Ban Disciplinary Restraint: Oakland

Here’s a new case out of Oakland illustrating the ways that restraint and seclusion practices in schools quickly move from “safety” to compliance.

The U.S. Department of Education ruled the Oakland school district discriminated against a 9-year-old autistic boy who was restrained 92 times during one school year, sometimes for up to 90 minutes at a time, according to an announcement Tuesday.

Stuart Candell attended Anova Center for Education in Concord from April 2013 to February 2014. Two to three adults held him face down for a total of 2,200 minutes, or more than 36 hours, during his tenure at the school for high-functioning autistic kids. He was also secluded in a 12-foot-by-10-foot windowless room, according to the federal Office for Civil Rights decision in June.

And here are some of the reasons for these abusive acts:

Incident reports documenting the school’s response to Stuart’s behavior revealed situations that did not appear to be imminent health and safety emergencies:

  • Restrained for 45 minutes after Stuart ran into his classroom screaming after stepping in dog poop.
  • Restrained for 45 minutes for throwing a chair; later restrained twice for 15 minutes after expressing frustration over Uno card game.
  • Restrained twice for 15 minutes and three minutes for bouncing a ball inappropriately in the occupational therapy room.

Stuart expressed suicidal thoughts twice following prone restraints, according to the report.

In at least one instance, Stuart urinated on himself while restrained, and he was not released for food or drink unless he was calm.

“In contrast, after 10 minutes of restraining (Stuart), staff members would rotate in order to take a break,” the report found.

The key thing to remember is that this is NOT unusual. It’s an extreme case of the kind of practice used around the country.


Leave a Reply