Gathering Evidence to Make Your Case

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We just found out our non-verbal 13 year old son with autism spectrum disorder was being locked in a containment room when he failed to comply with his aide’s instructions. Sometimes this happens several times a day.

The school administrator said he had no knowledge the room was being used. Yet, the administrator was the one that had the room constructed the previous summer for just this purpose.

What can we do legally?

Before you do anything, you need to gather many more facts.

First: Start by asking the 5 W’s + H + E questions. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Explain?

  • What is the physical description of the room?
  • Under what circumstances was it used?
  • What written policies, if any, exist in regard to the use of the room?

Second: Contact the state agency that manages both private and residential psychiatric settings for children. Contact the state mental hospitals where children may be placed. Ask the same questions. Write down the answers. I suspect that you will find very clear, specific, rules and regulations are in place for such time out rooms in those settings.

Next: Consider the differences.
Is there a discrepancy between the school setting and the state managed setting? Ask why?
Question whether the actions by the school system are tantamount to child abuse and warrant investigation by child protective services.

If you go about asking lots of questions, you may be able to open the can of worms and have it all cleaned up by the appropriate agency.

You need to obtain written evidence, information, and documentation. Remember: if something was not written down, it was never said.

You must document the answers to your questions, from whom and when. Write letters requesting information, save all your letters and any responses. Respond to telephone calls with written thank you letters that explain what you understood was said to you in the phone call.

It’s not recommended that you do anything legally, until you have better evidence and a lawyer.

Read more about seclusion and restraints on the Wrighslaw Way at and on the Wrigtslaw webpage at

  1. In the U.S. 6th District (Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee), school district attorneys can be members of the IEP team (but they are not subject to cross examination in a subsequent due process proceeding). And in our case, those attorneys were paid nearly 1 million dollars fighting ONE family/ONE child. The Courts allow it — certainly not based on law, but purely from a ‘I can legislate from the bench’ standpoint. (And they weren’t even elected!) Court even decided that child does not get an IEP because the parent interfered by trying to tape record the IEP meeting. Yes – it’s true! That’s By the way — still fighting — two federal cases pending, two administrative hearing pending, with another to be filed soon. (Can never fight long enough or hard enough for your own child.)

  2. Julie: I suggest that you contact Wayne Steedman, the attorney who provided the handout about the Maryland special ed regs at the program.
    Phone: (410) 576-7606

    His contact info is also on the handout.

  3. After leaving the Wrightslaw conference in Waldorf yesterday; my husband and I received a call from CPS advising our 13 year old son (w/ Asperger’s) is being reported for hygiene issues. Not only did the school report him (as per my investigation findings), but they did not talk with us first and they allowed CPS to interview our son without our consent or knowledge. We have kept paper trails of our conversations with the school advising of his hygiene issues due to his disabilities and we have had numerous discussions over it (by email of course, so paper trail has been kept). Do we have a valid case against the school w/ evidence proving our case? Should this go to a disabilities attorney at this point? We were told by CPS our case will be open for 45 days.

  4. My child with a disability was verbally abused and neglected last year, civil rights violated in several areas, IEP not followed, provoked to negative behaviors and given office referrals with no manifestation determination meeting or discussion. I wanted to be able to observe the classroom environment and to be able to protect my child from further abuse and neglect, however the school principal will not allow me to observe except for occasional 1-hr pre-scheduled observation periods (with 24 hour notice). Is this legal? Another advocate in this district was also barred from the classroom for any period of time, and her intent was to observe and participate in an FBA. Many parents are barred from classrooms in this district and abuse of children continues and is increasing. What do we do?

  5. My adopted son has multiple diagnoses from several professionals. The school only accepts theirs of RAD, which is one of the correct ones. However, they refuse to learn more about it and how to treat a child with RAD. They say they see no triggers; when he becomes stressed, he begins to throw things, fights, curses, threatens them or himself, or runs off campus. They restrain him; take him out or evacuate the other children. They may suspend him, put him in ISS, or even call the police to come get him.

    Did I mention, he’s 9 years old. This year is worse than last year, when they would let him go to resource. We have an ARD next week and I’m dreading it. Want to be cool and professional, not sure I can. He’s soooo much better since my husband and I learned how to help him, not like our adult 6 were parented.

  6. Schools often often keep a list when and why the seclusion occurred. if so you child obtain it==that would be very helpful. I would also have someone observe your son in the school setting asap. It is first hand look at the day and even if it is a perfect day-full day of observing will reveal much that will be helpful to organizing an appropriate plan of action for him.

  7. Your state has a protection and advocacy agency – report this to them. All of the P&A’s are collecting information and doing investigations into school systems using seclusion and/or restraint practices. Go to and find your state’s P&A. The US Department of Education is also collecting this information.

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