My name is Heather Alex; I am a full-time mama to 3 wonderful children. My now 10-yr old twin boys have struggled in school since the young age of 4 years old, putting a heavy strain on our family. I received calls from the school district daily while trying to hold a full-time job as a Nurse.
My children were constantly restrained, sent home, and endured verbal and physical abuse from school officials. Etched in memory is when the principal stated, “I feel like we’re babysitting your children.” Or the day my son was left behind from a class field trip. I was not notified until I reached out regarding the issue. The school didn’t want to include him due to his disabilities. Listening to him cry throughout the night while asking, “Why did they leave me?” was painful. I had no logical answer to provide to him.
Threatening my children continued; contacting the police, isolation, and experiencing both physical and emotional trauma have continually affected their learning and behavior. Feeling alone, helpless, and overwhelmed took a toll on my health. I read many hours a night trying to understand our rights. Advocating for my children has become a never-ending journey of learning and suffering for our family.
In January 2019, the school Nurse called, stating, “I am unsure of what took place, but I think your son is having an asthma attack.” Hearing my son screaming and crying in the background, I arrive at school quickly. I knew immediately it was not asthma. Listening to the nurse talk to my son, I learned the details of the incident; abuse during a restraint. An ambulance arrived; vitals were stable, so I assisted with taking my son to the local ER. Medical Records determined a “contusion was noted between eyebrows.”
I spoke with the superintendent but to no avail. Nothing was done. Professionals eventually encouraged me to take my children out of the district. The public school system failed my children. Their rights, Free Appropriate Public Education Act- FERPA have continuously been denied. Both are behind their grade-level peers in academics and social engagement. Through the years, they have only experienced the most restrictive educational environment, educated away from typically developing peers; LRE – Least Restrictive Environment. Early Spring of 2021, I contacted an Educational Consultant, Robin Rettie, M.Ed., who has continued to advocate alongside me for my boys. Our journey has been challenging and lengthy, but I continue to advocate for my children, as well as others. Our continuous nightmare has given me the desire to help others. I am just beginning.
No Kids in Cuffs proposed HB 2975 prohibits restraint and use of chemical irritant sprays on students ten years and younger. Restraining children in a school setting is harmful to a child’s self-esteem and long-term well-being. Mental Health is increasing in Texas; Texas is ranked 51 st in Mental Health funding. Placing children in cuffs is abusive and does not help a child in need. It results in increasing unwanted behavior. My children suffer from PTSD due to ongoing issues of denial of FAPE. We continue to work through trauma every single day.
A positive start would be to pass “No Kids in cuffs” HB 2975 TEC Section 37.0021 Texas. During the 2018-2019 school year in Texas, there were nearly 45,000 incidents in which students were restrained. Students with disabilities experience 91% of all reported restraints though they make up just under 10% of all students.
Solutions to provide: research-based hands-on training to all staff in school buildings, increased funding, and mental health resources to children and families. I am advocating for all children; families shouldn’t experience what we’ve endured.
I am thankful to the Minaret Foundation for the opportunity to share our story. I hope my experiences will let struggling families know they are not alone.