Owasso School Accused Of Child Abuse

Tuesday, March 20th 2007, 4:33 pm
By: News On 6

An Owasso mother is filing a child abuse complaint against her son's school after administrators told her that her 7-year-old autistic son was restrained at school for an unknown period of time. According to the police report, the school used what's called a "roll up”, wrapping the child so he's unable to move. The News On 6’s Heather Lewin reports the upset mother told police she'd never heard of, nor given permission for such a restraint to be used on her son.

The mom told police the boy's face, neck and shoulders were covered with marks that appeared to be tiny broken blood vessels under his skin. We talked to the doctor who saw the boy that day. He said the injuries were likely from screaming while being in a tight restraint for a long time.

“The biggest concern to me was why this would need to be done in the first place, why a child with autism would need to be restrained," said Pediatric Specialist Dr. Christopher Sorrels.

The boy's mother told police she got a call from the principal at Hodson Elementary saying there had been an incident with her son. When Sorrels saw the child's injuries he was shocked. The boy had broken blood vessels, called petechia, all over his face and neck.

“So that was evidence that he had been restrained forcefully," said Sorrels.

Because Owasso schools are closed for Spring Break, school officials were unavailable for comment and the police report gave no details as to why this restraint might have been used on a student.

“There are other techniques where you do provide pressure at certain points,” said Sorrels. “You can do brushing techniques, but physical restraint is not one that I'm familiar with to be effective at all in someone who's having an outburst related to their autism."

Sorrels isn't just a pediatric specialist. He's also the parent of an autistic child.

“I would be furious, honestly, yep,” he said. “I would be furious and would be taking the same action that's been taken by this mother."

A Tulsa Public Schools specialist told me she thinks the restraint used was a light blanket or mat wrapped around the boy like a jacket. She says "roll up" is not a practice used at Tulsa Public Schools. Owasso police couldn't comment on the case except to say it's still under investigation.