint in schools. Some states have already taken steps to ban in-school isolation entirely. The five states with the worst records -- having no policies in place at all to protect children in school -- are New Jersey (hello, Chris Christie), Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota.
There seem to be little pockets of Kim Jung-un in the halls of Academe:
In 2012, a New York teenager with disabilities died in physical restraint.
Other incidents in the GAO report included very young elementary school children being placed in strangleholds,tethered to ropes, and restrained for long periods of time. One young girl was strapped into a miniature electric chair replica.
Bungee cords and duct tape were used to fasten children to furniture. Children endured broken limbs, bloody noses, bruises, and post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of the restraints. A National Disability Rights Network report likewise found that students were strapped into chairs, restrained on the floor by multiple adults, held in arm locks and handcuffs, and restrained in other unsafe ways, with some incidents resulting in death, broken bones, and other injuries.
More recently, a 2013 Minnesota newspaper reported about the restraint of a boy with autism that interfered with his breathing, and of a 10-year-old who was held face down for nearly an hour for having a tantrum over a puzzle.The usual defense used by school administrators when parents complain is that the discipline is only used as a last resort to protect an unruly child from harming herself or others:
Daniel A. Domenech, who heads the American Association of School Administrators.... said the practice of restraining an out-of-control student is an unwelcome but essential part of keeping teachers and other students safe. And the vast majority of the time, he said, school officials are able to subdue a child without harm coming to anyone."What do they do when the child begins to hurt themselves or when they attack another child?" he asked. "Do they just stand there and watch? They don't. They intervene."Domenech was simply echoing the sentiments of another famous educator, one Wackford Squeers, late of Dotheboys Hall, Yorkshire. When Charles Dickens invented Headmaster Squeers as one of the villains in Nicholas Nickleby, he acknowledged that his fictional depiction of a sadistic school administrator would probably be viewed as hyperbolic. But he was only scratching the surface of an institutional reality. Forced doses of castor oil substituted for food. Mental and physical disabilities were imposed, not just inborn.
Dickens's words in the preface could just as easily be applied to the entrenched abuse rampant in what purports to be our own modern, "progressive" American educational system.
Where imposture, ignorance, and brutal cupidity, are the stock in trade of a small body of men, and one is described by these characteristics, all his fellows will recognise something belonging to themselves, and each will have a misgiving that the portrait is his own.
"The Author's object in calling public attention to the system would be very imperfectly fulfilled, if he did not state now, in his own person, emphatically and earnestly, that Mr. Squeers and his school are faint and feeble pictures of an existing reality, purposely subdued and kept down lest they should be deemed impossible. That there are, upon record, trials at law in which damages have been sought as a poor recompense for lasting agonies and disfigurements inflicted upon children by the treatment of the master in these places, involving such offensive and foul details of neglect, cruelty, and disease, as no writer of fiction would have the boldness to imagine. And that, since he has been engaged upon these Adventures, he has received, from private quarters far beyond the reach of suspicion or distrust, accounts of atrocities, in the perpetration of which upon neglected or repudiated children, these schools have been the main instruments, very far exceeding any that appear in these pages."It'll be interesting to see how far Chris Murphy's efforts to outlaw Scream Rooms progresses in the Senate. Will Ted Cruz perform a marathon filibuster to champion the benefits of handcuffing and isolating children while they're forced to listen to tapes of his recitation of Green Eggs and Ham? Will his GOP cohort suggest rewarding schools that perform well in the corporal punishment department and punishing those who don't use Tough Love by forcing teachers to arrest kids at gunpoint? Will they even suggest withholding food from pupils as an incentive to learning?
Oh, wait. They're already doing that in Salt Lake City. Forty kids had their school lunches taken away and thrown away in the garbage recently when their financially struggling parents fell behind on their payments. It's exactly the same thing that happened in Dickens' England when the tuition was late: starvation and incarceration.
Will the the forces of capitalism once again trump human rights and organized labor?
Do American children have money or a lobby?
|The Internal Economy of Dotheboys Hall|