Following statewide trend, Northside, North East ISDs restrain Black and special ed children at disproportionate rates, report finds

One of the first times educators had to restrain Fransisco “Frankie” Treviño, the then-kindergartner ended up with a fractured elbow.

Sandra Treviño heard her son screaming from the nurse’s office when she frantically arrived at Loma Park Elementary School after administrators called her while she was at work.

She was later told that Frankie had been sent to the principal’s office for disrupting class, and the assistant principal was walking him back to class when he tried to run away from her. The administrator grabbed him and the child struggled. As Frankie pulled away from the adult, he fell to the concrete walkway on his arm.

“I was so livid because I’m leaving my son in their care so I know he’s protected,” Treviño said.

Several times since then, other teachers have physically held Frankie to keep him from acting out, his mother said. A Disability Rights Texas lawyer has helped Treviño demand special education services from Edgewood ISD. Frankie, who suffers from several diagnosed behavioral disorders, is now in third grade at Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary School.

Across the state, schools have a mixed record in using physical restraint of disruptive students, with some disproportionately applying it to Black and disabled students, according to a recently published report from Disability Rights Texas.

Frankie Treviño was in kindergarten at Loma Park Elementary when an assistant principal allegedly physically restrained him, breaking his elbow.

The nonprofit analyzed data school districts reported to the Texas Education Agency for the 2018-2019 academic year, dividing a district’s total enrollment by the number of incidents to create a percentage rate for comparison because school districts vary so much in size. Districts are required to report incidents of their use of restraints and seclusion as disciplinary tactics to both the state agency and the U.S. Department of Education.

Required Reading: Get San Antonio education news sent directly to your inbox

Texas allows schools to use restraints only in emergencies and in ways that protect the health and safety of students. Restraints could be adults using their own physical force or mechanical devices like straps to restrict a child’s movement.

No San Antonio school districts landed on Disability Rights Texas’ list of worst districts for rates of restraints. But the report included rates for Northside and North East ISDs because they are among the state’s 10 largest districts. Northside ISD’s rate of restraints as a percentage of total enrollment that year was 1.5 percent, while North East’s was less than 1 percent.

Sandra Treviño embraces her son, Frankie Treviño, who was in kindergarten at Loma Park Elementary when an assistant principal allegedly physically restrained him, breaking his elbow.

Black and disabled students were disproportionately represented in restraint incidents at Northside and North East, Disability Rights Texas Attorney Angel Crawford said.

Northside ISD’s Black student population was about 6.4 percent in the 2018-19 school year, yet more than 14 percent of the total restraints involved Black students, Crawford said.

About 12 percent of Northside’s students have a disability, but they were involved in 73 percent of restraints used that year, Crawford said.

“The safety of students and staff are always our priority. Our protocols include training for identified staff on how to effectively de-escalate situations where a student may pose a threat to themselves or others,” Northside ISD said in a prepared response.

“Our protocols also include training on the appropriate use of physical restraint as a last resort. The use of any restraint is always used to prevent a child from hurting themselves or others.”

Sandra Treviño embraces her son, Frankie Treviño, who was in kindergarten at Loma Park Elementary when an assistant principal allegedly physically restrained him, breaking his elbow.

North East ISD also used restraints on Black children at more than twice their percentage of enrollment. That year, about 7.3 percent of students were Black, but Black kids were involved in 15.6 percent of total restraints.

The percentage of all restraints that involved disabled students in North East, at 83 percent, is even higher than in Northside. About 10 percent of NEISD students have a disability, Crawford said.

“Depending on a student’s disability and individual behavioral challenges, the student may be restrained more than once throughout the year,” North East ISD responded in a statement that stressed that restraints are a last resort.

On Northside ISD says it restrained hundreds of students but software didn’t report it

“Unfortunately, we have students who are experiencing a variety of mental health and disability related challenges that result in where their situation is deemed to be of imminent danger to themselves or others. In those instances, we are legally bound to restrain,” the statement said.

“The district’s practice is to follow a de-brief process following restraint to discuss the antecedent to the behavior resulting in restraint, the behavior and staff response. This process is a part of the district’s efforts toward continuous improvement in meeting the needs of our students through the most proactive means possible.”

The district also challenged the completeness of the TEA data, saying school districts are only required to report restraint incidents for students who have individual education plans.

For years, Texas schools have struggled to provide special education services and advocates say parents have had to beg or threaten to sue in order to get their children evaluated for special needs. The federal government found the state in violation of federal disability laws and mandated changes, but the TEA has still been out of compliance despite making some progress.

Edgewood officials said their rate of restraints compared to enrollment for 2018-19 was 4.7 percent, still high but not enough to make the top 10 “worst reporters” list in the study.

“The Edgewood ISD Special Education department, in collaboration with the Crisis Prevention Institute offers extensive training and re-certification every year. Use of restraints is always the last form of redirecting behavior with student safety being priority,” they said in a statement provided in response to an interview request.

Frankie and his mom have dealt with long term effects of the incident when he fractured his elbow. Frankie fears the assistant principal and associates bad memories with Loma Park, which they still live close to.

Treviño believes the root cause of the incident was because educators initially declined to screen Frankie for mental and behavioral disabilities, so he was not getting special education services that might have prevented the situation. All the while, Treviño said, she was frequently called to pick up Frankie from school because he was acting out.

District officials have recognized the need for more special education screening, and in late 2019 collaborated with Texas A&M University San Antonio to create an autism assessment program.

Treviño, who graduated from Edgewood’s Memorial High School, said she has been let down by her home district. Just this year and with the help of Disability Rights Texas, Treviño said Edgewood provided meetings with a formal committee to review Frankie’s special needs.

She knows Frankie isn’t the only child who has been delayed services. She’s connected with other parents who have waited years, too.

“I need Edgewood to make a difference, not just for Frankie, but for all of the special ed children that need that help,” Treviño said. “Because they are literally our future.”

Krista Torralva covers several school districts and public universities in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Krista, become a subscriber. [email protected] | Twitter: @KMTorralva

Next Post

Black Hills High School Freshman Aurora Glassburn Tackles Online School and Community Service During COVID-19

Sun Dec 27 , 2020
It’s tough to be a freshman. A brand-new school, new classmates, new teachers and a very different scheduling system from middle school. It becomes even more stressful for students when they have to start high school remotely. But Aurora Glassburn, a 14-year-old freshman at Black Hills High School, hasn’t let […]

You May Like