Chaired By: Rep. George Miller (D-CA)
Witnesses: Elizabeth Hanselman, Assistant Superintendent, Special Education and Support Services; Greg Kutz, Managing Director, Forensic Audits and Special Investigations, Government Accountability Office; Reece Peterson, Professor, Special Education, University of Nebraska
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REP. MILLER: The committee will come to order. Today's hearing is the first ever congressional hearing investigation of the abusive and deadly misuse of seclusion and restraint in our schools.
Unfortunately, the issue of abuse and seclusion and restraint of children is not new to this committee. Last year we held hearings to examine allegations of abuse and death of teens in residential treatment programs, which led us to pass H.R. 911 earlier this year.
This bill establishes basic health and safety standards in those programs and was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. That's because when we're talking about keeping our children safe, it is not a partisan issue; it's a moral obligation.
Sadly, we're here again to talk about the seclusion and restraint, but this time, we're looking at children in our nation's public and private schools.
In January, I asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether allegations of deadly and abusive seclusion and restraint in our school are founded and widespread. Simply put, the answer is yes.
What they found is alarming, eye-opening and is going to send shock waves to every corner of this country, as it should. The GAO will tell us very shortly that hundreds of students in this country have been victims of abuse in school.
In some cases, this abuse has been fatal. It is still not limited -- though it is not limited to students with disabilities, it's happening more often to these vulnerable children. We will hear today from -- from two parents -- Ann Gaydos and Toni Price -- whose lives have been devastated by teachers and classroom aides who went too far.
I thank them for traveling here today and for having the courage to speak publicly about the trauma that they have experienced. Federal law restricts the use of seclusion and restraints to emergency circumstances for children in hospitals, in community-based residential treatment facilities, and other facilities supported by federal dollars, yet these rules do not apply to public or private school.
This means an untrained medical professional is -- is forbidden from inappropriately restraining -- to restraining a patient, and if they do, there are laws specifically targeted to address such behavior. But untrained classroom staff are abusing students in schools without any accountability because of a lack of federal oversight.
Our children are bearing physical and emotional burden of the system designed to fail them. Such regulation and oversight varies greatly. Many states have no laws specifically governing the appropriate use of seclusion and restraint in schools, and parents are often are unaware of the use of these abuses until their child comes home with bruises or tragically can't come home at all.
School is a place for students to learn, grow, and thrive and families in communities trust teachers and school administrators to keep children safe. Yet some educators are misusing behavioral interventions -- interventions that were only intended to be used in emergencies as a last resort for discipline or convenience as -- in non-emergency situations.
Last year alone, in my home state of California, California districts reported more than 14,300 cases of seclusion and restraint and other emergency interventions. We don't know how many of these cases were in real emergencies.
Recent news reports document appalling stories of teachers tying children to the chairs, taping their mouth shut, using handcuffs, denying them food, fracturing bones, locking them in small dark spaces and sitting on them until they turn blue.
One might start to wonder what -- what -- what could possibly cause a teacher in a classroom to abuse a child in this way. Well we know that these -- what -- what these children -- well, we know what these children did. They fidgeted in their chairs; they were unwilling to follow directions; in some cases, they left the room or avoided a difficult task.
These behaviors are often manifestations of a child's disability, yet the teachers who are often not appropriately trained to physically intervene are restraining children anyway. The vast majority of teachers and staff working in schools are -- are caring professionals who are on a daily basis are making a difference in the lives of the children they teach. But teachers and staff who are abusing children must be held accountable for their actions.
At a minimum, we should ensure that our teachers are supported appropriately through training and classroom management resources. I know educators are struggling with managing student behavior on many levels, and school violence is a difficult issue that must be addressed. Teachers and staff need to feel safe themselves, which is exactly why we must support ways to reduce problem behaviors in schools.
Approaches such as student wide -- school-wide positive behavior support can help establish a -- a social culture and a positive environment that uses data-driven decision making to foster appropriate behavior and improve academic achievement.
Such practices have been shown to reduce office -- to reduce office discipline referrals and problematic behavior. Children should not be abused in our classrooms under the guise of discipline or punishment. This must stop now.
Families should never be left wondering whether their child is safe in the care of -- in their school. And teachers should not feel compelled to use emergency interventions to manage behavior on a regular basis.
Congress must step in and fill the void that has resulted in -- in scars that many -- that may never heal for those children and their families who have been the victims of this abuse. I feel that the next step will be to enact a federal policy that ensures the tragic stories we will hear today will not occur again.
And I want to thank you very much to all of the witnesses for agreeing to appear today, and now I would like to recognize the senior Republican member of our committee, Mr. McKeon, the gentleman from California, for his opening statement.
REPRESENTATIVE BUCK MCKEON (R-CA): Thank you, Chairman Miller, and good morning. I want to begin by thanking our witnesses, especially Ms. Price and Ms. Gaydos for being here to share their stories and experiences with us today.
Today, we're going to hear testimony about the improper use of seclusion and restraints in our nation's public schools. All students, but especially those with disabilities, have the right to attend a school that is a safe and rich-learning environment.
Even in cases where students with disabilities have serious discipline problems and may be a threat to themselves, it's important that teachers and classroom aides use interventions and supports that are both physically and emotionally safe for the child.
While it's important that special education and general education teachers have the tools and skills that they need to maintain an orderly learning environment and protect themselves and their students in the classroom, there should never be justification for secluding a student in a room without proper adult supervision or restraining a student so that he or she cannot breathe. This is child abuse plain and simple and has no role in our nation's schools.
With that said, we do know that certain techniques can be used to restore order in the classroom and protect students without harm, but it isn't black and white, and the safety and well being of these children must always be of the highest priority. Once you reject the extreme procedures and techniques that we will hear about today, there's a gray area schools must grapple with.
Perhaps the greatest lesson from these tragic stories is the need for greater training and understanding among teachers and classroom aides to prevent these stories from being repeated.
This is not a pleasant topic for any of us but especially for the parents who have lost so much.
Thank you, Chairman Miller, and I yield back.
REP. MILLER: Thank you. I'd like now to briefly introduce our -- our panel of -- of witnesses. Mr. Greg Kutz is a -- is a current managing director of the Government Accountability Office, Forensic Audits and Special Investigations Unit.
Since joining the unit in 1991, he has investigated various high- level cases of fraud and abuse. He recently provided Congress with an objective high-quality review of abuse and death of children in teen residential facilities.
Ms. Ann Gaydos is the mother of Paige. While enrolled in a special public school classroom in California, then 7-year-old Paige was restrained and secluded repeatedly by her teacher. Paige is now 15 and is here with her mom today.
Ms. Toni Price of Killeen, Texas will tell us about her 14-year- old foster son, Cedric. Cedric, who -- who -- who we will learn, was a happy, loving child, tragically lost his life while being physically restrained by his special education teacher.
And I want to thank both of you for taking the time to come and to share your stories with the -- the committee. I know it's not easy, and I -- I appreciate your -- your courage in doing so.
Dr. Reece Peterson is the professor of Special Education at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. In his work spanning over three decades, Dr. Peterson has -- has conducted extensive national research on interventions for students with emotional and behavioral disorders, student discipline in schools, school violence prevention.
He has also recently conducted research and policy analysis on the use of restraint and seclusion procedures in school.
Representative Hare? Did you want to introduce Ms. Hanselman?
REPRESENTATIVE PHIL HARE (D-IL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Chairman Miller and members of the committee, it's my pleasure to introduce Beth Hanselman, assistant superintendent of Special Education and Support Services at the Illinois State Board of Education.
Ms. Hanselman attended Illinois State University for her undergraduate work in the University of Illinois Springfield for her graduate studies. For the last three years, Ms. Hanselman has served as assistant superintendent of Special Education and Support Services. In this capacity, she is responsible for the supervision of education for more than 320,000 students with disabilities in the state of Illinois.
Under Ms. Hanselman's leadership, the Illinois -- (inaudible) -- and school settings that maximize academic achievement of all students including those with emotional, behavioral problems and other disabilities.
Currently, PBIS is implemented in over 1,000 schools in Illinois, and Ms. Hanselman is working with the Department of Education to expand PBIS to all of the 4,100 schools in the state. Ms. Hanselman, thank you for appearing before the committee to highlight Illinois success in preventing and reducing the use of restraint and seclusion, and I look forward to hearing your testimony.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. MILLER: Thank you very much, and welcome to the -- to the committee. We're going to begin with Mr. Kutz. In front of you-- you see there's three lights that will go on when you begin speaking, a green light, and then when you're four minutes into your testimony; an orange light will go up. You should think about wrapping up if you can.
We want you to complete your -- your testimony in the way you're most -- most comfortable, but we also, as you can see, have a lot of members here, and we want to allow for -- for questions. But again, we want you to -- to do it in the way you're most comfortable.
Let me just add for the -- for the record that Mary Kealy, assistant superintendent of Pupil Services in Loudoun County Public Schools was originally scheduled to testify today but will not attend the hearing. Her written statement will be included in the record.
Mr. Kutz? Welcome to the committee. Thank you for your work on -- on -- on this issue, and we look forward to your testimony.
MR. KUTZ: Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss seclusion and restraint of children. There are allegations of the abusive use of seclusion and restraint in public and private schools. My testimony today addresses these allegations.
My testimony has two parts: First, I will provide you with a brief background and second, I will discuss the results of our investigation.
First, there are no federal laws restricting the use of seclusion and restraint in public and private schools. At the state level, laws and regulations vary widely. For example, 19 states have no laws or regulations that restrict the use of seclusion and restraint.
At the other end of the spectrum, eight states specifically prohibit the use of restraint that restricts breathing. Although no national data is available, for California and Texas alone, it was reported that there were 33,000 instances of seclusion, restraint, or other interventions during the 2008 school year.
Moving onto the results of our investigation, we identified hundreds of allegations of the abusive use of seclusion and restraint in public and private schools. At least 20 of these cases resulted in death. Most of the allegations related to children with disabilities.
Some of the more troubling allegations that we identified include: a three-year-old boy being strapped to a chair and secluded in a timeout room; a five-year-old boy having his elbow fractured from a basket hold restraint; a teenage boy repeatedly being locked in a four-by-six timeout room and then being forced to stay there after defecating; a 13-year-old boy hanging himself in a seclusion room with a cord that teachers provided to him to hold up his pants; and a 17- year-old girl choking to death in her own vomit after being held in a facedown restraint.
We took an in-depth look at ten of these cases involving 18 children between the ages of 4 and 15. The purpose of our work was to validate the facts and circumstances for each of these cases. This included interviewing numerous people along with reviewing police reports, autopsies, court records and other evidence.
The facts and circumstances we found for these cases were similar to those for the hundreds of allegations. Let me briefly describe three of these cases: First, the monitors show a picture of Christina Kilmer at the age of 8. Christina was born with cerebral palsy and later diagnosed with autism.
