Schafer Autism Report

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Sunday, December 18, 2011                                       Vol. 15 No. 52


AUTISM CALENDAR DEADLINE
December 23 !

For January 2012

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NEWS

Autism Boom: An Epidemic Of Disease Or Of Discovery?

Warrior Parents Fare Best In Securing Autism Services

Families Cling To Hope Of Autism 'Recovery'

Autism Hidden In Plain Sight

A Response to the LA Times Series on Autism

NJ Autistic Adults Lack Programs

Autism Frequently Missed in Children With Epilepsy

MIND Institute Launches Autism Promo Billboards
 
EDUCATION
Parents Say School Pressured Them To Waive Special Education Rights

Chairman Tom Harkin Introduces Keeping All Students Safe Act

Special Tax Deductions for Special Education

Colorado District Embarks On 5-Year-Plan To Improve Special Education

Boston Principal Suspended Following Charges Against Aide

Kentucky Mother Upset Over Son's Punishment

Family Of Bully Victim Wins $300k Settlement


NEWS

Autism Boom: An Epidemic Of Disease Or Of Discovery?

Autism rates have increased twentyfold in a generation, stirring parents' deepest fears and prompting a search for answers. But what if the upsurge is not what it appears to be?


Joseph Gutierrez, 13, peeks into his kitchen window in Sanger, Calif. He has been diagnosed as mentally retarded, but his mother thinks he is autistic. (Francine Orr /Los Angeles Times)

      By Alan Zarembo, Los Angeles Times First of four parts

      Amber Dias couldn't be sure what was wrong with her little boy.
      Chase was a bright, loving 2 1/2-year-old. But he didn't talk much and rarely responded to his own name. He hated crowds and had a strange fascination with the underside of the family tractor.
      Searching the Internet, Amber found stories about other children like Chase — on websites devoted to autism.
      “He wasn't the kid rocking in the corner, but it was just enough to scare me,” recalled Dias, who lives with her husband and three children on a dairy farm in the Central Valley town of Kingsburg.
      She took Chase to a psychologist in Los Angeles, who said the boy indeed had autism and urged the family to seek immediate treatment.
      But a team at the Fresno agency that arranges state-funded services for autism said Chase didn't have the disorder. His problems, staff members said, were nothing more than common developmental delays that he would eventually outgrow.
      Unconvinced, Dias imagined the worst — that Chase would never have a girlfriend, a job, a place of his own. She pressed the agency to reconsider and hinted at a lawsuit. Finally, officials relented, and her son began receiving 40 hours a week of one-on-one behaviorial therapy.
      A generation ago, society most likely would not have intervened in the life of a boy like Chase. Today, milder cases such as his are helping to fuel an explosion in the diagnosis and treatment of autism.
      The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 1% of children across the country have some form of autism — 20 times the prevailing figure in the 1980s. The increase has stirred fears of an epidemic and mobilized researchers to figure out what causes the brain disorder and why it appears to be affecting so many more children.
      Two decades into the boom, however, the balance of evidence suggests that it is more a surge in diagnosis than in disease.
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• • •

Warrior Parents Fare Best In Securing Autism Services
Public spending on children with autism in California varies greatly by race and class. A major reason: Not all families have the means to battle for coveted assistance.

    
Behavior specialist Michelle May tries to calm down 13-year-old Jonah Funk after he starts biting his hand while working with Sarabeth Rothfeld, in back, at Hesby Oaks School in Encino. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

