ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A St. Louis mom is concerned about her 11-year-old son after she said he has been physically restrained at school 75 times over the last few years.
Denise Waldrop said her son, David, who has developmental disabilities, shuts down whenever they talk about school.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking for me,” Walrdop said.
David is a student of the Special School District of St. Louis County.
Records, provided by Waldrop, show between November 2017 and December 2021, David had been restrained 75 times, ranging between two minutes and 30 minutes. She said there’s an additional 131 incidents of isolation and seclusion, ranging between one minute and 3 hours and 15 minutes.
“What is happening before the behaviors that’s causing my son to go to the extreme crisis levels, that’s causing them to have to place them into seclusion or put him in restraint?” Waldrop said.
Waldrop said she found bruising from a physical restraint that happened in 2021. Records show David was forced into a two-person seated restraint by three school employees. The school reported it was to keep him from self-injury, but Waldrop questions that because David has never tried hurting himself before.
“You can tell that he looked like he went through a war zone, but yet, he doesn’t have the capability with his language or his communication to explain to me why that would happen,” Waldrop said.
She feels helpless and called the FOX Files for help after watching FOX 2’s continued reporting on restraint and seclusion in schools. She was connected to Tracy Bloch, the director of legislative advocacy for the Missouri Disability Empowerment Foundation.
“I also am left with some of the same questions (she) has,” Bloch said.
Bloch attended a meeting Wednesday with Waldrop and school leaders. She’s shocked to hear at the number of times David has been restrained and secluded.
Bloch said it’s clear that something is not working in his educational plan.
“The school is telling her that he is excelling, he is making progress, he is making his goals, and that he is in a much better place that he was,” she said. “And that may be true, but there are some unanswered questions.”
Jennifer Henry, the executive director of communications for the Special School District of St. Louis County, said the district cannot share specific details about a student.
“Our staff receives annual Nonviolent Crisis Intervention training to teach crisis management strategies and reinforce de-escalation techniques. These intervention strategies and techniques are utilized to address behaviors,” Henry wrote. “Physical intervention is not used to address instructional problems or inappropriate behavior.”
The district said it follows board policy and regulation when there’s a safety threat to the student or others. Henry said any time seclusion or restraint is used, a report is filed which automatically notifies the family.
Waldrop said she briefly stopped receiving reports of restraint and seclusion, but recently received two restraint reports after FOX 2 talked with the school.
She feels it in her heart that something is not right.
“I don’t see how, in any way, that’s therapeutic in helping any child get through a behavioral crisis,” Waldrop said.