At the age of four, her mother noticed that she was coming home from her preschool classes in West Virginia with bruises on her arms, chest and legs. It turns out that she was being restrained in something that looked like an electric chair.
This chair had a high back and leather straps across the arms, chest, and legs. The teacher had restrained her in this chair because she was being uncooperative. Christina wet her pants while being restrained in this chair. According to her mother, Christina would act in an uncooperative way when she needed to use the restroom.
Second, the monitors show a picture of Jonathan Carrie at the age of 13 with his father. Jonathan was intellectually disabled and autistic. At the age of 11, a private school in New York secluded him in his room for extended periods of time. He was also denied 40 percent of his regular meals for behavioral problems. His father removed him from this school after finding him lying naked in his own urine.
Although hard to believe, things got worse for Jonathan when he was transferred to a state school for children with disabilities. While on a field trip, Jonathan became disruptive in the school van and was restrained by an aide. Jonathan died after this aide sat on top of him until he stopped breathing.
Third, the monitors show a picture of Christopher Smith at the age of eight. Christopher was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. When he was nine years old, he was secluded 75 times in the timeout room you see shown on both monitors. Although this room was unlocked, a staff person would hold the door shut so that Christopher could not leave.
You might wonder what this boy did to be secluded in this room 75 different times. I have in my hand copies of the 75 logs that document these incidents. The monitors show excerpts from these logs. As you can see, Christopher was being punished for making noises, waving his hands, chewing on his shirt and fidgeting.
Key themes from our ten cases include first, as I mentioned, most of these children had disabilities. Second, prone or other restraints that restrict breathing can be deadly. Third, staff were not properly trained, and fourth, those found responsible for the abusive use of seclusion and restraint continue to be licensed and work with children.
For example, one teacher was found to have physically abused a boy by restraining him until he died. This teacher was placed in the Texas state registry of individuals that have abused and neglected children. Today, she teaches at a public high school in Northern Virginia, just a short drive from where we sit.
In conclusion, there is no way to determine how widespread the abusive use of seclusion and restraint is in our nation. However, many of the 18 children from our case studies including four preschoolers were clearly abused and tortured. This disturbing evidence makes this issue worthy of the attention of this committee and parents across the nation.
Mr. Chairman, this ends my statement, and I'll look forward to your questions.
REP. MILLER: Thank you very much.
Ms. Gaydos? Welcome again to the committee and thank you for being here.
MS. GAYDOS: Can you hear me?
REP. MILLER: Yes.
MS. GAYDOS: Chairman Miller, other distinguished members, my name is Ann Gaydos, and this is my daughter, Paige. I'm here today to discuss what happened to Paige in the hope that no other child has to suffer as she did.
From infancy, Paige was an intense and voracious learner. She was an early reader and could identify and draw any state in the U.S. before she was two. She developed strong interest in astronomy and geology.
In early 2001, Paige, age seven, was tentatively diagnoses with bipolar disorder, a diagnosis since discarded and Asperger Syndrome. We were devastated but vowed she would receive an appropriate education. We researched the options, and Paige started school that March in a mixed grade classroom, kindergarten through third grade.
At no time was the use of restraints on Paige ever discussed. Paige was then very small, barely 40 pounds. Within a week she came home bruised and told me, "Mommy, my teacher hurt me and I couldn't breathe." Concerned, my husband went in to speak to the teacher who said she'd restrained Paige for refusing to stop wiggling a loose tooth while in timeout.
She claims she could not have caused the bruise. We were shocked that we had not known of this use of force and that such force could be used for something so trivial. Paige was also restrained for refusing to complete work.
In June, my husband ran into a former aide from Paige's classroom who warned us that that the teacher had forced Paige face down on the floor and sat on her. We immediately called a meeting with the teacher and principal in which we agreed that Paige would no longer be restrained, and I offered to come to the school should any crisis develop.
The restraints -- the restraints did stop for a while, although Paige continued to be subjected to lengthy timeouts, some over three hours in length. The new school year seemed more promising until November of 2001 when Paige was hurt on two successive days including being roughly jerked off a chair, which caused her to hit her nose on the desk.
After we forced the issue, the -- the principal eventually suggested an IEP meeting. My husband and I looked for an alternative placement, but nothing suitable was available. At the IEP we insisted that Paige could not be restrained, hurt, or bruised by this teacher absent an emergency situation.
It was agreed that we be called immediately to collect Paige if she was having problems. For a short time, this meeting helped to change the classroom from one that was aggressively punitive to one that was much more therapeutic and humane.
While attending summer school in July of 2002 with the same teacher, I was called to fetch Paige. As we were driving home, Paige burst into tears and told me, "Mommy, I've been hurt all day." She had a severe abrasion on her upper right arm and a large bump on her head.
I called the principal, told her Paige would not be returning and stressed how upset I was that nobody had told me anything about what had happened. We would later learn that something in the teacher's demeanor that day had terrified Paige when she arrived at the school, and she had fled the school grounds.
She was -- she was returned to the school safely, but the situation continued to escalate for several hours until her teacher took her into an empty classroom. There she grabbed Paige's wrist and her left hand, forced them up between Paige's shoulder blades, grabbed Paige's left ankle and her right hand, lifted her up off the ground and drove her head first into the ground. No documentation of any of these incidents was ever filed.
At an appointment the next day, Paige's neuropsychologist reported the incident to Child Protective Services, or CPS. CPS has no jurisdiction over public school teachers and referred the matter to the police, but the case was not ultimately prosecuted.
I then complained to the administration and wrote to the school board. Only one board member ever responded, and his advice was to sue the district. Unable to trust the district with Paige, we placed her in a private school for special needs children, the Children's Health Council, or CHC. At CHC we met another child that had suffered great trauma at the same school. This little boy, then six years old, was kept in seclusion timeout for the entire school day -- six hours -- for 19 successive school days.
He was denied food, water, bathroom access and education during this entire time. He, too, came home with unexplained injuries, and his mother had also complained to the district, CPS, and the police about these incidents. We were horrified and again wrote to the school board.
On receiving no response to our repeated complaints, we filed a lawsuit through which we learned of many similar complaints about the same teacher. Ultimately, the jurors were unanimous in their verdict and found the teacher, principal and district liable for damages. A lawsuit was the last way in the world that this should have been addressed.
I wish the story had a fairy tale ending, but the teacher was simply returned to the same classroom after hurting Paige. Shortly thereafter, CPS was again called after she threatened a child with a pair of scissors. She finally left that school; however, she went to work for another school district in California, where we learned there were further complaints of abuse.
There was no central database established or requirements for schools to check for police or CPS reports so this district had no warning. To this day, the teacher still holds a valid California teaching license.
Paige is now 15 but has never fully recovered from these experiences. She has lost her former enthusiasm for learning and has never since been the stellar student she once was. She's still frightened of school, although she no longer hides under her desk as she used to do at her old school, and when she first started at CHC. These events obscured an accurate diagnosis for years and delayed the opportunity to get the appropriate services and support -- supports for Paige.
I love my daughter will all my heart, and I believe she will achieve great things in her life, but I am enormously saddened by the tremendous loss of innocence, trust and potential that she has suffered. I hope you can help children like her.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to testify today, and I will answer any questions you may have.
REP. MILLER: Thank you.
Ms. Price? Welcome. Thank you for being here.
MS. PRICE: Thank you. Thank you, Chairman Miller.
REP. MILLER: Ms. Price? If we can just have you pull -- if you could pull the microphone a little bit closer to you.
MS. PRICE: Thank you, Chairman Miller and the committee for holding this hearing today and inviting me to share my story.
My name is Toni Price. I am a foster mother, and Cedric was my foster son. By the time Cedric came to my home at the age of 12, he had been through a lot in his short life. His parents neglected him and his siblings and abused them both physically and emotionally. They were underfed and food was withheld from them.
Cedric, the oldest, used to rummage through food -- for food for himself and his siblings. He had scavenged through trash cans, and he was caught stealing food from a grocery store. He never knew when he had his next meal.
Cedric became very sensitive about food. Starting at the age of nine, Cedric went to many foster homes but struggled. After a number of unsuccessful placements, Cedric was sent to a boot camp facility north of Killeen where he experienced more abuse.
He had a permanent scar on his face from being beaten with a shovel by a boot camp supervisor. It was after that facility that he came to live with my family and me at the age of 12. Despite his experience, Cedric came in with me with a smile as -- and he was very jovial and truly a loving smile.
He liked to bike, go bowling and feed the ducks in the pond near our house. When he had extra energy, he loved to run to the end of the driveway and back. He got along well with the other children in the house, particularly my son, because he always wanted a big brother. They played a lot of basketball.
I remember at church, Cedric -- Cedric wanted to be in a play, but there was no more part for him. He got the biggest smile on his face and said, "I know a part," and went and stood on the stage. The director said okay, you can play an angel. I knew he was sensitive about food, so I told him he could have anything in the kitchen, just let me know.
Cedric had behavior problems, but they were never physical, and he was never aggressive. We were able to find solutions to his behavior that worked. Once he stole a bag of chips from the kitchen, I made him pay me back, and it worked, because he learned his lesson about stealing.
But it was a consequence that didn't bring any of the previous abuse up to the surface. His therapist asked him once to describe a place. His answer was in a cave with solid rock walls, a steel door and lots of food.
Even though he was well fed at my home, food was a trigger for Cedric from the trauma of his childhood. Cedric enrolled in public school -- in the public middle school. His first year in school -- in seventh grade -- he had no problems. He didn't -- I didn't get any phone calls, and he did well in school.
His eighth grade year with a -- with a different teacher, he would always say to me, "I don't think she likes me." I'd reassure him that she did. I got frequent calls from his teacher that year about verbal aggression, though I never got calls about physical aggression.
I could ask the teacher to put Cedric on the phone, and said, Cedric, you know you need to do your work. He'd say, "Yes, ma'am." Sometimes Cedric would get in trouble at school for stealing food. But what I learned later was that in his classroom, he was being withheld food as a punishment for acting out.
The morning of his death, Cedric was put on what the teacher called delayed lunch. Because he stopped working about 11 o'clock, this was apparent a common punishment for him. At one o'clock, Cedric got in more trouble when he still hadn't -- when he still hadn't eaten lunch.
He was caught trying to steal candy. At 2:30, he still hadn't been allowed to eat his lunch and got up to leave the classroom. After Cedric attempted to leave the classroom, he refused to sit back down in his chair, so the teacher forced him into his chair and restrained him.
She is roughly six feet tall, weighs over 230 pounds. Cedric was short. He was a little -- he was a little boy. Cedric struggled as -- Cedric struggled as he was being held in a chair so the teacher put him face down and sat on him.
