Agency Closes Complaint About Crowell Kindergarten Restraint, Discipline

Crowell School kindergarten. (Courtesy photograph.)

The Disability Law Center of Boston has closed its complaint, made public last February, that Crowell School kindergarten improperly used “restraint, time-out and disciplinary” actions against children.

The report came during Thursday night’s School Committee meeting by Superintendent Margaret Marotta

“They feel like the situation there has been rectified and that the results are positive at this point,” Marotta said.

Disability Law Center staff attorney Colleen Shea told WHAV last spring that a complaint lodged a year ago, involving a five-year-old student, sparked the investigation. “The student was having a difficult time being upset in class, and the staff was restraining her at times prior to using other, less intrusive types of intervention,” she explained. She said a total of three complaints had been made to the agency which is designated as the Protection and Advocacy System for Massachusetts under federal law.

Paul A. Magliocchetti, School Committee vice chairman, summarized how the members felt when it received, what he called a, “very serious charge.”

“This was a really significant event that happened. I know when this first came up we were all taken a little bit by surprise when we got the notification and we were also a little bit surprised that we hadn’t known about it earlier,” he said.

Special Education Director Pamela MacDonald, who came on board after the complaint was made, said she hired more behavioral staff and consultants. “We are ongoing throughout the district doing some work with the lawyers to talk about the right discipline procedures—how to do restraints because it wasn’t just about the restraints. It was really about how we approach discipline with kids,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald explained the schools will now better track when staff encounter an ongoing problem with a student, categorize the types of problems and learn more about affected schools and age groups. The data will help the schools learn what they need for training before a problem becomes “too big” for individual teachers.

Last spring, Shea described a particular student. “There was one day where she was under a table, very upset, crying, not cooperating with the teacher’s instructions to participate in whatever they were doing in class and the staff tried to remove her from underneath the table,” she told WHAV. “First, they tried to coax her and, then when she wouldn’t come out, they forcibly removed her from under the table and put her in a restraint.”