Are Special Ed Students Being Set up For Abuse By Low-Paid Aides?

Are Special Ed Students Being Set up For Abuse By Low-Paid Aides?

Posted By The Maher Law Firm || 1-May-2014

Personal Injury Attorneys Winter Park and Orlando Florida

Working with children takes patience and skills that not everyone has. When children have behavioral or developmental problems, those qualities are even more important. Some believe we are setting these children up for abuse by putting low-paid workers in their classrooms. Several recent stories in the news lend credibility to this argument.

Recently, two paraprofessionals at Harper-Archer Middle School in Atlanta were caught abusing special education students on camera. They were seen in the video lifting the students out of their chairs, choking them, and throwing them on the floor. An attorney for the two children said the video doesn't indicate they were misbehaving or that the abuse was in any way warranted.

National Disability Rights Network says paraprofessionals have low pay and high turnover.

There's no doubt that working with special education children takes a certain type of person. But these patient and skilled professionals are in high demand and short supply. Instead, schools hire paraprofessionals who often lack training for the positions. Further, the low pay and high stress leads to high turnover.

MyAJC.com reports the Atlanta teacher involved in the abuse video initially set up the camera to catch the paraprofessionals "not doing their jobs". She didn't expect to see them abusing the students. Immediately after discovering what was happening in her absence, she reported the abuse.

Often, there is no video, merely a scared child and parents confused about what to do next.

Last year in Chicago, students in a special education classroom began showing signs of abuse. Bruises, scratches, and drawings made by fearful children all pointed to someone at the school hurting them, but the teacher and aides said the injuries came from other students or accidents.

One mother reported coming to pick up her child from school for a doctor's appointment and having her son scurry to hide behind her when she arrived in the classroom.

Eventually, after numerous complaints, the teacher was removed by the school system, though no charges were filed and no one is certain to this day what happened.

Because so many of these children are nonverbal or have difficulty communicating, it can be hard to know when abuse is going on.

Disabled children are more at risk of abuse.

Abusers often take advantage of the fact that disabled children can't fight back or can't talk about the abuse. When paired with the stress of working in a special education classroom, someone already prone to violence can become uncontrollable.

Some experts say that parents of the disabled are also less likely to speak with their children about abuse. This can lead an abused child to feel responsible when abuse does happen.

The symptoms of abuse, like physical injuries and behavioral problems, aren't uncommon in disabled children and they may be chalked up to the child's diagnosis rather than abuse.

In general, children have to depend on adults for structure, protection, and leadership. This is especially true in a special education setting, where children may also depend on their teachers and teacher aides for basic needs like moving, feeding, and helping them use the restroom. When staffed with underpaid and undertrained "professionals", these classrooms can easily become the scene of abuse and mistreatment.

If you suspect abuse of your special needs child, do not wait for the situation to escalate before taking action. The parents of an abused child may have legal rights to file a civil lawsuit in Florida to hold a teacher and school system accountable for the abuse. A Florida personal injury attorney can explain your legal options at no charge.

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