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Letter to Francis Howell School Board

Ange Hemmer
[contact info removed]


Dear Mr. Lafata:

I am one of the families that came forward in Francis Howell regarding the use of seclusion rooms and restraint in our schools. Please be aware that this is not just a regional issue, but a statewide and national issue effecting those with various disabilities. Attached are some quick links to give you access to information regarding the use of restraints, seclusion, and corporal punishment--along with viable alternatives. Also attached is the “process” I was provided by administrators last year; however, as you are aware, this is not a board approved policy.

Please be aware I requested a meeting with Superintendent Renee Schuster and Director of Alternative Learning Ann Borgmeyer, which was held early last year (see e-mails below). Dr. Schuster did not attend the meeting; however, Ann Borgmeyer, [Sped Coordinator], and [Sped Coordinator] did attend along with me and another parent. I also brought the issue to the Special Education Parent Advisory Council (PAC). (I was unable to write the follow up letter as planned due to the time consuming nature of both of my children's demanding educational concerns.) Nothing changed and I continued hearing stories from staff and parents regarding the improper (and frequent) use of these rooms.

Right now in the state of Missouri , there IS a problem with the overuse and abuse of seclusion and restraint. Everyday individuals with disabilities are being restrained and forced into seclusion ("time-out", "isolation", "safe", etc.) rooms, often for noncompliance issues and/or after being antagonized. When they are restrained, this quickly escalates any behavior because they are often frightened and/or do not understand what is happening to them. To many, their reactions often then "justify" the use of seclusion rooms.

Many people cannot fathom that this is going on or that it is allowed to continue. Most people want to believe these cases are isolated, far and few between. The truth is, it shouldn't even have to happen to ONE child, but parents are burdened with the task of proving that abuse and misuse is happening and that it is happening across the country.

Many parents and school employees are afraid to come forward. They are afraid of retaliation from the school district towards themselves, the child who experienced the abuse, or even other children in the district. Some parents can't talk because they are in the middle of litigation. Some parents and staff have been convinced that this treatment is in the best interest of the child or that it was a one-time error. Others still choose to move to get their child out of the dangerous situation, but are not aware that while their child is now safe, there are possibly other children still in the district who are not.

And sadly, there are many parents who do not even know their child is being abused in this way--a crisis plan may indicate that "Time-Out" or a "Safe room" be used, but parents have no idea what those rooms really are, the minor reasons children are placed in the rooms, or how long children are subjected to stay there.

It is easy to sit back and wait for the individuals to fail and then "justify" this abuse and mistreatment because the individual is perceived as "dangerous". But what about the choices that the educational system is refusing to make, such as providing adequate services, support, and accommodations to give these individuals a chance at being successful?

I do not believe a system's failure is justification to abuse or mistreat individuals, especially those with disabilities.

If you have missed some of the local media, below are some links. Please note I also have pictures of the Hollenbeck room taken days before the room was ‘cleaned up’ for the media and an extensive amount of research on alternatives to seclusion rooms and the overuse of restraint.





Please be aware that I have recently given notice that [my oldest son] will no longer be attending Francis Howell after next week. My other son, [younger son], is still attending the preschool special education program.


Ange Hemmer

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