Group alleges mistreatment of special needs students in Biloxi

Group alleges mistreatment of special needs students in Biloxi
The group claims the children were mechanically restrained in Hardrock chairs. (Photo source: internet)
The group claims the children were mechanically restrained in Hardrock chairs. (Photo source: internet)

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi State Department of Education confirmed Wednesday it is investigating accusations of students being neglected, segregated and improperly restrained at a Biloxi school.

The non-profit group Disability Rights Mississippi filed a Systemic State Administrative Complaint on behalf of a nine-year-old autistic child, and a group of students with disabilities at Gorenflo Elementary School.

Documents obtained by WLOX News Now state that 12 students in a special needs class at the school were "warehoused in a segregated setting", "received no individualized instruction," and "had no opportunity to participate with their non-disabled peers."

"They had to eat lunch in class. They didn't go on field trips. They didn't do anything with any other kids. You have to give them as much access to the general education population as you can to get them around their peers," said Angela Douglas, Disability Rights Mississippi Advocate. "Everybody knows that, and it's such a blatant violation."

Douglas says the complaint was filed after the parents of the nine-year-old autistic child brought their concerns to the group in September 2015. The group claims the child and four other children in the class were also "subjected to mechanical restraint in Hardrock chairs."

"They said he was being placed in this chair all day at school, or I don't know, up to six hours sometimes at school," said Douglas. "That he was coming home with soiled clothes and accidents at school, because he was not allowed to get up and walk away and use the restroom."

The group is relying on an affidavit by the child's private behavior analyst who claims he witnessed the alleged mistreatment of children at Gorenflo.

WLOX reached out to Biloxi Superintendent Arthur McMillan for a response to these allegations, who released the following statement:

"We are working closely with the state and fully cooperating with their investigation. We strive every day to create the best experience possible for all of our students and we are always working to improve. If any shortcomings are found, we look forward to implementing any changes that may enhance and develop our program."

The Disability Rights group wants the district to hire an outside consultant to develop and oversee a corrective action plan, and provide district-wide training for school personnel who work with special needs children.

The MDE will release its findings by Feb. 4. Meanwhile, the nine-year-old student has transferred to another school district.

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