      By Alan Zarembo, Los Angeles Times - Second of four parts

      From the day her son was diagnosed with autism nine years ago, Stacie Funk has made it her full-time job to find him the best possible help. Hiring lawyers and experts to press her case, she established herself as a mother whose demands could not easily be dismissed.
      The result has been a bounty of assistance for Jonah: A behavioral therapist who works with him at home and comes along on family outings, a personal aide at school and specialists to design his curriculum, improve his speech and refine his motor skills.
      So far, the state of California and the Los Angeles Unified School District have spent at least $300,000 on specialized services for Jonah.
      Now 13, he bites his hands, pinches his younger siblings and is easily flustered by changes in routine. But his mother is proud of the progress he's made — his ability to express his needs, read aloud and surf the Internet for movie trivia.
      The outside support, she said, helps hold the family together.
      “Am I more entitled than someone else?” said Funk, of Encino, whose husband owns a trophy-parts business. “No. But that's how the system is set up."
      Getting a wide array of help for an autistic child can require waging a small war with the gatekeepers of state and school district services. But not all parents have the time and resources to fight the way Funk did. That contributes to striking disparities in how services are distributed.
      Public spending on autistic children in California varies significantly by racial or ethnic group and socioeconomic status, according to data analyzed by the Los Angeles Times.
      For autistic children 3 to 6 — a critical period for treating the disorder — the state Department of Developmental Services last year spent an average of $11,723 per child on whites, compared with $11,063 on Asians, $7,634 on Latinos and $6,593 on blacks.
+ Read more.

• • •

Families Cling To Hope Of Autism 'Recovery'
An autism treatment called applied behavior analysis, or ABA, has wide support and has grown into a profitable business. It has its limits, though, and there are gaps in the science.


Laura Marroquin, flanked by her 8-year-old twins Justin and Jessica, says she'll never forget June 12, 2008, the day she was told Justin no longer had autism. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

      By Alan Zarembo, Los Angeles Times - Third of four parts

      In 1987, Ivar Lovaas, a charismatic UCLA psychology professor, published what remains the most famous study on the treatment of autism.
      Lovaas had broken down the basic skills of life into thousands of drills, such as pointing, identifying colors and reading facial expressions. For 40 hours a week on average, the therapists he trained used rewards and punishments, ranging from food treats to slaps on the thigh, to instill those abilities in 19 autistic youngsters under the age of 4.
      When the study began, most of the children didn't speak and were considered mentally retarded. After a few years, nine of them tested average or above in intelligence and moved on to mainstream first-grade classrooms -- a far better outcome than in two control groups.
      Lovaas described the children as "recovered."
      Autism, long considered a sentence of lifelong isolation, suddenly had a potential antidote. It was called "applied behavior analysis," or ABA.
      As the diagnosis of autism has exploded, so has demand for ABA, the most commonly recommended treatment. It has become a thriving business, worth more than $200 million a year in California alone.
      Statewide, at least 75 firms, some with long waiting lists, offer ABA in a variety of styles. The cost -- often $50,000 a year or more for a single child -- has been covered primarily by taxpayers up to now.
      In October, California passed a law requiring private health insurers to include coverage for ABA in their policies. More than two dozen other states have similar requirements, the result of relentless campaigning by parents and their advocacy groups.
      Yet for all the belief and investment in ABA, important questions remain about its effectiveness and how best to use it.
      Researchers have established that the therapy can improve behavior, language and intelligence test scores. But no scientist using the gold standards of medical research has reproduced the success rate reported by Lovaas, who died last year.
      Moreover, nobody can explain why some children respond to treatment and others make little progress, even after thousands of hours. It is also unclear which elements of ABA are responsible for the gains, how many hours a week are needed and for how long, and whether children who receive the therapy fare any better in adulthood than those who do not.
+ Read more.

• • •

Autism Hidden In Plain Sight
As more children are diagnosed with autism, researchers are trying to find unrecognized cases of the disorder in adults. The search for the missing millions is just beginning.


Howard McBroom, shown riding the bus, worked for 26 years as a security guard. It wasn't until he lost that job in 2003 that the Indiana University graduate learned he was autistic. He was 49 years old. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

