FRESNO (AP) — The mother of a developmentally disabled girl has filed a legal claim — the precursor to a lawsuit — against her daughter’s former special education teacher for allegedly putting the child in a gated enclosure that the mother said amounted to a cage.
Ledelldra Brooks told The Fresno Bee she found her 7-year-old daughter wearing a dirty diaper inside the pen made from a toddler gate and a crib gate attached to bookshelves when she showed up unannounced at the girl’s 1st grade classroom at Viking Elementary School in Fresno in May. Brooks called the police, who dismantled the unit and referred the results of their investigation to the district attorney as a possible case of misdemeanor child abuse.
“I honestly want the public to know what’s going on behind special education, what went on in my daughter’s class,” she told The Bee.
Teacher’s aides told police the girl was one of seven students in the class and that children were put in the gated enclosure when they were out of control or posed a risk to themselves or their classmates, according to records obtained by Brooks’ lawyer and reviewed by the newspaper. They said Brooks’ daughter ended up there the day her mother saw her for being disruptive and scratching an aide.
Viking Elementary Principal Christie Yang told officers the secured area was installed about three years ago as a safety precaution and that she had seen students inside it before Brooks expressed her outrage.
Joseph Bowling, executive director of the board that oversees the San Joaquin Valley on behalf of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, said he was extremely troubled to learn about Brooks’ allegations. Isolating disabled children is never appropriate and there are more effective ways of soothing them, he said.
“This is not something I would put a child into and claim this is for their own protection. It’s a cage, this is what you would put a wild animal in,” he said. “I can’t believe that somebody, an administrator walking in that room and seeing it, would allow that.”
Fresno Unified School District officials have searched other special education classrooms for similar enclosures, but district spokeswoman Micheline Golden would not say whether any were found or whether new training policies for employees who work with special education students had been implemented, the Bee said.
She said the district could not comment on a pending legal case.
“Fresno Unified is committed to providing the best education possible for our special education students and being their advocates,” Golden said.