Parents of student whose legs were broken at JCPS school fighting for change
Brian and Kim Long working to prevent physical restraint of special needs students
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The parents of a child whose legs were broken when he was physically restrained at a JCPS school are now fighting back, coming to the Kentucky State Capitol to tell their story.
Brian and Kim Long say it's time for change.
“Brennan's injuries just cannot happen without purpose. There has to be a purpose for this,” Brian Long told members of the Juvenile Justice Oversight Council on Tuesday.
In 2014, their autistic son Brennan was severely injured, both legs broken, when he was restrained at the Binet School, a JCPS school that serves students who have a combination of disabilities that can result in significant learning, developmental, or behavioral problems.
“Brennan endured, and I mean endured, an acute physical assault by a JCPS Binet School staffer,” Brian Long said.
The Longs brought their story to the council as part of their mission to prevent the same thing from happening to others.
“There should never be another child in the state of Kentucky that is injured in this manner,” Brian Long said.
The Longs are not alone.
JCPS confirms that over the past two years, nearly 8,000 students have been restrained, and nearly 150 have been hurt. JCPS says most of the injuries were what it called minor scrapes and bruises.
None were hurt as severely as Brennan.
“It is appalling that it happened. It is maddening that nothing was done,” said Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Hopkinsville), the council co-chair.
On Thursday, the Kentucky Protection and Advocacy, a client-directed legal rights agency that protects and promotes the rights of persons with disabilities, completed an investigation into the injuries of Brennan Long.
The executive summary found that Sherman Williams, an aide at the Binet School, broke Brennan’s femur bones. The 16-year-old spent eight days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Kosair Children’s Hospital where doctors surgically implanted titanium rods in each of his legs.
"He suffered multiple complications, including a partially collapsed lung and massive blood loss," the report reads. "After his discharge from Kosair, he spent the next 25 days in a rehabilitation facility. Brennan’s injuries were so severe that Kosair’s Forensic Medical Team and Child Protective Services both classified his case as a near-fatality."
Kentucky Protection & Advocacy learned of Brennan’s injuries during a May 16, 2016 meeting of the Kentucky Child Fatality and Near-Fatality External Review Panel and "expressed grave concerns" that—despite the “horrific” nature of Brennan’s injuries -- Child Protective Services declined to substantiate abuse because they could not determine the mechanism of Brennan’s injuries and the Commonwealth Attorney’s office declined to prosecute.
The report found that Williams violated state law and that staff at the Binet School "failed to use appropriate behavioral supports and less restrictive interventions, and utilized excessive force to restrain Brennan."
"This report highlights not only the inappropriate use of restraints at Binet, but also concerns about the lack of transparency and cooperation by school staff, the lack of training for lower level support staff in the areas of disability and restraint, and a culture of restraint that appears to prevail at Binet," said Jeffrey Edwards, director of Kentucky Protection and Advocacy. "Students like Brennan have the right to be educated without violence."
JCPS records show Williams was initially suspended without pay, then was temporarily reassigned. He returned to work at Binet on Aug. 1, 2015. He remains assigned to the school.
At Tuesday's meeting, Juvenile Justice Oversight Council member John Sivley spoke of finding a balance between student and teacher safety.
“It's a difficult situation when you're face-to-face, when you're facing someone who is behaving in a violent or aggressive manner, and staff have to protect themselves, obviously,” he said.
But the Longs say Brennan was not being aggressive.
They were awarded nearly $2 million by JCPS but say they still don't know exactly what happened.
Part of the answer, they say, is more accountability, training and transparency.
“Any parent in the state of Kentucky, in the United States, ought to be able to very quickly see how many restraints and seclusions that are occurring at the schools where their children go to schools," Long said. "We don't have that today."
Long says, so far, change has been slow to come.
“I feel bad for the many, many children that are still in these environments. No change has occurred to this to this point,” he said.
The Longs say new laws regarding student restraint may very well be needed. But for now, they want the current rules to be enforced and those who break those rules held accountable.
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