He struggled and said repeatedly, "I can't breathe." "If you can talk, if you can speak, you can breathe," she snapped at him. Shortly after that, he stopped speaking, and he stopped struggling, and he stopped moving. The teacher continued to restrain him. Finally, the teacher -- finally, the teacher and aides put Cedric back into his chair and wiped the drool from his mouth and sat him up, but he slumped over and slipped out of the chair.
Precious moments passed before a nurse was called. I received a call at work that Cedric was not breathing and that ambulance had been called. I rushed to the school not completely clear of what was going on and what was happening.
When I got to the school, my son was laying on the floor with a paramedic beside him.
I kneeled down and said, "Cedric, get up, you're not going to be in trouble," but Cedric didn't move. Instead, the paramedic stood me up. My son was dead. I didn't know the school was practicing restraint techniques on Cedric. I didn't know they were withholding food as a punishment.
In fact, when I initially enrolled him at the school, I told administration he'd been withheld food as a child and it was a -- and it was traumatic. When the teacher was having trouble with Cedric, I told her about the techniques with helping him at home. I tried to help her because Cedric was not a bad kid.
He'd come home. He had come so far and had so much success in the seventh grade. I knew that he could be successful. The school never held meetings with me to address behavior problems aside from calling his teacher. I didn't know the extent of Cedric was getting -- I didn't know the extent that Cedric was getting in trouble and what they were doing to him. This teacher took a child's life, but she said -- but she said also a lot of -- but she also caused a lot of damage to the classmates, many of whom were victims of trauma already. His classmates and parents were forbidden to talk to me. But for many of the children witnessing the abuse of Cedric was so traumatic for them that they spoke and, in turn, their parents spoke to me.
After I read the autopsy report, I was taken aback about how much a school can get away with. Cedric's death ruled -- was ruled a homicide. The school policy allows therapeutic floor holds when a child is engaged himself and others. But Cedric wasn't endangering himself or anyone that day.
No problems were found with the teacher's conduct. No legal action was taken, and as a foster mother, I didn't have the right to press charges. Eventually a judge found the teacher's actions to be reckless and Cedric's death not an accident, but she never received a criminal record or any kind of sentence.
She was placed on a Texas registry for being abusive to children. I have been told that this teacher now teaches at a public high school in north -- northern Virginia. Her Virginia license shows her accreditation to be kindergarten through 12th, special education.
If that teacher was just doing her job, then something is very wrong with the system. If they -- If I treated Cedric that way, I'd be in jail. I want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else's child. It's an awful -- it was awful the way Cedric died. He was a good kid. This should never happen. The morning Cedric died, he was boarding the bus. He turned around and got a -- a beaming smile on his face and said to me, "Mom, you know I love you."
REP. MILLER: Thank you, Ms. Price.
MR. PETERSON: My name is Reece Peterson. My role is that of a researcher who along with other colleagues from around the country are attempting to understand the use of restraint and seclusion in school settings.
I've been a researcher and teacher educator for more than 30 years. My purpose is to share with you what we know, or maybe more accurately what we don't know, about the use of restraint and seclusion in school settings. There's virtually no research about the number of situations which occur in schools where student behavior poses danger of physical injury to themselves or to other students or to staff.
Similarly, there is no information about how these situations are addressed, whether physical restraint is used, where an adult physically holds the student and prevents them from moving, or whether seclusion is used or procedures are used where a student is placed in a special environment and prevented from leaving when they're alone. I believe that there is agreement among knowledgeable professional educators that physical restraint and seclusion procedures should be used only rarely in school settings and then to prevent injuries -- only when there is immediate danger of physical injury to someone and thus, that is an emergency situation.
While some have suggested that both restraint and seclusion can be used to change student behavior, there is virtually no evidence to support the effectiveness for that purpose. Seclusion should be distinguished here from timeout from positive reinforcement, which does have evidence of potential value in changing behavior but which need not entail seclusion.
There is controversy regarding whether these procedures should also be employed when students may be causing serious damage to the school environment. Most would say that those should not be used -- those procedures should not be used in such situations because of the risks for injury from those procedures may be larger than the risks without such strategies.
Nevertheless, there are some isolated studies and anecdotal evidence that these procedures are being used for a variety of other situations that are not emergencies. In one study, my colleagues and I found the use of these procedures occurred for student noncompliance leaving the learning environment and other student behavior similar to what we've heard here today that did not apparently entail danger of physical injury to anyone.
Similar instances of non-emergency use have occurred in many of the numerous news media reports that we've all seen. According to anecdotal reports, these procedures have also been implemented inappropriately in other respects.
Restraints have been conducted by people not trained to do so without recognition of the physiological symptoms of distress, such as restricted breathing or were conducted well past the time when the student has regained control.
Seclusion has been employed in environments which are not safe, without close monitoring of the student and for extended or inappropriate lengths of time. All of these situations defy commonly accepted professional guidelines for the use of these procedures.
Since reports of these -- since these reports are often the result of parent complaints or media reports, we do not know how many times these procedures are inappropriately employed with students. Yet there does appear to be a substantial number of these situations, and they appear to be scattered across the United States.
However, we must also acknowledge that there may also be many situations across the United States where these procedures are being used much more appropriately, and there may be little or no adverse effects because of their use in those situations where there are true emergencies.
States are varied substantially in their supervision of these procedures in the schools. As been alluded to earlier, in a recent study that my colleagues and I engaged in, we found that there were 21 states which had policies regarding restraint, 10 more with guidelines or technical assistance documents in place, 14 states reported no policies or guidelines at all in that case.
For seclusion, there was about 17 states which had policies and seven more with guidelines we could identify and imagine these are changing continually. Most of the time both types of policies and guidelines were included in special education policies for these states, but all of these policies varied widely in their terminology, definitions and content.
It is important to note that the use of these procedures is not strictly an issue related to students with disability and while most of the instances of their use of procedures have been with students with disabilities, some have not. School staff members who engage in restraints or seclusion may not be in special education staff. We currently don't know.
There's concern about -- from knowledgeable professionals regarding the deaths and injuries resulting from these procedures -- concern that reasonable guidelines for their use are apparently not being followed and concern for violations of human rights.
There are several recommendations that could be made having to do with some things already addressed such as prevention and the creation of positive supports, adequate staffing of school programs, appropriate and specific training, developing a common framework as to when these procedures could and should be used, and more consistent emergency and safety planning with parents regarding those students who we can predict might have serious behavioral episodes.
And then common debriefing and reporting to some outside agency, the state Department of Education or other agencies, I think, would be helpful. There is a more comprehensive set of recommendations, which is currently being developed by the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders, which is a division of the Council for Exceptional Children, and those reports address many of these issues and are available, and I would like to see some of those kinds of recommendations be implemented to address these very serious problems that we've heard about.
Thank you very much.
REP. MILLER: Thank you.
MS. HANSELMAN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman --
REP. MILLER: We need you -- thank you.
MS. HANSELMAN: Sorry. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on this important topic today. In 2001, Illinois enacted legislation to specifically address the issues of seclusion, known as isolated timeout in Illinois, and physical restraint in public schools.
The state Board of Education in collaboration with stakeholders around the state developed rules governing the use of isolated timeout and physical restraint. We relied upon information from research and evidence-based practices, and our rules became effective in January of 2002.
These rules apply to all students in Illinois, not only those with disabilities. They limit the employment of isolated timeout and physical restraint to be used only to preserve the safety of self or others and to prohibit the use of seclusion or restraint for the purpose of punishment or exclusion.
Illinois rules impose time limits, require continual visual monitoring of and communication with the student, can only be used when a student poses a physical risk to self or others. There is no medical contraindication to its use, and staff applying the restraint have been trained in the safe application in accordance with the rules within the past two years.
Further instructions include prohibiting the use of chemical or mechanical restraint and requiring that students who communicate via sign language or with augmentative devices be allowed to have their hands free of restraint.
The need for seclusion and restraint is in part the result of insufficient knowledge, skills and systems of prevention and behavior support. The majority of behaviors, which result in the use of seclusion and restraint can be prevented by early identification and intensive intervention implemented within a school-wide system of behavioral support.
For the past ten years, the state Board of Education in Illinois has invested in the implementation of school-wide positive and behavior intervention support, PBIS.
PBIS is a systems approach to establishing the social culture needed for schools to achieve social and academic gains while minimizing problem behaviors for all students. Key to the implementation of PBIS is the recognition that we must teach and acknowledge behavioral and social skills just as we teach academic skills.
School-wide positive behavior interventions and support emphasizes the implementation of evidence-based practices, school, district and state systems that support the implementation of these practices and ongoing collection of data for decision-making purposes.
Doctors Robert Horner and George Sugai of the National PBIS Center note that these elements are operationalized by five guiding principles.
First, invest in prevention to establish a foundation intervention that is empirically validated to be effective, efficient and sustainable; teach and acknowledge appropriate behavior before relying on negative consequences; use regular universal screening to identify students who need more intense support and provide that support as early as possible and with the intensity needed to meet the needs of the students; establish a continuum of behavioral and academic interventions for use when students are identified as needing more intense support; and finally, use progress monitoring to assess A, the fidelity with which the support is provided, and B, the impact of that support on student academic and social outcomes.
Over 1,000 schools in Illinois now implement PBIS as part of our statewide network under the direction of Dr. Lucille Eber and Ms. Barbara Sams. This includes alternative schools, residential schools and juvenile correction centers.
Data collection over these past ten years show significant reductions in office disciplinary referrals, suspensions, and expulsions resulting in increased time for academic instruction and learning. Schools that implement PBIS with fidelity show improved academic outcome as measured by our state assessments.
Illinois schools implemented PBIS show greater capacity to support students with the most complex needs. These schools have a reduction in the number of instances which require intensive interventions including seclusion and restraint and increased effectiveness of individual behavior support plans.
Illinois data shows that school-wide PBIS can have a positive impact in all programs including reduction in the use of restraints and separate facilities for students with emotional disorders by more than 50 percent in the first year of implementing the program; show a reduction in the occurrence of critical incidents by more than 60 percent following implementation in youth correctional centers.
Based on our experience in Illinois, we urge the adoption of national voluntary standards and model policies on the use of seclusion and restraint. This can only be effective when coupled with the strong commitment and investment in the training and ongoing support of staff in the use of evidence-based prevention strategies as supported by the Positive Behavior for Effective Schools Act.
Thank you for your support and attention to this important topic.
REP. MILLER: Thank you very much, and thank you to all of you for your -- your testimony this morning and your participation.
Ms. Gaydos and Ms. Price, thank you very, very much again for being here. It's -- it's hard to us to imagine the -- the sadness and the loss that you've -- you've suffered at these -- at this system that's currently in place, and we hope that we'll be able to demonstrate to you that we can -- we can change that.
