Lawsuit: Autistic Students Abused at Wake School?

September 15, 2008 9:00:00 PM PDT
A disability rights group says Wake County school resource officers at Carroll Middle School handcuffed autistic students to restrain them while in class. According to the lawsuit, students claim they were encouraged to wrestle each other to "let out their aggression."

The lawsuit was brought by a watchdog group for persons with disabilities.

The group simply wants the names of special needs students and parents so it can investigate the allegations, but says Wake County schools won't provide that confidential information.

So when disability rights North Carolina filed a lawsuit for access to the Wake County school records, the allegations were outlined.

Wake Schools Spokesman Michael Evans says the battle over confidential information on parents of students at Carroll Middle School will be handled by attorneys.

But the schools system is investigating the allegation in the lawsuit that at least one autistic student was handcuffed and others were improperly restrained.

Also alleged, that those restraints left bruises on one student and that other students were encouraged to wrestle with one another in what was nicknamed the "WWF" room to "let out their aggression."

"We need to maintain safety physically for our students as well as our staff. And those factors all come into play when we have investigations like this," said Michael Evans with Wake County Schools.

Partella Cousin, the parent of two students at Carroll, says she's glad to hear the school system is taking the allegations seriously.

"Hopefully, they will do something about it and they will look into these allegations just to make sure there's no merit to it. But it would be also good if someone else looked into it also," Carroll said.

That's exactly what Disability Rights North Carolina's Executive Director Vicki Smith and her staff plan to do if Wake County schools will agree that federal rules allow the group access to confidential information.

In the meantime, they say they're advocating for those who can't advocate for themselves.

"We're always shocked to find out that people with disabilities can be victimized by the very people who are supposed to serve them," Smith said.

She says although her agency is still investigating the allegations, she believes they have credibility, because they come from the parents of three different students.


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