One of the worst moments for the parent of a disabled child is when he or she discovers or suspects his or her child has been harmed at school. As a parent of a school-age child with disabilities, you place your trust in the teachers, administration, and support staff who will be caring for your child on a daily basis. You expect, and rightly so, that your child will be in a safe environment throughout the day.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Research tells us that there has been an increase in harm to disabled children in schools across America. Instances of bullying, emotional manipulation, and even emotional abuse and physical neglect, have been documented. For example, a Polk County School District para-educator was arrested for abusing special needs students and another teacher was arrested for failing to report it. In another case, a Lake County school bus monitor was arrested for 32 counts of child abuse.
As a parent, what can you do when you suspect your disabled child has suffered harm? Let us share with you a few steps you can take right now.
1. Gather as much clear information as you can from your child. Although this can be difficult to complete, especially in light of your child’s condition, talk to your child about what has happened. Try to determine dates, times, those involved, and location. If possible, find out if this is an isolated incident or has happened on more than one occasion.
2. Contact the authorities. If something has happened to your child and he or she has been harmed, you should not wait to talk to the authorities.
3. Seek the advice of trusted counsel. This is not a situation where you want to be unrepresented. A lawyer who specializes in representing families with disabled children under circumstances just like these can be an invaluable member as you determine what legal representation you need.
4. Work with a therapist you know and trust. Even the smallest incidents can impact our children. Do not wait to engage your family therapist to help you address what happened and create a plan for addressing it as a family.
5. Consider removing your disabled child from the environment. If you suspect or know something has happened to your child it may not be the right course of action to have him or her return to the environment. Simply because the authorities are involved or a corrective action plan has been started, does not mean your child will be safe. Make sure the environment is as safe as it can be for your child before he or she returns to it, even if this means that he or she must be removed for the time being.
Do not wait to seek the advice of trusted legal counsel when you suspect something has happened. Time is of the essence in getting you and your disabled child the representation that you need. You may schedule a free case of valuation with our team of attorneys experienced in this type of matter by contacting our office today.