Saturday, February 28, 2009

Teen with Autism Tasered into Unconsciousness

Suit: Autistic boy was Tased
February 20, 2009
Carmel Clay school called police during outburst, parents say
By Vic Ryckaert
A middle-school student with autism was Tased twice by a Carmel police officer, according to a lawsuit filed by the boy's parents against the Police Department, one of its officers and a local school district.
According to the suit, the electrical bursts temporarily knocked the 90-pound boy unconscious during a confrontation at Creekside Middle School. The boy, who was 14 at the time, was taken to a local hospital before being released to his mother.
The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, seeks damages for medical expenses, pain, suffering and mental anguish. The defendants are the Carmel Police Department, officer Matthew Kinkade and Carmel Clay Schools.
Carmel Clay Superintendent Barbara Underwood declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit. Efforts to contact Kinkade and a spokesman for the Carmel Police Department were not successful Thursday.
According to the lawsuit:
On March 11, the boy, who is not named in the complaint, was dropped off at Creekside by his mother, Dianne Bell, who called to tell school officials her son was going to be late.
At the end of the day, the boy was told he was going to receive detention. At that point, the boy, who is described as having "affective disorder and has been diagnosed with autism, manic-depressive disorder and bipolar disorder," became "frustrated and began to act out."
"During this outburst he is saying outrageous things," said the Bells' attorney, Ronald Frazier, noting that the boy threatened to call members of his gang to retaliate against the teachers.
"They know there is no gang there," Frazier said. "They know he has no way of acting on what he is saying. They are taking these idle threats and calling police."
The Bells contend the school district failed to follow the guidelines they had set up to deal with the boy's outbursts -- techniques the family says would have given the boy a chance to cool off.
"When a child like (the Bells' son) starts to have emotional problems, the (individual procedure) is supposed to be followed," Frazier said. "It has specific steps that are to be taken in order to keep the child from melting totally down."
Instead, school officials dialed 911.
Officer Kinkade arrived, according to the complaint, and reacted to the boy's outbursts by grabbing him and forcing him to a bench in the school lobby.
When the physical force failed to control the 5-foot boy, Kinkade drew his Taser and shocked the boy two times until he lost consciousness, according to the complaint.
"Officer Kinkade used unreasonable and excessive force by failing to follow policies and procedures that were in place for dealing with autistic children," the suit alleges.
Frazier contends in the suit that although school officials say they advised police about the boy's condition, the Police Department says that's not so.
The Police Department has an autism response team, but it was not dispatched. Kinkade is not a member of that team, according to the suit.
"Autistic children have a great difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they don't understand social cues," Frazier said. "(The Bell child) gets confronted with violence, with Tasers, and he is flipping out because of his sensory overload."
The suit contends Carmel police were "grossly negligent in the training of Matthew Kinkade," who joined the department in January 2006.
Noblesville Police Department Lt. Bruce Barnes, an instructor in the use of Tasers, said officers are trained to use the devices when lesser-force options are not available.
"You can use the Taser anytime anybody is punching, kicking or threatening to punch or kick," Barnes said. "We can use it when we tell someone to do something, they refuse, lesser-force options are not available and they are a credible threat to you."
Barnes declined to comment on whether the boy could have posed a credible threat to a police officer, saying he did not know the full circumstances of the incident.
Sheila Wolfe, director of the Indianapolis-based Autism Education and Training Center, said the reaction of school officials and the police officer agitated the boy.
"You need to step away and leave them alone so that they can decompress," said Wolfe, who has an autistic son in middle school in Carmel Clay. "I have a hard time believing that a trained officer would Taser a child with a disability if they fully understood the situation they were walking into.
"I know from experience that the people in Carmel (Clay schools) know better. As a school system, they have the expertise and they have the people available that know better. I'm surprised."
When I saw this, I thought to myself, "Oh no, not in Indy..." Indiana is one of 6 or 7 states which requires autism-recognition instruction for law enforcement and emergency response individuals. Earlier this year the HAMILTON-BOONE-MADISON SPECIAL SERVICES COOPERATIVE provided training to over two hundred police officers in Hamilton County, Arcadia, Carmel and Fishers to inform police officers of the common characteristics of individuals across the autism spectrum, and strategies to help when interacting with these individuals. From working in special education, I can tell you, this child would of had a behavior plan, which likely would of included a de-escalation plan.  I would question if the plan was followed by the faculty at the school. Also, there are restrictive physical interventions which are taught in most institutions and schools for these types of situations and could have been applied in this situation to keep this student and staff safe. Also, I question why wasn't the police department's autism response team wasn't dispatched and did the school inform the police department that the child has autism, so the responding police officer could adjust his approach appropriately, to meet the child's communicative and physiological needs associated with his disability.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No Longer a Quiet Safe Haven

Unfortuantly public libraries have become less and less of a quiet place to study or read books and more of a busy, bustling, and often loud technology cafe, teen hang out, and a preschool all under one roof. While most of these are welcome changes, it appears the common curtesy of maintaining a quiet enviroment for those who may be studying or reading has faded with the times. As a patron and a former library staff, it has become increasingly frustrating for me because our local public libraries are becoming ridiciously loud due to the part of inconsiderate and outright rude patrons and even staff! Also, it has been my experience that librarians and staff are increasingly becoming more hesitant to ask a patron to take steps towards remedying the noise they are causing for fear of *gasp* offending the patron. Sure, nobody likes a grumpy librarian, but no one likes a headache, either! So in closing I ask of this:

1) Please set your cellphone ringers to silent or vibrate mode.

2) Please make haste to the foyer/entrance or a designated area of the library when receiving a call or to make a call on your cellphone, as to avoid disturbing the other patrons.

3) Parents, please teach your children and reinforce library manners, starting at a young age, i.e. to use an indoor voice; walk, not run in the library; and to not climb library furniture or bookcases like they are a junglegym.) And if your child is being disruptive (yelling/screaming, crying, temper tantrumming), please remove them to the foyer/entrance or your vehicle.

4) Parents, the library staff are not your babysitters, nor do they get paid to be your sitter, if your child is under the age of 12, please have a designated guardian stay in the library with them (this could be an older sibling, a neighbor, an after school sitter, a grandparent, or an aunt or uncle) and have a designated pick-up time so the library staff does not get stuck babysitting your child after the library closes.

5) Please do not hold conversations by yelling accross the room, instead walk over to the person. You will not only save others a headache, but your message will be much clearier as well.

6) Library staff, you have been just as culpable: Please moniter the volume level of your conversations, with patrons and other staff.

7) Library staff, please don't allow teens to gather around computer stations, as their excitement over their friend's updated Myspace page, the newest video game, or the latest school gossip may become disruptive for their neighbor at the next computer station over.

In taking these steps, we will be working towards creating a quiet enviroment, which is more conductive to learning, as well as considerate to others.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fun Videos

My husband sent me links to these funny videos he found last week on You Tube. They are of course Star Wars related.

Talent Night
A little fun with popular music and Star Wars action figures


Talent Night 2

More fun with popular music and Star Wars action figures. After watching this, I recommend checking out the other similiar videos this person made, including "We Will Rock You", "Bicycle", and "Yellow Submarine." Lots of laughs!

For more fun, I recommend these funny non-Star Wars videos as well.

David After the Dentist
A funny video of a little boy coming out of anesthesia after having a tooth extracted

Smart Cheetah
A nature documentary gone wrong...

Scary Snake...Just Watch