Policy changes coming after special-needs student restrained in Bronx school

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Jim Hoffer has details on the response to a 5-year old being placed in Velcro restraints in the Bronx. (WABC)

Policy changes are coming to New York City schools after a 5-year-old special-needs student was tied up as part of a punishment for acting out at his Bronx school, and the incident was caught on cell phone video.

In response to the story, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is not satisfied with the current strategy, and that the use of velcro straps "would be a rarity under our new policy."

The mayor seems to think PS 107 took things too far, even though the initial restraint of Derick Marte falls within current guidelines. But the video, taken by mother Alicia Cabrel, seems to show the agents restraining the child even after the perceived danger had subsided.

The guidelines state that restraints can be used only when the child's behavior "poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others."

Cabrel says Derick was in the gym, and when it was time to head back to class, he got upset. The NYPD, which overseas the officers, said the agents determined the boy was a danger to himself and others. They said he had thrown objects, was kicking and punching and had tried to bite one of the agents.

Still, Cabrel feels the school mishandled the entire situation. She says the treatment of her son was made worse by officials not allowing her to console him once she arrived. Instead, his frantic screams can be heard as she is made to leave.

"I said listen, I only want my son untied, there's no need for my son to be there," she said. "Even now that I'm here, I always calm him down."

Cabrel says Derick remained tied to the chair for another 15 minutes, which seems to violate guidelines that call for physical restraint to be "discontinued as soon as imminent danger of serious or physical harm...has dissipated."

"In the video, what we see is he's not a danger to himself or others," children's advocate Bernard Dufresne said. "He's sitting there with his hands behind his back, and there are school safety officers surrounding him."

Mayor de Blasio made it clear that restraining a 5-year-old on his watch is unacceptable.

"The policy that we inherited, we are not satisfied with," he said. "A new policy will be announced quite soon clarifying the kind of restraint we expect in these situations. We clearly want it to be a very rare situation where we want a child needs be restrained in the manner. I don't have all the facts, but from what I have heard, this would be a rarity under our new policy. There may be some very exceptional moments where it may be necessary, but our goal is to make it very, very rare."

A spokesman for the Department of Education says the principal has met with Cabrel, and Derick is receiving support. Cabrel has pulled him out of the school and says he will now be home schooled.
Related Topics:
educationeducationspecial needs childrenNew York City
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