Report uncovers extensive abuse at Maryland elementary school

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Segregated Classroom Draws Criticism for Alleged Abuse of Students with Autism

A Maryland elementary school allegedly subjected 10 students with autism in a segregated classroom to “abusive and neglectful treatment,” according to a scathing new report from the Maryland Disability Law Center.

At Hickory Elementary School, located in Bel Air, Maryland, school officials allegedly sprayed students with water bottles on a regular basis, to deter them from bad behavior, the report found. They also banged rolling pins on students’ desks, chased them with strong odor markers, and drew mustaches on the students’ faces.

Other students were pinned between furniture and isolated in separate rooms, the MDLC found, while others were verbally abused.

The MDLC pointed blame at the Harford County Public School District, accusing it of staffing the class with unqualified teachers and failing to provide accountability or take steps to protect the children.

“At every level, the pieces that should have been in place weren’t there,” MDLC Managing Attorney Leslie Seid Margolis told the Baltimore Sun. “So it just all fell apart.”

As part of the investigation, the MDLC examined the students’ Individualized Education Programs, which the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates that schools produce for all special education students nationwide on an annual basis, or whenever there is a change to the child’s services.

The MDLC found practically identical IEPs for each student. In multiple cases, the  school official copy-and-pasted the IEPs from prior years, or others failed to explain what services would be provided.

“Generic IEPs violate the very premise of the IDEA, which mandates an individualized education program for each student with a disability,” the report states. “The IEP team’s failure to look at each of these children in Teacher Doe’s class in an individualized way and to write meaningful IEPs for them constitutes a violation of their rights under federal and state laws.”

Among the report’s many recommendation, the MDLC calls for the school district to immediately halt the abusive practices and overhaul its teacher evaluation and its investigation processes. It also calls for the district to provide students in the class compensatory services and begin providing compliant IEPs and other mandated services.

A video about the investigation, from WBALTV 11, can be seen here.

The Maryland Disability Law Center and Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, are part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and members of the National Disability Rights Network.