       By Alan Zarembo, Los Angeles Times - Last of four parts

      When autism researchers arrived at Norristown State Hospital near Philadelphia a few years ago, they found a 63-year-old man who rambled on about Elvis Presley, compulsively rocked in his chair and patted the corridor walls.
      Ben Perrick, a resident of the psychiatric institution for most of his life, displayed what the University of Pennsylvania researchers considered classic symptoms of autism. His chart, however, said he was schizophrenic and mentally retarded.
      Delving into the file, the researchers learned that as a 10-year-old, Perrick had seen Dr. Leo Kanner, the psychiatrist who discovered autism. In his notes from 1954, Kanner described Perrick as “a child who is self centered, withdrawn, and unable to relate to other people,” and recommended that he be committed.
      Later, other doctors relabeled Perrick. The autism diagnosis was forgotten.
      The researchers found 13 other patients with unrecognized autism in the Norristown hospital — about 10% of the residents they evaluated. It was a sign of how medical standards and social attitudes toward the disorder have shifted.
      Over the last two decades, estimates of the autism rate in U.S. children have climbed twentyfold. Many scientists believe the increase has been driven largely by an expanded definition of the disorder and more vigorous efforts to identify it.
      Scientists are just beginning to find cases that were overlooked or called something else in an earlier era. If their research shows that autism has always been present at roughly the same rate as today, it could ease worries that an epidemic is on the loose.
      By looking into the past, scientists also hope to deepen their understanding of how autism unfolds over a lifetime.
+ Read more.

• • •

A Response to the LA Times Series on Autism


      This response to the LA Times series on autism is from Dr Irva Hertz Picciotto of UC Davis who is arguably the most renowned expert on the subject of epidemiology of ASD -Editor

      Alan Zarembo is right that there is substantial variability in rates of diagnoses, and that we can't confuse diagnoses with the actual incidence of disease.
      Nevertheless, impressions are not the same as a scientific analysis. I published the first quantitative analysis of how much of the increase in diagnosed cases in California could be explained by artifacts (changes in criteria by DSM; earlier ages at diagnosis; inclusion of milder cases) using the California data, which has a long enough history to provide data over many years, and the numbers simply do not add up (Hertz-Picciotto & Delwiche 2009). Combining my results with those of Peter Bearman, it appears that about half of the increase in diagnoses in California are due to changes in diagnostic criteria or practices, but that still leaves about a 3-fold increase that is not explained, and that was as of 2007. Diagnoses in California have continued to rise both in areas with low rates and in areas with high rates. Zarembo is interested in explaining the geographic variation, but the explanations for variation spatially are not necessarily the explanations for variation over time.
      This quote is particularly misleading: No study points to an environmental reason for the worldwide explosion in cases over the last two decades.
      Given the slow pace of genetic change in large populations, genes can't account for the surge either.
      That suggests the explanation for the boom lies mainly in social and cultural forces, notably a broader concept of autism and greater vigilance in looking for it.
      First, the wording is telling: 'an' environmental reason. There will not be a single reason for the increase, just as there is no single cause of autism. It is far too complex. But the logic that leads to the third sentence escapes me. How many studies have been done of environmental causes? Very few!!! And of these, most were extremely poor studies - very small samples, or lacking individual-level data (just trying to draw correlations - a study design that is generally not even published in the top epidemiology journals). Is it surprising we've uncovered few leads? The funding for environmental factors has been paltry - a mere $40-50 million in the last 10 years, while more than $1 billion has been spent on genetics. So to conclude that we should abandon looking at environmental factors and turn to social/cultural factors is nonsensical.
      Moreover, to the extent the increase is due to diagnostic differences, we need to find explanations for both the increasing numbers of diagnoses and for the autism that has been around "all along." In fact, data are emerging about quite a number of environmental factors. Just this year, major papers were published suggesting a role for traffic-related air pollution (Volk et al 2011), for maternal periconceptional nutrition (Schmidt et al 2011), and for maternal metabolic conditions (Krakowiak et al, in press). Earlier papers have indicated associations with pesticides (Roberts et al 2008; Eskenazi et al 2008).
      With regard to social factors, most of the cases in our autism study (The CHARGE Study, which is one of the largest to date) are low functioning, and to have been eligible for California services, they had to have three functional disabilities, meaning they are not the high functioning types of ASD or Asperger's that are often described in discussions about the broadening of what we are calling autism.
      With regard to genetics: the largest study to date looking at twins shows that 38% of concordance is due to genetics and 58% to shared environmental factors. This completely overturns the widespread assumption that has driven research for the last decade or more, which was that autism heritability was over 70%. (The paragraph in one of the series' articles about twin studies is out-of-date).