And, Paige, thank you very much for -- for being here with us this morning. It's a pleasure to have you here.
Mr. Kutz? If I listened to Ms. Hanselman's testimony, and I -- and I look at the GAO report, it would just seem on its face -- and if you just take the Texas and California -- and since we don't know anything about them, we only know the number apparently, but there would appear that when you have a protocol in place that Illinois is trying to put in place and has in place in a number of schools, that there -- it would be safe to assume that there are, in fact, thousands of cases of restraint and seclusion that turn out to be unnecessary and that can be prevented.
Is that -- is that a fair assumption?
MR. KUTZ: -- Hundreds and it would seem likely that there are thousands.
I mean, the numbers keep rising as we speak from what comes in. But certainly we know there's hundreds, and given that just those two states have 33,000 instances, not necessarily improper, it's likely it's a bigger number.
REP. MILLER: Ms. Hanselman? I don't know what you had in place before this in -- in terms of reporting or -- or -- or not, but you've -- you've talked about the number of -- of incidents that you -- you believe have been avoided by the use of the -- of -- of the positive system.
MS. HANSELMAN: Yes. We have seen with all of our schools that have implemented PBIS a significant reduction in the number of referrals and utilizations of restraints or seclusion as a result of positive behavior intervention.
REP. MILLER: Mr. Kutz? In -- in the report, you highlight the -- the deaths that have -- that have taken place -- Ms. Price's here -- from a face down restraints and restraints to block that -- that block the -- the airway. And if this is a reoccurring problem with the use of this -- of this restraint -- in some cases, it's -- it's argued that there's training that takes place but, again, from your report, it's hard to -- to determine whether or not that training is adequate in terms of the protection for the safety of the children.
MR. KUTZ: Yes, that's correct. I mean, the face down restraint or the prone restraint was responsible for at least three of the four deaths here and possibly the fourth. There are accounts that -- some accounts that the fourth child was face down when they were sat on on the school van.
And you may recall from our work on our residential programs for troubled youth, there were many deaths there that were the result of prone or face down restraint. So it's certainly where you block the breathing -- even if you're sitting up, anything that blocks or restricts the breathing is -- is at high risk, and that's, I think, pretty well --
REP. MILLER: I would think that that would -- I mean, the cumulative evidence that we have here would suggest that perhaps that's not a restraint that you want to continue to use on -- on young children. I mean, given what we learned in the residential facilities, what we're now seeing in schools this is -- this is a high risk restraint, especially in the hands of people who aren't -- have any awareness or training. I don't want to give training -- as that's a green light for this, but even with the training, this is a very high-risk restraint.
MR. KUTZ: It would seem to be the highest-risk restraint from what we can see.
REP. MILLER: You know, it's just -- it's very hard to figure out how you use this and what is happening to this -- to this child, most of whom are 15 and younger, but a number of them were -- are very young, under -- under 11 years old.
You know, we've been discussing a lot and listening to waterboarding -- about waterboarding, where you drip water over cloth on a person's face, they're upside down, I guess, and -- and -- and you -- you create the perception that they're drowning. And you start to think of here, you're -- you're -- you're losing your breath, you're losing your ability to breathe.
Ms. Price talked about Cedric trying to tell people that he couldn't breathe, so you're creating that same -- that same psychological impact on that child that they're going to suffocate, and, in fact, in some cases, they were suffocated. They died.
And even if you quote, "use it successfully," the fear, the humiliation that you've -- that that child has experienced is to me almost incomprehensible that we would think that this is some kind of proper therapy to use on very young children.
I just -- you don't need to respond. Just -- I just taken by your report that -- that this would be so readily turned to and again documented in the GAO report that in many instances, this wasn't about a child being a danger to themselves or to others, this was about trying to restore order, or the teacher didn't like the behavior or -- or whatever the interaction was, the child's life ended up being threatened, but the child wasn't threatening anybody else's life or themselves prior to that.
And I just think when you -- when you think about the age appropriateness of the seclusions, 75 times locked away in a dark room -- people locked away in dark rooms for hours, wetting themselves, defecating -- you know, any understanding of how sensitive young children are about their peers and themselves and back and forth, I mean, this punishment is way, way out of bounds.
This behavior by -- by people imposing this is way out of bounds of what I believe are the social norms in this -- in this society, and I -- I -- I don't understand that -- that -- you know, we have this, sort of, patchwork state regulation where states have taken a look at this, and interesting, it appears that the states that have taken a look at this realize not only the jeopardy that they are in but the jeopardy that they're putting children in, and they tried to in one way or another have some -- some system to -- to -- to check this.
But I think if they would just pause for a moment and think about what they're -- what they're doing -- if you look at the GAO report, a male from the age of 11 through 13 was -- was -- was being abused -- a male 15, female four years old, four males under the age of six, a male eight years old, five students ages six and seven, a female seven years old, a male nine years old -- these are very young children.
MR. KUTZ: Yes, four of our 18 were actually four years old. So they are -- they were preschoolers.
REP. MILLER: Yes. No, this is, you know, this -- this is just unacceptable. It's just unacceptable that -- that -- that this would be a policy within a public institution with respect to the care of -- of these children.
Everyone on this committee is -- fully appreciates the difficulty that teachers engage in in a daily basis of trying to teach and -- and -- and create an atmosphere for learning in a classroom with -- with a various mix of children that we have.
And we have processes and we have protections in place -- clearly insufficient protections within a school, but none of that justifies this kind of behavior, and I have to tell you, I got to believe that in many instances, these teachers are victimized almost as much, because the fact that they don't have the kinds of resources necessary to deal with this.
Either they need additional -- they need additional training just in how they react and respond to students, but when -- when they get into an incident where it requires something beyond that, seems to me they're kind of left to themselves here, and that's -- that's probably not a good situation.
But we'll -- we'll get into that more so.
Dr. Peterson? Just -- back to your testimony, and I think I'm running out of time here. I am out of time. Just if I might, quickly, infringe on my colleague's time here, what -- you started to talk about -- what is the evidentiary base that any of this is -- is -- makes sense?
MR. PETERSON: Well, there is no -- there is no evidentiary base that these are effective in changing behavior. There is a belief --
REP. MILLER: I think your mike is not on. My hearing's superior. My wife tells me that all the time.
MR. PETERSON: There's no -- there's no basis that they change behavior, but I think many people believe that they are -- may be necessary in these emergency situations to prevent injury. And it's a simple matter of teacher's obligation to defend the other kids in the class, and even the target students from their own behavior as well as themselves.
REP. MILLER: My concern would be, I don't think the GAO report suggested this is only done in emergency situations.
MR. PETERSON: Absolutely right.
REP. MILLER: There is a huge gap between --
MR. PETERSON: Yes, and I think we need to find a way to correct these abusive situations, but to also provide the support you mentioned to teachers who are really struggling to do the right thing for kids.
REP. MILLER: Mr. McKeon?
REP. MCKEON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
These kinds of hearings are -- are very hard to sit through, and no comparison to how hard it is for you to -- to tell the stories that you've had to tell or to live through the experiences you've had to live through. But a lot of things come to my -- come to my mind.
Mr. Kutz? You said 31 states -- 31 states have laws in place.
MR. KUTZ: Correct --
REP. MCKEON: Would one of those be Colorado?
MR. KUTZ: I -- if you give me a moment, I'll let you know that. Thirty-one have something in place --
REP. MCKEON: I would -- I would like to know, because Ms. Gaydos, your experience happened in Colorado?
MS. GAYDOS: Actually, this was in California. We moved to Colorado after it happened.
REP. MCKEON: Thank you. Does California have one -- have laws in place?
MR. KUTZ: Colorado does, by the way.
REP. MCKEON: California?
MS. GAYDOS: It has some laws in place. There appears to be absolutely no way of enforcing them. We went to the district. We went to the board, the police, and CPS, and our only resource left was a lawsuit.
REP. MCKEON: See this -- this same thing came up in -- in the other hearing that we had on the abuses that happened in these camps and these other schools, and apparently nothing could be done there either. What I'm wondering is, what -- what good will more laws be if -- if there's no way to enforce the law or like, in your case Ms. Price, where -- where apparently the teachers are untouchable.
And I remember when we had the -- the incident of deaths in the camps or those other schools and no enforcement took place. And -- and when you rule a homicide, and yet nothing seems to -- to happen -- the teachers are still working -- is this because of labor laws that protect people to the -- to extreme levels? Is it labor that -- labor unions that protect people from extreme situations?
What is it that causes these kind of problems and -- and the people seem to -- their lives go on unaffected.
MS. PRICE: I believe --
REP. MCKEON: Anybody.
MS. PRICE: I -- I believe this -- because in my case, the teacher is put on a registry in Texas, but she was able to go to another state. I think that when a -- a teacher does something and it's ruled a homicide, and there's nothing that has been done, that teacher should be put on a worldwide registry.
REP. MCKEON: A colleague of mine here -- you know, used to be on this committee, Mr. Porter -- pursued for several years, and I think we got it signed into law finally that where FBI records could be shared in the case of child abuse in schools -- a teacher that was, I think they were -- had to be convicted of child abuse, but then, they went on a registry, and the FBI records could be shared from state to state or school district to school district, which I think is very important.
However, that was a conviction. What you're talking about is a -- a claim or in the case of your foster child, the death was ruled a homicide, but there was no action taken so there wouldn't be any conviction on any person's record. So if you go to another state, you wouldn't -- you wouldn't even have to lie on your application. There's not a place on it that says, "Did you kill a child in your last job?"
MS. PRICE: This is true, but if that teacher was on a worldwide kind of registry where she was involved in some child abuse, because that's the only thing that she was involved with was a child abuse, then maybe the school would look at it to see, okay, what kind of abuse was this, and dive into it deeper to see.
And then see, okay, this dealt with a homicide and maybe take actions that way.
REP. MCKEON: We probably have laws that protect people's privacy and protect them from others which, you know, makes it difficult to --
MS. PRICE: But if the teacher is teaching, and this registry has said worldwide where that those individuals are able to go into their records to see, because you're putting other children's lives in danger.
REP. MCKEON: Yes. Problem is when you employ someone; you can't even ask them how old they are. You can't ask them about so many things that would -- that would -- that would help give somebody a clue as to what's going on.
I understand the registry you're talking about. It just seems to me that these cases are so extreme and yet, nothing can be done, and we're talking about maybe passing more laws, and I think it sounds like the states have laws where these abuses happened and nothing happened.
So I -- I guess I don't know what good another law would do. I understand the importance of -- of training the -- the teachers or administrators who may be involved in these situations so that they can better cope and handle without abusing children like this, but this --
MS. PRICE: I have a question.
REP. MCKEON: Pardon?
MS. PRICE: Do we have pedophiles that have to report wherever they move to and their employers are able to look into their files?
REP. MCKEON: I don't know.
