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Boston mom says 3-year-old son with special needs was restrained to chair by teacher

Boston mom says special needs son was restrained to chair
Boston mom says special needs son was restrained to chair 02:16

BOSTON - A mother plans to file a lawsuit after she said her special needs son was restrained to his chair by a teacher at a Boston school.

Anacelia Cuevas broke down as she explained what happened to her 3-year-old son at the James F. Condon K-8 School.

"The system failed my son. My son is not an animal, my son is not a criminal. He's just a baby," Cuevas told WBZ-TV while fighting back tears.

She said the incident happened back on Feb. 14 and her son was put in restraints, which were then duct taped to a chair by his teacher.

"The report indicated that basically my son was put there because he was in trouble," said Cuevas.

Another teacher saw her son restrained to the seat and reported the incident. Cuevas said she didn't find out about what happened until last week.

"Why? You are a certified special needs teacher. You should be able to handle this," said Cuevas. "And why was I not notified by the principal, the teachers, no one? I had to hear it two weeks later from DCF. Imagine my surprise."

The school said they placed the staff members involved in the incident on administrative leave. 

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Mary Skipper also released a statement saying, "This incident is deeply concerning and goes against our values and policies as a school district. We understand how difficult this has been for both our student and their family and we will continue to work directly with them to provide all the support they need to feel safe and continue learning at BPS."

"School is supposed to be a second home, it's a safety place. That trust has been violated," said Cuevas.

Cuevas said her son can't engage in full conservation and struggles expressing himself. She also said her son already doesn't like being in a high chair or in a car seat so the thought of having forced into a seat in restraints is infuriating.

"My son would come home telling me, 'trouble, trouble.' I thought he was just learning the words," said Cuevas.

Cuevas said she removed her son from the school last week and plans to file a lawsuit. She said she's getting her message to make sure this doesn't happen to any student or parent again.

"I am going to get justice for my son," said Cuevas. "This may have happened to my son but it stops here. They don't understand the trauma they're causing. Not just to the child but families."

The school said they will continue the investigation and will also assist the family in placing the child in another school.

64 students restrained at Boston schools last year

According to data collected by the Department of Early and Secondary Education, 64 students were restrained at five Boston schools last year. The Condon School was not one of them. The data does not say what type of restraints were used.

"The problem is physical restraint is dramatically overused," said Rick Glassman, director of advocacy for the Disability Law Center.

Glassman explains mechanical restraints, like a device restricting movement are never allowed.

According to state regulations, "Physical restraint shall be used only in emergency situations of last resort, after other lawful and less intrusive alternatives have failed or been deemed inappropriate, and with extreme caution."

Glassman also said parents should be notified as soon as possible.

"There's supposed to be a reasonable effort to inform them within 24 hours and then in any event in writing by three school working days," Glassman said.  

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