Parents in Indiana were irate this week when they went to pick up their special needs daughter at a bus stop, only to find her shoes had been duct-taped so tightly onto her feet that she could barely walk.
The Indianapolis Star reports that Shaylyn Searcy, an 8-year-old with Down syndrome, sometimes does not want to wear her shoes. According to the Star, her parents said they were outraged when they discovered that someone had apparently bound her shoes to her feet and ankles in her classroom at Westlake Elementary School in Wayne Township. It is not clear who taped the child's shoes.
She had to be carried off the school bus because of the tape bindings, according to her father, Nate Searcy, who spoke of the incident with multiple media outlets.
"I'm like, 'Shaylyn, come on,' and she just kind of stood there, kind of limping a little bit," Nate Searcy told ABC local affiliate RTV6 The Indy Channel. "And I'm like, 'What's wrong?' And she's like, 'My feet hurt.' I look down and she had duct tape wrapped around both shoes, both ankles, and she couldn't even walk."
Searcy said that it took him 30 minutes to take the tape off once they got home.
Searcy gave a similar account to authorities, according to a police report obtained by Indianapolis' Fox59. "The report also stated the school had trouble getting their daughter to keep her shoes on in the past, but the school would typically call the child’s mother," writes Fox 59.
Area police and the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township notified Child Protective Services of the incident. In a statement distributed to local media, the school district said it is also conducting its own investigation and that "appropriate action" will be taken after the investigation.
As the Indy Star points out, there is currently a bill in the Indiana legislature that would, if passed, require a statewide policy on how schools deal with "seclusion and restraints." Senate Bill 345 would require Indiana schools to train staff in resolving conflicts with children, including young children like Shaylyn who may have special needs.
From the text of the bill:
Requires each school corporation, including a charter school, to develop a policy on restraint and seclusion that includes certain provisions. Requires restraint and seclusion policies to be published in a student handbook, made available to the public, and distributed at each initial case conference committee within the school corporation.
Dr. Cathy Pratt, director of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, spoke last week with area news outlet WFPL and stressed the importance of instituting such a policy across the state's school districts.
"When we’re dealing with individuals who have a history of challenging behaviors, often times people don’t have the tools or the skills or the knowledge to know how to respond," Dr. Pratt told WFPL. "So in the heat of the moment, they respond out of fear and some out of anger, and often times more aggressively than they need to respond. And that response, quite honestly, puts both them and the students at danger."
In September 2012, NPR reported that teachers in 2011 had used duct tape to restrain a special needs student last year. The incident prompted state legislators to call for the overarching policy discussion.