REP. MILLER: Public record. Public record.
REP. MCKEON: Pedophiles?
MS. PRICE: Then, excuse my ignorance, but why are they able to look into a pedophiles file, but a teacher that has killed someone, she's safe.
REP. MCKEON: Pardon -- pardon your ignorance? Sounds to me like that's wisdom.
REP. MILLER: Well, we don't know whether she was safe or whether they didn't check.
I don't know, is the Texas registry a public record, Mr. Kutz?
MR. KUTZ: Yes. She was initially placed in the Texas registry. Then all of a sudden, it disappeared from the Texas registry. So we're not sure if Virginia checked or not, or if Texas dropped the ball. But we do know that the school district in this case, Loudoun County Public Schools here in Northern Virginia, was not aware that this teacher had this prior situation.
REP. MILLER: But we don't know whether -- again whether anybody checked --
MR. KUTZ: We don't know. I think that's -- I referred the case to the Virginia Department of Education on Friday.
REP. MILLER: Okay.
MR. KUTZ: So they're aware of it. They're investigating it, and ultimately, the committee will probably be informed what happened.
REP. MILLER: All right, thank you.
MR. KUTZ: But something broke down in the system, clearly.
REP. MILLER: Right. Clearly, something broke down in the system.
REP. MCKEON: Well I don't know -- I don't know if there is a system for that.
REP. MILLER: No, no, but -- but if the Texas registry was -- was a public record, the question would be, would you check where the person was last employed to see if there was anything on the public record. That's all I'm saying. I -- I don't know that there's a system in place to do that. It just seemed that that would be -- what's the point of the registry if nobody --
MS. PRICE: Because usually on the application they do ask your last job employment.
REP. MILLER: Right. I assume you'd want to know where somebody came from if -- Mr. Kildee?
REPRESENTATIVE DALE KILDEE (D-MI): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Kutz? Could you suggest how we, Congress or the federal government could implement or impose a federal standard for governing or relating to seclusion or restraint?
Would, for example, the Illinois system be of some guidance to us?
MR. KUTZ: Possibly, again we didn't get into that at this point. I certainly think that this is worthy of a look at the federal level, but I believe the other two witnesses have much more knowledge in that area than I do.
REP. KILDEE: Well, very often, when we -- whenever we spend federal dollars for a program we feel is good for children, we put some standards in that program for -- for the expenditure of those dollars. Is there anything we can do here? Is there a federal role that we should have to try to make sure these things don't happen that we've -- we've heard have happened?
What should the federal role be, or is there -- I would think there should be a federal role. I mean, we are spending dollars hopefully to help kids to make sure they are not hurt.
MR. KUTZ: Yes, I -- I don't know. One example we talked about -- Ms. Price was talking about is some sort of a registry people can go to to determine this teacher who was involved with Cedric's death was found by an administrative law judge to have been guilty of, you know, at least abuse of children, and there was a registry set up.
But we don't know if -- that the states do that or whatever -- if something national on that or there would be some ability to tap into that to do checks on people would be useful, for example. There's -- I'm sure there's other things you can consider, but that's something that we came across that I'm sure parents would be concerned about if -- do we really know who the teachers are that are teaching our children in our country.
REP. KILDEE: Dr. Peterson? Do you have any response to that?
MR. PETERSON: Yes. I -- I think the registry may be of value. That would be good, but I think the -- a larger issue is the response of schools, and I do think there would be value to some common definitions, terminology, common expectations across the states for when these procedures could or should be used, if at all.
And that would help a lot whether it's a law or some kind of a federal guideline that would direct states or help states implement better policies, I think, would be very helpful. And I think we have to remember that we have many more kids in school with serious mental health issues, serious behavioral issues than we had 10 or 20 years ago, and as a result, we also need to provide better supports.
And I think the preventive things that were mentioned could be built in by requiring districts to have -- to show their preventive efforts -- their plans for how they are implementing positive behavioral supports rather than just relying on some of these issues.
So I do think there are some things like that that could be done at the federal level that would really assist states to become more uniform and move practice further ahead.
REP. KILDEE: Well, if all of you could reflect more upon that, because, you know, most of us up here -- like myself, I'm the father of three children, grandfather of seven children, and I can just imagine how devastated I would be if something like this would happen to one of my children.
I think we should have that same feeling of devastation for any child in America, and if there is a role that the federal government can play that would -- that would, hopefully, eliminate this -- certainly minimize but, hopefully, eliminate this, we certainly would -- would like your input and your help to try to arrive at something like that.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
REP. MILLER: (Off mike.)
REPRESENTATIVE VERNON EHLERS (R-MI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize for missing the testimony, but I was in another meeting. But I'm -- I'm really -- you know, so many things go on in this world that we don't know about, and this is one of them, and I'm just shocked by what I've heard and the evidence that I heard during the brief time I've been here.
But I wanted to ask Mr. Kutz or Kutz?
MR. KUTZ: Kutz is -- yes.
REP. EHLERS: Kutz, okay. In your testimony, you talked about -- that there's no Web site or federal agency responsible for collecting comprehensive information on the issue of seclusion and -- and restraint in public and private schools.
But in 2003, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration began promoting the implementation and evaluation of best practice approaches to reducing and preventing the use of seclusion and restraint and mental health inpatient and residential settings. SAMSHA also awarded grants to eight states to implement interventions designed to reduce or eliminate the use of seclusion and restraint in designated mental health facilities. Did -- did you look at those activities and -- and see what parallels there might be -- what we might learn from their experience that would make it feasible to do the same thing in the schools that the bill we passed some years ago does in mental health surroundings?
Have you had a chance to look at that at all or not?
MR. KUTZ: Not in any depth, no. We're aware of that, but not in any depth. Again, we were looking at something that was more comprehensive, possibly, but it could have some relevance to a bigger picture going forward.
REP. EHLERS: I'm just curious what their experience was and whether they found -- found this to be a successful approach or not, because, you know, this -- these are terrible events, and I -- my heart goes out to the -- the parents here.
The question is not how can we punish schools, but how can we prevent these things from ever happening in the first place? And I think it'd be useful to know if there are other situations that are quite similar such as the one I mentioned. Or there may be others that we can learn from and find out what works and what doesn't work in those situations where we've already tried to address the problem.
Do you have any comment on that? Do -- anyone wish to comment?
MR. PETERSON: Well, I think the -- the SAMSHA initiative was one that was valuable. I'm not clear with the specifics, but I think that there would be some value in doing something like that in the schools. It is my understanding that schools were not eligible for that competition and that initiative, but I think there would be value in doing that.
REP. EHLERS: Do you know -- does anyone on the panel know whether there's other programs that might be similar to that that we could look at and -- and compare and see what's effective and what isn't?
MR. PETERSON: No, I'm not immediately aware. I know there are some individual situations where individuals have taken the leadership within schools and various settings to -- to do that. I think the -- the committee may be aware of some of these.
One of them is in the Centennial School in Pennsylvania, and a colleague of mine in the Kansas City area has assisted her district to try to reduce the use of these procedures. So I think they could be found. They are -- there are some good examples out there, and we need to identify those, and -- and maybe share the wisdom that they've learned with -- with others.
REP. EHLERS: I'm actually interested in going beyond just that part, but getting into the question about reporting and how schools would be able to check on a teacher to see whether or not there has been a problem. So I think both aspects are very important -- the proper training, but -- but also some sort of register.
And, Mr. Chairman? May I just suggest that would be a good thing for the staff to look at? I -- I'm just feeling a little at sea here as to how to begin addressing this, and I'm just looking for various other instances where it's -- the problem has been addressed that we could learn from.
I thank -- I yield back.
REP. MILLER: Thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE DONALD PAYNE (D-NJ): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for calling this very important hearing, and it's actually shocking to hear what happened in these ten cases. I -- my first career, for the first 10 or 12 years or so, I was a public school teacher, and I taught in Newark and state public systems in New Jersey.
And, although, I was primarily in secondary school, I did have a stint for a bit in an elementary school for several years, but I -- I just cannot fathom how abuse like this could happen. It seems like rather than things improving -- because we always heard that time would take care of everything, things would get better in time; however, this seems to be going in -- in an opposite direction.
We hear stories that, you know, we didn't hear about years ago, and I -- being in the system, there weren't investigations, however, being in a school, we would know. And -- and that basically -- perhaps a question to both of the parents, Ms. Gaydos and Ms. Price, did you find any of the other teachers or school personnel or -- was there anyone that just said, you know, I really would like to tell you the person's abusive or -- or maybe you ought to report -- I mean it just -- this is worse than police -- silence of the blue.
You know, this is silence of the -- of the educators. I -- I -- what -- what has been your experience?
MS. GAYDOS: My experience with the school district was that there was a very, very strong code of silence. It was considered extremely disloyal to warn a parent. We were warned by an aide that this teacher was abusive. She was treated terribly. She held two meetings to discuss the abuse.
She was docked of her pay for the time spent in the first. After the second, she was put in -- on administrative leave and threatened she would be fired if she spoke to parents. In deposition, an HR manager said the things she was most upset about for this aide was that she warned parents.
Now, we -- this woman was trashed to us. Her credibility was trashed by the principal. This woman was the bravest person there. The perceptions she came to; the conclusions she came to completely dovetailed with those of our expert witnesses. She was head and shoulders above everybody else on that district, and that's how she was treated. So there's a strong code of silence, and the district is going to protect itself. We feel very strongly that uniform complaints to the district should not be investigated by the prime culprits. It -- it's the fox guarding the hen house.
The assistant superintendent would have investigated the uniform complaint. The only unsolicited call I ever got about this was a very unpleasant call from him trying to undercut our credibility and basically trying to intimidate us.
And they can do that, because they have enormous amounts of public money to pay for their legal defense. They can generally outspend and exhaust the plaintiffs. So they're not going to be much help. I agree with Toni about the importance of a central repository of information and one possibility would be to give Child Protective Services or equivalent jurisdiction over teachers so that they could keep some sort of central records.
If I had three complaints against me by three different people including two professionals, one of whom was in the classroom and witnessed an incident and that was the teacher going after the child with scissors, my children would be removed from -- from my care.
This teacher was allowed to continue. So, that's all I have to say.
REP. PAYNE: How about you, Ms. Price? Did you find any help anywhere?
MS. PRICE: I found some help from some teachers that called me, and they told me they weren't allowed to talk with me. And -- but they did call and even brought me some of the -- where she had marked on his styrofoam tray the times that, you know, he -- the food came in.
But they were told not to converse with me, but you have some teachers that will, and I think it's more of the administration trying to cover themselves -- oops, I made a boo-boo type thing, you know, maybe I didn't check in depth on this individual enough and not wanting to be in that spotlight.
