ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A family is suing Albuquerque Public Schools after it said staff at McCollum Elementary used physical force to restrain their daughter who is autistic.
The family also claims it was never made aware of the incidents. The lawsuit was filed just last month.
The girl’s type of autism prohibits her from speaking, therefore, the family’s attorney, Gail Stewart, said it took time before the family found out.
“Their original concern was that she was coming home soiled and not changed throughout the day,” Stewart said.
The lawsuit said attended McCollum Elementary School and wore pull ups at the time. It stated the student was “dependent on school staff to remove wet or soiled pull ups and change her…”
The lawsuit also claimed, “APS had actual notice of harm to (the child) as a result of classroom staff’s use of physical force, restraint, and neglect of [the child’s] personal care.”
“The district keeps internal records in connection with the behaviors of children with disabilities,” Stewart said. “Those are not shared with parents.”
The alleged abuse took place while the girl was part of the school’s kindergarten and first-grade special education program from 2013-2015.
“It’s definitely a lack of training,” Stewart said. “Albuquerque Public Schools invests considerable hours and money in training people how to do restraints and totally insignificant time and money on training people about the needs of kids with disabilities.”
According to the lawsuit, “APS lacked any policy requiring that its classroom staff who worked with nonspeaking students, who were wholly unable to communicate events of the day to their parents, provide parents with a comprehensive daily report.”
This year, both the New Mexico Senate and the House passed a bill that would limit the use of restraints in public school.
House Bill 75 only allows staff to restrain a student if “the student’s behavior presents an imminent danger or serious physical harm to the student or others.” It also requires the school to notify parents the same day which the incident occurred.
“Hose Bill 75 took an important step that recognized the dangers of using physical restraint at all and another important step in requiring parents be notified,” Stewart said.
House Bill 75 has yet to be signed by the governor.
The district said it can’t comment on pending lawsuits. However, it did say special needs students have individual education plans that are specific to each child’s needs.
The child no longer attends McCollum Elementary School, but she is still a student within the district.