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Abuse in special ed classrooms: Low-paid aides. Challenging kids. Recipe for disaster?



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In several high profile cases, concealed recording devices have captured abuses of special education students by teachers and, in the most recent case, paraprofessionals.

In a story in the news this week, a teacher taped two paraprofessionals at Harper-Archer Middle School slapping, pushing and manhandling two special education students. One of the parapros no longer works for the school system and one was suspended.

The video shows the parapros lifting students out of chairs, choking them and throwing them to the floor.

“There’s absolutely zero reason a grown adult should treat anyone like that who needs an education,” said Terrance Madden, an attorney for the two victims, told the AJC. He said the students didn’t appear to have been misbehaving at the time.

MyAJC.com has a good story today in which Curt Decker, executive director the advocacy group National Disability Rights Network, points out paraprofessionals are low-paying, stressful jobs, which can lead to high turnover — another bad outcome for disabled students. Abuse of such students is “a very serious problem … These people are not trained. They don’t have a sufficient number of aides. They’re probably in classrooms that are too large. And given kids with some very difficult behavior problems. And it’s a recipe for disaster.”

The MyAJC.com story reports:

 The teacher said she set up the camera hoping to catch the paraprofessionals not doing their jobs, but instead discovered to her horror the physical abuse, which happened when she was not in the room. She went to the principal and police after capturing the video in February. “When I saw it (video), I just lost it … I wanted to put the kids in a safer position.”

“Just the guilt of thinking of what happened to them when I wasn’t in the room or when I was off campus at professional development … It’s been really hard for me. I’m in therapy on a weekly basis.”

You can watch the video here.

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