REP. PAYNE: Just before the time expires, Mr. Kutz? What was your -- when you -- when your people went around to ask the questions, were you welcomed, and -- or did the Boards of Ed feel, well, maybe let's try to work on correcting anything if it's wrong, or was it sort of the same kind of defensive, you know, et cetera, et cetera?
MR. KUTZ: Well, certainly the parents and attorneys and law enforcement were willing to cooperate. We got autopsy reports, court records, et cetera. We did not attempt to speak to the teachers. I think that was something that we felt necessarily appropriate, but we had sworn statements from pretty much all of them. So we -- we knew what their positions were.
We didn't want to have federal agents show up for some of these people who hadn't been found guilty of anything and then, you know, raise questions about those folks, but overall, we got cooperation. The schools, I think, they weren't really interested in telling us too much, but they were hoping to move beyond the incidents that had occurred, because they were pretty egregious incidents.
REP. PAYNE: Thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE JUDY BIGGERT (R-IL): Thank -- thank you, Mr. Chairman. Sorry I missed the -- the testimony, but I have a couple of questions for the gentle lady from Illinois, Ms. Hanselman.
I was looking through the -- the GAO report, and it -- it talks about one incident that happened in -- in Illinois with a -- a -- a youth of eight was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and a substitute teacher restrained the -- the child in a chair with masking tape and also taped his mouth shut because the boy would not remain seated, and the -- actually a lawsuit was brought, and he was -- and the substitute was found guilty of the restraint and aggravated -- aggravated battery and sentenced to two years probation, community service and a psychological evaluation.
However, it also says that this substitute still possesses an Illinois substitute teaching certificate, which expires in June of 2009. That seems like that would probably have been the first thing that the state would have asked is -- to take away that certification. Are you aware of that case?
MS. HANSELMAN: I was not aware of the case until this report, and I have not had an opportunity to investigate that, but it certainly is something that I will be following up with our department. Individuals with -- in Illinois, for teacher certification, there are certain enumerated offenses that are an automatic revocation of their certificate.
I will have to revert -- review this to determine whether or not this case will warrant that type of action or not. But at this time, I could not comment.
REP. BIGGERT: Okay. Well, I understand you're one of the -- Illinois is one of the first states in the country to enact legislation governing the use of seclusion and -- and restraints.
Does it -- does the state require parental consent before using restraints on children with disabilities, for example?
MS. HANSELMAN: If a child with a disability has gone through the IEP process, which they would have gone through, a behavior intervention plan would indicate what types of techniques will be utilized, and the focus would be on those positive interventions or supports that we provided and then the restraints and the issues would come as more severe once you've tried those other issues, but yes --
REP. BIGGERT: Could -- could you just tell me a little bit about what you think about the PBIS program? It seems like it's -- it's what, been in existence ten years, and you really -- do you think it's -- are other states coming to you and asking you about it, and how many states have come, and how many have -- really are using this program as well, if you know?
MS. HANSELMAN: Illinois has really been recognized for our data on positive behavior interventions and supports. We've been asked to speak at many national conferences and regional conferences with regards to the success our schools have had.
And the implementation and the -- the expanse of the program to a quarter of our schools just in this short period of time, I know, a thousand schools over ten years is -- is good for us, and we have made huge strides with regards to the coaching and the training and the supports that we provide to our teachers.
So we are providing technical assistance and information to other states.
REP. BIGGERT: Would you think that -- that all the schools in our school districts should be in this program, or is this something that should be a choice here, because there are other programs, aren't there, that --
MS. HANSELMAN: Certainly, one of the activities that we are working on in Illinois is to align all of our discretionary projects for all students so that we can ensure success for our students post- secondary, ensure safe, healthy learning environments, and to ensure that we have the most highly qualified and trained teacher staff. Those are the three goals of our agency.
In order to do that, one of the activities we're working with is with the scaling up initiative -- this school-wide scaling up of all of our evidence-based practices. PBIS and our reading first model have the two models for which we were branching all of our discretionary projects, all of our technical assistance for both general ed and special education to ensure statewide coverage of all of our projects so we can ensure more qualified teachers in our schools.
REP. BIGGERT: Do you -- does the state of Illinois or the school districts require a background check on all new teachers coming into the state?
MS. HANSELMAN: Yes.
REP. BIGGERT: Okay. I think that's all the questions I have, and I yield back. Thank you.
MS. HANSELMAN: Thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE ROB ANDREWS (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Gaydos? Thank you for your testimony.
Paige? It's great to have you with us here this morning. Glad that you're here. Ms. Price? Your -- your words were moving, and I hope that they will save the life of some other child that was unable to be done for Cedric.
Mr. Kutz? I wanted to kind of walk through the facts of Cedric's case so we could get a better understanding of why something needs to be done here.
It's my understanding that Cedric was killed in March of 2002. Is that right, Ms. Price?
MS. PRICE: Yes.
REP. ANDREWS: And my understanding is that the individual who was responsible for this had her name placed in the Texas central registry, a listing of individuals found to have abused and neglected children. That's correct, Mr. Kutz, that this person's name is then placed in the Texas central registry of abuse of people?
MR. KUTZ: That's correct. They were found by an administrative -- it was appealed --
REP. ANDREWS: What then happens is that this person's teaching certification expires, but there's no evidence that it -- it was revoked because of this homicidal conduct. Is that correct?
MR. KUTZ: She was supposed to have gone on the registry, but at some point, it came off the registry, and we don't know when.
REP. ANDREWS: But -- but I think -- if I also read this correctly, that your conclusion was that there's no causal link between her teaching certificate expiring and her entry onto this registry.
MR. KUTZ: In several of these cases, that's correct.
REP. ANDREWS: There's no cause and effect here, necessarily. So problem number one is Texas. The Texas state government has actual knowledge that a person's involved in a homicide such that they put them on this registry but don't take affirmative action to revoke their teaching certificate. Right?
MR. KUTZ: Yes. I think there are several cases --
REP. ANDREWS: Okay. So the next thing that happens is that at some point this individual comes to northern Virginia, and I have a letter that I guess you wrote May 14th to the assistant superintendent of the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Education putting that department on notice that this individual you discovered is now teaching in the Loudoun County Public Schools. Is that correct?
MR. KUTZ: That's correct.
REP. ANDREWS: And then what happens -- we have a letter dated today written to Chairman Miller and Mr. McKeon in which it explains that one of the witnesses who was going to testify evidently is employed by that same system felt it would be inappropriate to comment on the case without knowing all the facts, which I completely understand.
That letter from Mary Kusler from the American Association of School Administrators reports that the individual in question here was immediately placed on administrative leave pending investigation by the Loudoun County schools. That -- that record -- that letter will be in the record.
Now, here's the next problem. I assume that we don't know whether or not the Loudoun County district had knowledge of this individual's background. Is that correct?
MR. KUTZ: We don't know conclusively, but we believe they did not.
REP. ANDREWS: Okay. Now if that -- if your assumption is -- is true, then -- then another problem that becomes pretty obvious here is that there was no interstate reporting of what happened in Texas that would happen in Virginia. So someone can sort of jump from -- I -- I realize that her name disappeared from the Texas registry, which is an interesting question in and of itself.
So I guess that's a third problem. Right? Problem number one is someone who's so thoroughly involved in Cedric's -- I'll use the phrase murder. I think it's an appropriate word -- is on the registry and then her name evaporates, which means the registry's not terribly well kept.
Second thing that happens is that there's no suggestion that there is a cause and effect between the expiration of this person's teaching certificate and their presence on the registry within Texas. Correct?
And then the third problem is that we're assuming, although we do not yet know, that the first time any education authority in Virginia knew that one of their teaching employees had been involved in Cedric's death in Texas was when you notified them on the 14th of May as the basis of your investigation.
MR. KUTZ: Certainly that's true of the Virginia Board of Education, yes.
REP. ANDREWS: Certainly looks that way. Now, we don't know about what the Loudoun District did or did not know, because you did not ask them as part of your investigation, correct?
MR. KUTZ: Correct.
REP. ANDREWS: Yes, I mean, I know that one of the reactions to federal legislation in this area is, well, shouldn't we leave this to the states and do we really need a federal law, and aren't there enough laws on the books to prevent this?
Now, I would say emphatically no to all those questions. That state laws aren't working, and they're not working because there is proof positive in Cedric's case that there was no communication evidently between Texas and Virginia. It could have been Texas and New Jersey, Texas and California, Texas and anywhere. Secondly, the state that was responsible for maintaining this registry, I'd like to hear the explanation as to why this individual evaporated from the registry. I hope that you're going to be taking a look at that question.
And then third, you know, if -- if people don't have notice when they're going to hire new teachers, they're going to -- they're going to hire some people they should not be hiring. So I -- I know it's sort of baked into the cake in our debates around here. The people say, well, let -- let the states handle this problem.
I -- I don't think the states have done a terribly good job handling this problem, and -- and their -- their lack of communication among each other is not just some abstract question of Jeffersonian philosophy. It's -- it's about someone who's responsible for the death of a little boy who is now back in a classroom.
And either the authorities in Virginia didn't know that, which is a huge problem, or they did know and ignored it, which is even larger problem. But it -- it seems to be it really does need to be addressed.
The other thing that -- that comes to my mind here, Mr. Chairman, one criticism, I think, we may be hearing is well, this doesn't happen very often. As far as I'm concerned, once is enough to do something about this, but beyond that, I think a lot of these cases don't get reported.
It is very hard to think of a person less powerful in the American legal and political system than a little boy who's in -- been in foster care his whole life, who's been abused everywhere he's gone, evidently, except, Ms. Price, for your love and devotion to him, who is treated at -- as an animal. There -- there -- there's really no one less politically powerful than that person.
So if he or she speaks up and is believed by adults, it's very unlikely those adults are going to make much of an impact. So I would say to those who would imply that, well, these cases are isolated and -- and infrequent that, again, one is enough, and two, there's a lot of people who probably are not reporting these claims, because at least they're trying, but no one's listening to them, because they are so voiceless.
And, you know, Ms. Gaydos? Your testimony was powerful in that respect too. Both you and Ms. Price are obviously very articulate, intelligent, forceful women. But what I'm hearing is that your concerns were kind of blown off by school officials, because you were some annoying parent.
Well, that's -- there's something wrong with that, and I -- I appreciate the testimony.
Mr. Kutz? We especially appreciate your tenacity, may it continue, because I think we want to find out what really happened not -- not just for the sake of Cedric's case, but for the sake of unfortunately thousands of Cedrics and Paiges who are out there today that are -- that are suffering the same sort of thing.
So thank you very much.
REP. MILLER: Okay. Mr. Hare?
REP. HARE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Hanselman? I -- in my second month in office, I had the opportunity to go to a school in my district that had PBIS, and the principal took me around. Excuse me.
