Minneapolis Hires Superintendent Who Oversaw Systematic Abuse of Disabled Children

Explosive new report of abuse from the Massachusetts Disability Law Center. UPDATE: You can see the whole report here.

1. The Cult of Compliance (from Boston Globe):

The investigation uncovered a school culture in which aggressive discipline of students had become ingrained, Eichner said. Many students suffered injuries, including scratches and bruises, and one student was given a hospital exam for a bump on the head…

One 67-pound student was restrained 50 times, including about a dozen times when the pupil was held prone on the floor, according to Eichner and the report. The child complained to a parent of being unable to breathe, and that some of the restraints had been painful, the center said.

“Prone restraints can lead to serious injuries or even death,” Eichner said. Some restraints lasted for longer than 20 minutes, the investigation found.

Children were thrown to the floor for not moving, pulled out of chairs for refusing to get up, tackled to the ground, and restrained for refusing to change into a uniform, investigators were told.

2. Accountability

It’s unclear to me what’s happened to the people who did these terrible things. The Superintendent has been fired. More on him in a second.

Update: The people at the DLC tell me that the principal was fired and some staff were reassigned. That’s about it.

3. Intersectionality – Race and Disability

Eichner, of the Disability Law Center, said a combination of factors appears to have led to the abuse.
“Holyoke is an underserved district, obviously,” he said. “We think there wasn’t enough resources and not enough training, and this population is predominantly students of color. You combine that with students with emotional issues, and without adequate resources and training it becomes a power fight between the teachers and students.”

4. Welcome to Minneapolis!

The allegations surfaced during the tenure of former Holyoke superintendent Sergio Paez, who lost his job after Massachusetts education officials voted in April to place the district under state control.
On Monday, the Minneapolis school board voted to appoint Paez as that city’s next school superintendent. Members of the board did not respond to requests from the Globe to comment on whether the allegations would affect his hiring.

You can contact the Minneapolis School Board here.

UPDATE: Sergio Paez has denied all allegations. The School Board is investigating. Get involved!

More details from the full report (updated 3:30 CST 12/10)

5. A child locked in a closet!!

The most egregious seclusion reported was that on at least three occasions, a teacher put children in a locked closet and turned out the lights.When we interviewed the teacher in question about these incidents, she denied it, stating that another student had locked the door. However, her version is not supported by the record. When discussing this practice with the administration, we were told that the teacher is still employed at the school, but her job responsibilities have changed and she no longer has any direct contact with students.

Note – the teacher wasn’t fired.

6. School to Prison Pipeline starts here

One teacher stated that “[a] lack of training and tools to address behaviors is hurting students.” In Ms. Hirsch’s letter she describes this negative culture and provides an example of public shaming of a student when a teacher asked the whole class to write down another students “bad behavior.” We also heard that the school will routinely call the police to resolve issues when children are in crisis and in need of mental health supports. One teacher stated that he wanted to call the local mental health crisis
team but the administration called the police instead. This pattern perpetuates the cycle of children transitioning from a schoolhouse to jailhouse instead of receiving appropriate disability related services.

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