Dawn Morgan and Jonathan Parie won a State of Vermont Agency of Education due process hearing last month, ordering Rutland City Schools to pay almost $90,000. They say their daughter was abused throughout the first half of last year and they are speaking out to protect other families.
"What we went through, no parent should ever have to go through," said Dawn Morgan, the child's stepmother.
They say their 14-year-old autistic daughter, who they don't want to name, attended Allen Street Elementary, and was improperly forcibly restrained while acting out at school.
In the due process hearing, an officer said, "in the struggle to control the student, four paraeducators grabbed and jolted her and failed to use the proper restraining holds, instead holding her legs spread eagle and restraining her wrists."
According to state rules, physical restraints are used when "a student's behavior poses an imminent and substantial risk of physical injury to the student or others."
"She was actually being restrained anywhere from four to six people numerous times a day-- that's not how proper restraining is being done. She was traumatized," Morgan said.
The father says his daughter feared for her life. The hearing documents say that after one alleged episode of abuse, the student said, "Dad, dad, please promise me, you will never take me back to that jail again..."
The family hired special needs advocate Phelippa Hurley to help them through the process.
"The child was in crisis in that she wasn't being educated. She was going home daily," Hurley said.
Now their daughter has been placed in a new school which they don't want to identify. And they say she is doing well. About $84,900 of the ordered payout is for the tuition at her new school. It's unclear if taxpayers are footing the bill through a proposed 2.9 percent budget increase.
The Rutland City Schools Superintendent gave WCAX News a written statement from The Rutland City Public School Board of Commissioners: "...The Board strongly disagrees with the Order and its findings... The Board does not believe that the Order is in any way an accurate reflection of what had transpired regarding the student ... The District cannot break out if any of the proposed budget line items represent a specific student's services, to do so would be a breach of confidentiality regulations."
The parents say although they feel their daughter has been placed in a better situation, they are still upset.
"Numerous, huge, gross abuse," Parie said.
The Rutland City School District has 90 days from the Dec. 3 date of the order to appeal.
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