I was incredibly impressed with the way the program was working and how the kids liked it, and you know, we were talking afterwards, and the -- the principal said something to me, and I think that's kind of what we're hearing today too, it's -- you know, it's not easy to be punitive, but we're talking about being punitive.
You know, let's -- let's tie -- tie them up, lock them up, do something, but at this school, when I talked to the principal, he said, our truancy rates are have dropped significantly, behavioral problems have -- have dropped significantly.
And so I introduced a bill last Congress, the Positive Behavior for Effective Schools Act, and -- and, you know, we're going to be hopefully moving on that, but it just seems to me that you can be punitive with Paige or with -- with, Ms. Price, with your son, or you could do something that would be positive to reinforce them.
And this bill does another thing too. One of the things about this PBIS -- and I -- I commend Illinois for doing this, and -- is it also trains the teachers and it works with them to -- on these standards so that they have the opportunity when the plan is implemented that they understand what's involved here, and there's a lot of -- you know, there's respect and being able to, you know -- different things that are incorporated in it.
It is an incredible plan that we ought to have, quite frankly, nationwide in our schools.
It may not be the sole solution to this, but after hearing what I've heard today, you know, I -- I don't, you know, the two witnesses with their children -- this is just, you know, we can't put up with this.
As my friend from New Jersey said, one is too many, but listening to Mr. Kutz's numbers, they're -- they're not only appalling to me, but they're scary, because we know that there are other young kids that are getting this type of treatment.
So I wanted to ask you, what type of an investment are we talking about here on this PBIS, and from your perspective, what can we do to stimulate other states like Virginia, let's say, or another state to -- to adopt this PBIS system, because I think it would be something that I'd like to see us be able to do across the country.
It works. I mean, I have -- I've yet to see anybody that's had a PBIS where they have said, well, we've tried this and it was a miserable failure.
MS. HANSELMAN: Well, certainly training is the key and providing the external supports to the teachers and to the schools so that they can utilize their data and drive the decision based off of how do we manage our behaviors within the school by positively interacting with the students so that they have more instructional time.
We have, as you said, seen huge increases in the academic outcomes of our students. We've seen reductions in the referrals. We've seen reductions in drop out suspension, all of those components.
As far as what do we need to do to invest, certainly providing the support and the dollars to the schools so that they do have the opportunity for that training for the release time for the teachers so that they can receive frequent training and ongoing technical assistance as they go through the system and the support.
REP. HARE: Ms. Price and Ms. Gaydos? Maybe you could -- you could -- you touched on this, but I'm just interested from -- in your opinion, you didn't get much support at all from, obviously, the principals or the other school teachers or things of that nature, but a teacher's aide had the courage to come forward and say something, and then they went after that person.
What do you think -- what do you think they were thinking of? Is this -- I mean, they had to -- they had to -- they -- they worked with this person. I would assume they probably had heard that there had been other instances and things of that nature.
What -- what was the problem?
MS. GAYDOS: This teacher had worked at the district for four years, and there had been vociferous complaints about her. The little boy I mentioned to you was kept in timeout without bathroom access, that mother was threatening to sue the district, and I think they wanted to shut down all complaints.
It's -- they say it's difficult to get a special ed teacher. It's easier to get rid of the aides or the people who complain. Frankly, I don't completely understand their total lack of response. It seems to me, quite frankly, that they would much rather have sat by and let children be abused then admit that they had made mistake after mistake.
And they'd had so many complaints, and they really got into a power struggle with the aide, and they just didn't have the integrity to come forward and admit they'd made a mistake and fix the problem.
REP. HARE: Ms. Price? Were there other complaints about the teacher that -- that killed your son?
MS. PRICE: There was no complaints prior to the -- the murder. But my take on why the people might have stood by and watched was because -- it's just my personal opinion -- because Cedric was a foster child, and the system looks at foster children in such a different way.
And because I've heard people say foster children were -- are throw away children and those type of things that I believe the aides stood by, didn't say anything for fear of their jobs or whatever, or because maybe nothing would come of this, you know. So I don't know why --
REP. HARE: But -- I know my time is up, but I just want to say one thing, Dr. Kutz. But let me -- let me respond to that. If that is an attitude that people have about foster children, that is the most shameful attitude I think a person can have.
These are -- these are God's children we're talking about. It doesn't matter, and that would be -- that would be a tremendous disrespect for -- for -- for these -- for these wonderful young kids.
Dr. Kutz? I just want to know, are you going to -- and I would share with Mr. Andrews -- is there anybody checking into this Texas thing on how this person got off the list? Are -- are you going to look into that or is somebody looking into that so they can get back to the committee?
Because I -- that -- that genuinely, I know, concerns a lot of us -- probably all of us here as how this person's name mysteriously disappeared from the registry.
MR. KUTZ: We'll try to get to the bottom and let the committee know.
REP. HARE: Thank you -- thank you so much.
REP. MILLER: Mr. Courtney?
REPRESENTATIVE JOE COURTNEY (D-CT): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You know we, as a nation, went through a long struggle in terms of dealing with child abuse within families and -- and got to a point where now any incidents, if reported to health care providers or -- or psychologists now, the law requires those individuals to report them to child protection agencies.
I am just astonished at -- at the testimony of Ms. Gaydos about the fact that an incident which just clearly falls into that category somehow ran into a stone wall with the child protection system.
And I guess -- Mr. Kutz, you know, in your research in the law of different states, I mean, is there some, you know, statutory framework that excludes education from the -- the scope of child protection agencies, or is this just custom, or is it just, you know, an agency that's deferring to -- to other arms of government?
What -- what's the legal explanation for why she ran into that sort of barrier?
MR. KUTZ: I don't know all the -- some states had a requirement that parents would be notified in advance of a seclusion or a restraint. Other states are required -- there's a requirement to tell parents after it happened. Other states, there's no requirements at all. So it -- it's all over the board, and I don't remember for that particular state what the requirements were.
REP. COURTNEY: Well, again, child abuse is child abuse, whether it happens in a home, whether it happens because of -- in a medical setting. Again, if some health care provider was accused of this kind of conduct, I mean, again a child protection agency would be totally empowered to swoop in and -- and do their job.
And it just seems that, you know, this really should not be some child protection agency free zone where complaints can't be fielded and investigated.
And, I guess, Ms. Gaydos, I mean, again, you described the fact that you tried and -- and didn't get anywhere. I mean was -- was there sort of a plausible or -- explanation that they gave you?
MS. GAYDOS: Well, child -- we were told Child Protective Services just has no jurisdiction over public school teachers, and they referred the complaint either to the administration or to the police. The police came to our house. They -- there were three CPS reports about three different children involving the same teacher and two police reports.
The police reports were actually taken in different cities within the same district.
Ours was the second one. They said they would have prosecuted if they'd known about the first one, but they didn't cross check. As far as I understand about Child Protective Services, they simply have no jurisdiction and no control whatsoever.
REP. COURTNEY: Again, that just takes my breath away, because I mean a lot of police departments, frankly, are not equipped to handle this type of investigation. They defer to child protection agencies, because they have the interdisciplinary teams that -- that no how to interview witnesses and -- and, you know, do diagnostic investigation.
Again, it just seems like another area we -- we've got to sort of figure this out that these types of legal barriers should just not exist in -- in terms of giving parents and children a remedy.
MS. GAYDOS: I absolutely agree, and the cases that were reported were the tip of the iceberg, and when Mr. Kutz says he has 33,000 cases, I suspect there are far more, because those would be the documented cases. Our district did not do any documentation at all.
REP. COURTNEY: So again, you -- you indicated that you then proceeded with private counsel. I mean, was it a personal injury case? Is that -- is that the avenue that he followed or she followed?
MS. GAYDOS: Yes, it was kind of -- we had a special education lawyer, and it was a very open-ended case, so --
REP. COURTNEY: Which --
MS. GAYDOS: -- court case, yes.
REP. COURTNEY: Right. So you were pretty -- pretty much on your own in terms of your own, sort of, financial resources having to underwrite that effort.
MS. GAYDOS: Yes, and there were many parents before us who would have liked to have file a lawsuit but didn't have the resources financially or in terms of time.
And as you're fighting the lawsuit, which is very stressful, at the same time, we're trying to pick up the pieces and clean up the mess these people have made of our children, and the district suggested nothing and offered us no help with that.
REP. COURTNEY: Again, Mr. Kutz, looking at your case studies, again, it just seemed there was tremendous variation in terms of, you know, what the response was. I mean -- there was one case where someone actually went to prison on a manslaughter conviction.
MR. KUTZ: Actually, two people went to prison in that case -- the driver of the van and the individual that suffocated the boy.
REP. COURTNEY: So at some level, I mean, the criminal courts are brought in in -- in the most extreme circumstances, I guess.
MR. KUTZ: And it was -- it was not consistent. I mean, you had ten cases here. I guess there were four where the individuals pled or were found guilty and included five individuals -- one case, two individuals were -- went to prison.
But the other convictions were really just probation, and you know, community service. And in the other cases, there were -- there were no charges filed. So it just -- and sometimes, it seemed the more egregious cases never made it to the criminal side. I can't explain it.
REP. COURTNEY: Again, in our work, I mean, we -- we've just got to achieve a parody level in terms of just how you treat an injured minor child and not create some special categories that exempt it from just the normal processes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REPRESENTATIVE BOBBY SCOTT (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Kutz? In your investigation, did you get a total of the number of deaths that were caused by these restraints?
MR. KUTZ: There were at least 20 of the hundreds of allegations I mentioned. So there could be more, but we were able to document at least 20.
REP. SCOTT: Is there any requirement that death be reported anywhere so that you would have a sense of how many people -- how many children are dying because of this?
MR. KUTZ: No, none that we're aware of.
REP. SCOTT: Is there any evidence that the restraints serve any useful purpose if they are not -- if there's no imminent threat to someone's safety? Is there any evidence that it serves any useful purpose?
MR. KUTZ: I can't answer that, but what I can say is in many or most of our cases, there was no threat to individuals themselves or other people. As I mentioned, four of our 18 children were four years old. They weighed probably 40 pounds or so. So I can't imagine what kind of threat they would have posed to anybody.
REP. SCOTT: Mr. -- Dr. Peterson? Is there any useful purpose to the restraints if there is no imminent threat to someone's safety?
MR. PETERSON: No. There's no research evidence to support that.
REP. SCOTT: Is there research evidence to suggest that there are other strategies that do have useful purposes?
MR. PETERSON: Yes, I think so. Many of those have already been mentioned.
REP. SCOTT: Mrs. Hanselman? Are there -- well, are there any situations -- what's the -- what -- what are the situations where restraints may be appropriate?
MR. PETERSON: Well, I -- I think it's worth mentioning that schools are in a bind here, because I'm -- I happen to remember two situations that occurred in Iowa within a close proximity a few years ago where a youngster was -- who died as a result of a prone restraint in one school but then within a month or two -- and the parents sued -- I don't know the outcome -- but within a month or so, another school did not restrain a youngster who then ran out, fell into a river and drowned.
