Disability Advocates Allege Abuse, Neglect At Kindergarten In Haverhill

An advocacy group says it has uncovered evidence of abuse and neglect at a Massachusetts public kindergarten that serves many children with disabilities.

The Boston-based Disability Law Center said Thursday that, among other things, the Crowell Kindergarten Center in Haverhill overused restraints on at least one 5-year-old student with disabilities and punished students for crying or acting up by keeping them in closets.

The center said the school violated state and federal laws. Colleen Shea, the principal investigator and author of the agency's report, told WBUR's Newscast Unit that the investigation began after the center received three unprompted complaints from parents in 2017. The parents were concerned about what Shea called "safe rooms," and a "lack of supervision" and "lack of special ed services" at the school.

Crowell has about 150 students.

Haverhill Superintendent James Scully said in a statement that the district is reviewing the Center's report, and several issues have already been addressed since the allegations surfaced last year.

Scully did not say whether any staff was disciplined.

The center's leadership also mentioned having previously heard of other schools in Massachusetts using unnecessary restraints.

"Unfortunately, we have received complaints from time to time across the Commonwealth — different public schools, as well as different private schools," Stan Eichner, director of litigation at the Disability Law Center told WBUR. "So we're concerned about the excessive use of restraints, the ever-increasing number of these 'timeout-' or so-called 'calming rooms.' And we are concerned that it is a broader issue."

The report did not investigate practices or actions at other schools.

With reporting from WBUR's Rachel Paiste and The Associated Press

This article was originally published on February 01, 2018.


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