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Abuse in Schools Widespread, Report Finds

A new federal study, released exclusively to CBS News, reveals hundreds of cases of abuse of students at the hands of school officials -- and even deaths.

The report, done by the Government Accountability Office, finds incidents of abuse of restraints and seclusion, among other forms of mistreatment, in public and private schools alike, all across the country, says CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes.

A congressional panel has scheduled a hearing about the findings for Tuesday, and child advocates are calling for better laws to protect students.

Students such as Cedric Napoleon and Paige Gaydos.

Paige's mother, Ann Gaydos, is slated to testify Tuesday at the hearing to be held by the House Education and Labor Committee about the abuse Paige allegedly suffered on multiple occasions in school in Cupertino, Calif. when Paige, who has Asperger Syndrome, was seven. She's now 15 and the family has moved to Monument, Colo.

Cedric's foster mother had no idea the Killeen, Texas eighth grader's teacher was physically restraining him when he acted up. Until, Cordes says, the day it led to Cedric's death.

"She took him down and sat on him," a tearful Toni Price told Cordes, "and straddled him. And uh... the autopsy report said that they had never seen anything like that except in a car crash, because she crushed his chest."

The GAO probe finds hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death in schools over the past 20 years, Cordes says -- everything from carpet burns from being dragged to a seclusion room, to bruises from being pinned to the ground. Many of the victims were, like Cedric, children with disabilities.

"Seclusion and restraint should only be used in an emergency situation," says Deborah Ziegler of the Council for Exceptional Children.

And the tactics are used more often than parents might think, Cordes points out. In the 2007-2008 school year alone, the Texas public school system reported 18,741 cases of children being restrained.

Laws vary from state-to-state, Cordes, says, and about half the states have no laws at all.

Ann Gaydos, with Paige sitting at her side, told Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen about the restraint and other physical abuse she says her daughter suffered culminating, Gaydos said, with a teacher taking Paige into an empty classroom, lifting her by her wrists and an ankle and slamming Paige headfirst into the ground. Paige was, Gaydos said, "quite seriously hurt" with very bad bruises on her shoulder and head, and with skin forced off a shoulder.

Gaydos says she'll tell Congress Tuesday she wants "far better oversight of school districts, perhaps some third-party oversight. The districts can't police themselves. I hope for stricter laws regarding these restraints, and better whistleblower protections. The whistleblower (in Paige's case) was driven out of the district."

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