And in this case, the school was sued for not restraining the youngster. So it is a delicate balance to try to find the right response to specific kids, specific situations and behavior, and I think it comes back to training.
Schools feel responsible for the kids that they serve and try to protect those kids as best they can, and I do not condone the -- the abuses we've talked about.
REP. SCOTT: We're using restraints to cover just -- just about everything. Are there levels of restraint?
MR. PETERSON: Yes. There are different types of restraint and different degrees of pressure and so on.
REP. SCOTT: Well, I mean, restraint could be holding somebody by the arm, and it could be suffocating them to death. I mean, are we counting everything as quote, "restraint"?
MR. PETERSON: Well, those are generally lumped together, and yes, that's one of the things that I think is needed is a clear definition of restraint or -- we don't want the situation where teachers can't touch kids at all, but some yet, would consider any touching to be inappropriate whatsoever.
So there is room there to define that.
REP. SCOTT: Mr. Kutz? Do you know the outcome of the various lawsuits that have been filed in cases?
MR. KUTZ: There's at least nine of these ten cases where there were civil suits and there were settlements in most of those cases.
As I mentioned, on the criminal side --
REP. SCOTT: How much of a settlement are you -- are you talking about?
MR. KUTZ: Financial settlements anywhere from 75,000 to about 1.3 million or more.
REP. SCOTT: Enough to get a school system's attention.
MR. KUTZ: Yes.
REP. SCOTT: Mrs. Hanselman? You mentioned the value of national standards and training, but I thought I heard you put in there the word voluntary. Why should national standards and training be voluntary rather than mandatory?
MS. HANSELMAN: Well, our thoughts with regards to the voluntary standards are, we already have standards in Illinois. If you're looking at voluntary minimum standards, that these are the minimum standards, for which schools should impose and then have the flexibility for a state to go beyond those federal standards if they have that option or choose to do so.
REP. SCOTT: So there should be mandatory minimum standards?
MS. HANSELMAN: Yes.
REP. SCOTT: Is that -- Mr. Kutz? Does that -- would you -- sound people might want?
MR. KUTZ: I -- I don't know what people want. I know that right now that the standards, regulations and laws are all over the place across the country.
REP. SCOTT: Is there a -- would there be a value to national standards and training?
MR. KUTZ: National and standard of training, yes, there could be some value to have standards for training, because, again, with these prone restraints, for example, there were various types of prone restraints, and some of them that caused pressure on someone's breathing seems to me more deadly than the ones where there was no body on top of the person.
Although prone is still more dangerous from what we understand.
REP. SCOTT: And, Dr. Peterson? Have you studied the idea of national minimum standards in training?
MR. PETERSON: Well, we -- we haven't studied it, but I think I would support that concept that was mentioned for minimum standards and possibly also training to go along with those standards.
REP. SCOTT: Yes.
REPRESENTATIVE CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D-NY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I appreciate this hearing.
I'm sorry to say that when -- as I was listening to the testimony, it threw me back to the '70s when we had a horrible situation going through this country on our young children in mental institutions, and that covered just basically almost every sort of problem or special needs of a child.
Willowbrook comes to my mind, and an in-depth study of children being chained to the walls naked, not being fed. We closed all those mental hospitals, because we found from the studies that it was better for the young people to try and stay in the home setting and open up our schools so they could be more inclusive.
With that comes, obviously, a lot more work, but to hear the testimony and see that still going on is, in my opinion, criminal. One of the other things too, and I know it might not even fit into this, Mr. Chairman, but we still in our schools -- 13 schools to be exact -- in this country still do corporal punishment by paddling and boarding.
We know that any kind of violence to a child only begets more violence. And even thinking back to my nursing days in the '70s and '80s where they all restrained patients and patients died because they were restrained, and we're hearing the same situation here with our children.
We have found that we do not have to restrain our patients 90 percent of the time, because there's retraining. Now, sometimes that causes more staff. I did a lot of private duty in my life, and I would take care of a patient and the family would hire me mainly because they didn't want to see their loved one restrained.
I didn't have to restrain my patient at all. It was more of the matter of sitting there calmly, holding someone's hand, and trying to get them un-agitated, and that's basically the training that needs to be done in our special needs schools.
Mr. Chairman, I don't know where we're going to go on this, but obviously, we have an awful lot to do, and one of the things that I guess I would like to ask both Mr. -- Mr. Patterson and Mr. Kutz -- boarding and spanking. That's corporal punishment. Are we in that day when we still need to have those kind of things done to children?
MR. PETERSON: Are you directing that to me? I personally do not believe that we should be continuing to use those practices in schools, and I think we have alternatives. But this has, as you know, been a controversial area, and I would like to see those practices eliminated.
REP. MCCARTHY: I hope that we -- as we start dealing with education in whatever our new leave no child behind bill is going to be -- I'm hoping that we can put safety issues in there so we don't have parents here in this kind of testimony, because I have to tell you, I mean, what was said with my colleague, for one child to die, is one child too much.
But the emotional scars onto children -- the reason we put children now into settings of schools is because they have a better opportunity to learn as much as possible. The training, obviously, has to be a big part of that.
Teachers that are in these classes and when we see that we're going to have more and more children, especially those diagnosed with autism, depending on what level they are, our schools now, you know -- I know a couple of schools in my district have whole classrooms now of children with autism.
And if we don't learn how to deal with these issues now, unfortunately, we're going to probably see a lot more injured children, and that's wrong. How do we figure out how to put a federal guidelines onto this? I would suggest training is going to be a very, very big part of it, but also the idea of somehow, some kind of data that follows these teachers.
That should be a federal law, as far as I'm concerned, that if any teacher harms a child, they should definitely lose their license.
I yield back.
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN WOOLSEY (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for this hearing.
This is the 21st century. We live in the United States of America. Why is it that our children continue to be abused? They're more than abused, they're murdered, they're maimed and they're tortured. Now, we're talking about torture in a lot of ways around this country right now.
This is torture for these children. Do we need an anti-torture legislation for our schools, or do we need a commitment -- a commitment to the future of our nation and that means a commitment to all -- every single child in the United States of America and really worldwide.
I -- I'm -- I'm so frustrated by this, and I'll be working with you on any -- any way we can make this better, but I was wondering what the training memo would have had to say to Cedric's teacher, so I wrote it.
And I wasn't very kind: "Dear heavy teacher," -- I wanted to say fat, but I didn't see her, I just knew she was big -- "Dear heavy teacher, do not throw any child -- even a child acting out in obvious great need -- do not throw that child on the ground, and certainly, do not sit on that child, because that child deserves more than that from you, the teacher, from the school, from this country, the United States of America. That child deserves to live and learn and needs extra care and help not to be killed, tortured or abused."
I'm working with you on this, Mr. Chairman. I don't know what the answer is this morning. It is an embarrassment. This is the United States of America. This is the 21st century. These are our children, and we must protect them.
REP. MILLER: Thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN TIERNEY (D-MA): (Off mike.)
REP. MILLER: Thank you very much for your -- for your testimony. Clearly, the facts that have come to light today have -- have -- have startled the members of this committee, as I assume they will startle the public as they become aware of this.
This behavior that does, in some instances, look like torture of young children, certainly, the abuse of these children is so inconsistent with our beliefs about our public institutions that it's hard to -- for people to come to grasp with.
But I think, clearly, we see through the -- the good work of the GAO that this is not all that uncommon, and the tragedy of these deaths -- there -- well, we don't know the numbers yet, but we must look, you know, beyond that to children who are -- are -- are put in dark rooms for hours everyday, children who are repeatedly put into restraints on -- on a regular basis or in seclusion on a regular basis, that is, in fact, abusive to those children. We'd also like to know the -- the policy considerations of how that continues when -- you know, if you put a child into seclusion 75 times, you might want to think that it's not working, and you might want to think about what else you should be doing or how should you deal with this, and at what point would you tell the parents and bring them into this?
We have a process for children with disabilities, the IEP process where parents and others are brought into to -- to work out a plan for the -- for -- for having that child in school so the child can benefit so the other students can -- can continue to have opportunities to learn, and we can -- we can, in fact, educate the greatest number of our -- of our children.
But so much of this is inconsistent with the intent and the purpose of that law and when we see the -- you know, the -- the -- the significant number of these cases that -- that -- that engulf children with -- with disabilities, I think we have to recheck those circuits also on whether or not that is, in fact, working.
Again, when you go through this state -- the various state regulations on some of this, some of them have consent, some of them don't have consent, some of them it's clear that it's written consent, some of them have training, some of them have training, but it's not -- it's not regular training, it's not -- it's not -- it's not systematic.
And so what we really have is -- is -- is a system that -- that -- that has failed to protect our school children and certainly failed to protect so many of those children who -- who -- who bring to school their -- their disabilities.
But we have made it a decision as a nation that those children are entitled to go to school; they're entitled to receive that -- that education, and we're better for that as are those children and so many of them have -- have been able to participate in a much wider range of activities both in -- in -- in employment and in general -- in general society as a result of that decision that we made as a nation.
But this -- this treatment of many of those children stands that decision on its head. Because clearly we're not providing the kinds of protections -- the members of committee have asked -- you know, what -- what -- where are we going, what are we going to do. We will sit down with the members of the committee.
We have some additional work, I think, for the GAO. We want to be on -- on -- on solid ground here. We want the cooperation of the states, but it's clear that the current situation is unacceptable and cannot -- cannot continue in the manner in which it has. So I want to thank you very much for your testimony.
Mr. Kutz? I want to thank you and your fellow workers for -- for -- for their investigation, for the information that you -- that you brought to light here.
Ms. Gaydos? Ms. Price? Thank you so much. I don't think I can thank you enough for -- for having the courage to come forward and -- and tell us the stories and what happened to your -- to your children and to your -- to your families.
And, Paige? Thank you very much for being here. It's very helpful for us to -- to meet you, and I'm looking forward to see what you're sketching. I hope if you're sketching me, Paige, we're going to have to discuss it. But thank you for being here.
Mr. Peterson and Ms. Hanselman? You've -- you've -- I think you've given us some serious consideration about the positive things that we can do, and I -- and -- and -- and for the state of Illinois for leading the way that this -- this can -- you can develop an alternative policy that can save children's lives and certainly stop the abuse of these children on an all-too-regular -- regular basis.
So my thanks. I understand that we also have another family here -- the Carries -- and I want to thank them for -- for -- for joining us today, and I -- again, we extend to you our same sympathies for the tragedy that you had to suffer in this -- in this system.
With that, the members of the committee will have the usual time to -- to submit records -- statements for the -- for the record, and the committee will stand adjourned.