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In a New York Times op-ed, "A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children," Bill Lichtenstein recounted what happened to his daughter, Rose, in a Lexington Public School, when she was just 5.
Lichtenstein said his daughter was a special needs student with "speech and language delays." Even so, in nursery school, Rose was a "model of age appropriate behavior." But when she started kindergarten in Lexington, she began throwing violent tantrums at home. Then one day Rose's parents were summoned to come pick her up:
At school, her mother and I found Rose standing alone on the cement floor of a basement mop closet, illuminated by a single light bulb. There was nothing in the closet for a child — no chair, no books, no crayons, nothing but our daughter standing naked in a pool of urine, looking frightened as she tried to cover herself with her hands. On the floor lay her favorite purple-striped Hanna Andersson outfit and panties.
Lichtenstein and his former wife filed suit against Lexington Public Schools and eventually reached a legal settlement. But he says his daughter, now 12, still has nightmares. And he says the use of physical restraints and so-called "seclusion rooms" has become a disturbingly common way to maintain order in schools.
In response to Lichtenstein's op-ed, Paul B. Ash, the superintendent of Lexington Public Schools, released this statement on Monday:
The Lexington Public Schools maintains a written policy concerning time-outs and our policy reflects and has always reflected State law.
The Lexington Public Schools keeps and has always kept meticulous records involving the education and treatment of Special Education students. Our notes involving the student in question, which were written on the days in question, do not reflect the account as described in the op-ed column.
When this matter first came to my attention, almost two years after the incident described in the op-ed column, I reviewed the logs and based on the detailed contemporaneous notes I read, I did not find that any staff member had done anything wrong.
Finally, despite the parent’s claim that he complained to multiple State agencies, at no time was I contacted by any State agency indicating that a complaint had been filed concerning the treatment of this student. Furthermore, we have contacted the two State agencies mentioned to ask whether a complaint was on record and we were told today that there is no record of either agency having received a complaint.
Professor Joseph Ryan, an expert in restraint use in special education, joined Radio Boston to discuss discipline methods used in schools.
- Bill Lichtenstein, author of "A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children"
- Joseph Ryan, professor in the School of Education at Clemson University. He is the director of research and outreach for the school and an expert in restraint use in special education.
- Paul B. Ash, superintendent of Lexington Public Schools
This segment aired on September 11, 2012.
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