Parents of an autistic student have posted a video of their son allegedly being thrown out of a Stansbury High School classroom and forcibly escorted down the hall by a paraeducator.
School district officials have investigated the incident and have taken administrative action to improve staff response to the needs of autistic students, according to Supt. Terry Linares for the Tooele County School District.
The parents were in the school meeting with their son’s special education teacher when the incident occurred on Feb. 26.
“My son has been encouraged by the school administration to spend his lunch time in the self-contained special education classroom at the school,” said Aaron Fergusson, father of the student.
In January, school administrators asked that Fergusson’s son go to the special education classroom during lunch after he was disciplined for several incidents of inappropriate behavior, according to Fergusson.
When his son went to the classroom on Feb. 26, the teacher who is usually there was not and paraeducators in the room told him he didn’t belong there and to leave, Fergusson said.
“When he refused to leave, we were told by school staff that my son was redirected out of the classroom and later escorted out of the room,” said Fergusson.
Fergusson maintains the use of forcible physical guidance was inappropriate and a violation of school policy.
The paraeducator was put on leave during an investigation but later returned to work, Fergusson said. After expressing concern about the incident to school officials, Fergusson’s wife received a call on March 14 from Renee Milne, the school’s assistant principal, and was asked to come to the school to watch a video recording made by one of the school’s security cameras.
Fergusson’s wife watched the video in the presence of the school’s resource officer, assistant principal Renee Milne, and special education director Hal Strain.
The school administrators told Fergusson’s wife that the video showed that their son was not mistreated and no school policies were violated, Fergusson said.
Fergusson went to the school later that same day to see the video. He watched it with two sheriff’s deputies, Milne and Strain. Fergusson said school officials denied that anything wrong occurred and maintained that nobody touched his son.
Unhappy about the school and district officials’ response while watching the video, Fergusson told the deputies that he wanted to file a formal complaint for assault.
Fergusson obtained a copy of the video using a Government Records Access and Management Act request and posted it on YouTube.
“I wanted to see other people’s reaction to the video,” he said. “I wanted people to know this is how Tooele County School District defines ‘escorting’ and ‘redirecting.’”
The district took action, but can not discuss details of its response to the incident, according to Linares.
“It is a personnel matter, so I can not go into detail about the administrative action,” she said.
Linares added that the district is bringing in an autism consultant to train the teachers and paraeducators at Stansbury High School to help prevent a reoccurrence.
The county attorney’s office is reviewing Fergusson’s complaint to determine if charges will be filed against the paraeducator.
Not too bad of coverage. It is news to me, the parent of the boy in this video, that the District plans to bring in an autism consultant to train the staff – I have been told they are professionals who know what they are doing. And I get stonewalled every time I find something they have been doing horribly wrong.
I need to make clear that while Ms. Milne was in the room as the video was initially watched, it was not Ms. Milne who said our son was never touched. That was Hal Strain and Marjorie Moser. In fact, Ms. Milne has been nothing but professional through all this and she is the one person in this district that I know for a fact has been learning about our son’s disability, what the policy is and how it should be implemented.
Couple of points of clarification: 1) My son was getting in trouble in Jan for such things as playing in the snow with other autistic students or getting punched in the face by another student in lunch, 2) We discovered the video and the incident March 14 – 3 weeks after the incident happened – and it wasn’t until March 15 the Superintendent took administrative action, 3) Hal Strain repeatedly has tried to bury the information, first by trying to avoid allowing us access to the video, then by refusing to follow policy and contact DCFS, and then by denying anything happened 4) Mr. Linnell is back in the classroom and in proximity to my son on a daily basis, who now does not want to go to school because he doesn’t feel safe.