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When special needs students are abused by educators

In recent weeks, the media has reported on several stories centered on allegations of child abuse at the hands of teachers. What ties these disturbing tales of sexual, physical and emotional abuse together is that the victims are all students with learning disabilities. It is virtually impossible to read these stories and not be emotionally moved by what is apparently happening to far too many special needs kids nationwide.

No child should ever have to suffer abuse at the hands of another, let alone at the hands of an educator. Schools should be treated as sacred spaces where children have the best possible chances of remaining safe. Unfortunately, halls of learning are not always treated this way and tragically many disabled children are abused by educators and by other children while they are at school.

We generally write about the protections that the law affords students with disabilities in an educational context. These protections include the right to be educated in the least restrictive learning environment and to have educational experiences guided by an individualized educational program. However, students with disabilities are also protected from abuse and mistreatment. Harming children in these ways is almost always illegal.

Please, if you suspect that your child is being abused while he or she is at school, do not suffer this horror alone. The law protects your child from such mistreatment. As such, you have the right to speak to an attorney about your situation and to explore your legal options if your child is indeed suffering abuse or neglect while at school.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Abuse in special ed classrooms: Low-paid aides. Challenging kids. Recipe for disaster?” Maureen Downey, April 25, 2014

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