Death at School: Parents Fight Back Against Deadly Discipline


"One of the reasons why I went on television was because I wanted other parents to be aware that this is going on in the schools and it could be happening to their kids and them not even know about it," she said. "Who's to say he couldn't have possibly died from that … not being able to breathe the way he needs to. Or if he had gotten sick or aspirated or vomited. There are all kinds of things that go through your head when you see that."

The school did not respond to questions about the incident, citing strict privacy rules, but said there have been public misperceptions about what occurred. The bags are designed for restraining children and include breathing holes.

At the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts, Andre McCollins, a student with autistic characteristics, was restrained face-down on a board with his arms and legs tied down for over six hours and was shocked 31 times using skin-shock therapy. His infraction was refusing to take off his coat.

"I can't believe they call themselves human and do such a thing to someone who is so vulnerable and can't help themselves," lamented Andre's mother Cheryl McCollins in an ABC News interview.

Earlier this year the video of Andre receiving shocks was released after his mother fought for nearly a decade to have it shown. "I'm still angry," said Ms. McCollins. "And I cannot believe that they actually got away with it."

The Judge Rotenberg Center has defended its approach, saying it takes on only the most difficult cases. School officials said the treatment was approved both by Andre's mother and by a court official, and the shocks have proven effective in improving the behavior of children who are prone to harming themselves or are violent to others. It also said it has reduced the number of shocks a student can receive in a given session and no longer applies the shocks while students are strapped to boards.

And while McCollins sued the school and reached a settlement, other parents with children receiving skin-shock therapy at the Rotenberg Center have called the program miraculous. One mother, whose statement was provided to ABC News by the school, said that three years ago her daughter "attacked anyone who came near her, including infants and toddlers."

"Nearly 4 years ago when we brought her to [the Rotenberg Center], she spent about 10 months on a positive only program," the mother's statement says. After petitioning to have her daughter treated with the skin shock therapy, "the impact was almost immediate. She comes home for visits, has a roommate at school, goes out to dinner with staff and friends; she attends classes and enjoys learning and working in the dining hall."

Still reeling from her son's death last spring, Foster has joined forces with parents around the country whose children have been killed or injured as a result of being physically restrained or put into seclusion rooms at school. They are fighting back and speaking up in support of national legislation that seeks to institute a uniform standard on restraint and seclusion for the nation's school.

"There's thousands and thousands of children that have been traumatized, that have been injured at the hands of the caregivers and it's just unacceptable," said Rep. George Miller, D.-California, sponsor of the new legislation.

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