Texas Parents Ask Lawmakers to Take Action to End Harmful Student Restraint

Posted on

January 25, 2023

Edie Surtees, Disability Rights Texas, 512-407-2739, esurtees@DRTx.org
Jolene Sanders, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, 512-478-3366 x312, jsanders@txdisabilities.org

Texas Parents Ask Lawmakers to Take Action to End Harmful Student Restraint

AUSTIN—At a press conference on Monday, January 30, 2023, at 9:45 am in Room 2W.6 at the Texas Capitol Building, state lawmakers, parents, and advocates will share stories and introduce legislative and other remedies to end the use of harmful restraint of Texas students with disabilities.

On March 1, 2021, Xavier Hernandez, a student with Autism, was held and restrained face down by school staff at a campus in Fort Worth. Xavier said he was being hurt. He began gurgling and his lips turned blue before he passed out. Hours later that day he was pronounced dead. The prone restraint used on Xavier is allowed by state education law.

Two months later, while the same Fort Worth school was still under investigation, six of its employees were caught on video pinning down a 4th grade girl named Toni, who also has a disability.

A report released in December 2020 by Disability Rights Texas said school districts across Texas use physical restraints against students with disabilities far more often than against their non-disabled peers. In January 2022, parent and advocate groups grew increasingly concerned with the rash of school staff arrests for violence against Texas students with disabilities like Xavier, Toni, and others, and released a statement asking state leaders to immediately enact a list of measures to ensure the safety of these students.

A year later, these groups and parents are still alarmed at the continued harmful restraint of Texas students, and state lawmakers are joining them to take action through legislative and other solutions.

Three parents will speak at the press conference about how their children were harmed through restraint. One parent from a small city south of Houston, Jeanna, started to see bruises and scratches on her teen daughter and learned she was having frequent meltdowns on the bus. Another parent who lives near McAllen, Thelma, didn’t understand why her little boy didn’t want to go to school anymore and cried each day as she dropped him off. He also would strongly resist when she tried to put on his seat belt. Tatiana, a mother from the Austin area, was informed by the school that “something” happened with her son Quintin and assumed it was a standard disciplinary response to unwanted behavior. But then he told her the assistant principal threw him against a wall, hitting his head, and a video confirmed it was even worse than she thought.

“We are calling on state leaders to finally respond to the ongoing endangerment of students with disabilities,” said Steven Aleman of Disability Rights Texas, one of the disability advocacy groups calling for change. He says parents and advocates are demanding a number of measures be taken, including:

  1. Improved independent investigations by the Department of Family and Protective Services of alleged abuse in public schools.
  2. Heightened accountability for school staff that engage in violent and harmful treatment of students with disabilities.
  3. Better utilization of video surveillance in classrooms with vulnerable students with disabilities.
  4. Tighter state regulation of dangerous restraint practices in schools.
  5. Greater investment in proactive and positive behavioral interventions, services, and supports in schools.

The press conference is hosted by The Arc of Texas, the Autism Society of Texas, the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, Disability Rights Texas, Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, and Texas Parent to Parent.

For reporters unable to attend in person, the Texas Legislative Online live stream will start at 9:30 am, and the press conference starts at 9:45 am. (https://house.texas.gov/video-audio/press-conference/)

One-on-one interviews with parents, advocates, and lawmakers will be available immediately following outside the House press room.

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The Arc of Texas promotes, protects, and advocates for the human rights and self-determination of Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Follow The Arc of Texas on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram, and learn more at thearcoftexas.org.

Autism Society of Texas works to support individuals with Autism as well as their loved ones in Texas through free information and referrals, education, support and enrichment groups, and state & national advocacy. It provides community inclusion events, recreation, and support groups across Texas. Visit texasautismsociety.org for more information.

The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities was founded in 1978 and is a statewide cross-disability advocacy organization with a mission to ensure that people with disabilities may live, learn, work, play and participate fully in their community of choice.

Disability Rights Texas is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas established in 1977. Its mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society. Visit www.DRTx.org for more information.

Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities is one of 56 state councils on developmental disabilities in the U.S. and its territories created through the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act). Its mission is to create change so that all people with disabilities are fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives.

Texas Parent to Parent is a parent-led organization committed to improving the lives of Texas children and adults with disabilities, chronic and mental health conditions and other health care needs. It empowers families to be strong advocates through parent-to-parent support, resource referral, and education and educates professionals about the unique needs of their children with the goal of improving care and opportunities for their children.