• • •

NJ Autistic Adults Lack Programs

      By Harvy Lipman The Record


  Client Jonathan O'Mahony stocking supplies as part of his duties at Quest Autism Programs in Wyckoff. Leslie Barbaro / Staff Photographer

      Delia O'Mahony moved back to New Jersey a decade ago seeking better educational opportunities for her autistic son, Jonathan.
      "We were living in the country in Ireland and they didn't know much about dealing with autism," said O'Mahony, who returned to the U.S. after her Irish husband died of leukemia.
      But when Jonathan turned 21 four years ago, she was disappointed to learn that programs for autistic adults seemed just as scarce here.
       In fact, New Jersey suffers from a severe shortage of programs geared specifically to the needs of adults with autism. That situation is likely to get considerably worse in the near future, as large numbers of autistic children graduate from special education and will likely need adult services. To make matters worse, a state policy designed to give families of developmentally disabled adults more control over care options actually denies non-profit agencies the seed money they need to create new programs.
      New Jersey has the highest documented childhood autism rate in the nation; a Centers for Disease Control study in 2007 found that 1 in 94 kids in the state has the condition. Many of those children, if not most, will need continued services as they grow into adulthood. And the programs for adults with autism are few and far between.
      "There's a tsunami of these kids coming and there are not nearly enough programs," said Carolyn Hayer, a Hackensack advocate for community programs whose son Chris is autistic. "To invest all that special-education money in these kids and then leave them at home watching TV is criminal."
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• • •

Autism Frequently Missed in Children With Epilepsy

      By Allison Shelley Medscape Medical News > Neurology

      Baltimore, Maryland — Despite problems, many children with epilepsy are not evaluated for autism or developmental delay.
      "Systematic screening should be routine for all children seen in epilepsy clinics," Anne Berg, PhD, from Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, told reporters attending a news conference here at the American Epilepsy Society (AES) 65th Annual Meeting.
      In a study presented here, the investigators tracked children younger than 5 years seen at an epilepsy monitoring unit and a ketogenic diet clinic for about half a year. They asked parents of the 44 children to complete the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, as well as an autism screening tool.
      Most of the children (77%) screened positive for developmental delay; of these participants, a strong proportion (36%) had autism.
      More than a third of patients had not been previously diagnosed as having developmental delay or autism and were referred for confirmatory evaluation.

Screening Gap
      "It's important that screening be right there at the beginning to help improve cognitive development," Dr. Berg told Medscape Medical News. "We are concerned that when pediatricians send patients to neurologists, they assume additional screening is taking place, but neurologists may think pediatricians are taking care of that, and a gap is occurring."
      Breanne Fisher, RN, MSN, CPNP, and Catherine Dezort, RN, MSN, CPNP, both nurses at Children's Memorial Hospital, described some of the referrals they typically make to psychiatrists; speech, occupational, and physical therapists; or educational specialists in their multidisciplinary approach.
      Their team is now prospectively evaluating a more extensive battery of screening tools with new-onset patients.
      Many questions remain about the association between epilepsy and autism. "We don't know whether uncontrolled epilepsy may lead to autism," Masanori Takeoka, MD, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, said at the news conference. "But both tend to feature intellectual disabilities."
      Dr. Takeoka is senior investigator of another study presented at the meeting. His team found not only that autism is common in children with epilepsy but also that their seizures are surprisingly photosensitive.
+ Read more.

• • •

MIND Institute Launches Autism Promo Billboards
 
     
sacramentotoday.net


      A billboard campaign highlighting the UC Davis MIND Institute's commitment to developing improved treatments for children with autism spectrum disorders has been launched statewide.
      The billboards depict a young child and state: "Making breakthrough discoveries in the causes of autism," and then provide contact information for the institute.
      Placed throughout California, the billboards were made possible through the generous support of the California State Outdoor Advertising Association (CSOAA), which contributed $50,000 to the enterprise.
      The collaboration received praise from California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.   "I am inspired by the tremendous advances being made in the diagnosis and treatment of autism," Steinberg said. "It is crucial we get the word out so that families can obtain the necessary support to overcome this challenging disorder."
      Leonard Abbeduto, director of the MIND Institute, expressed his gratitude to the outdoor advertising association for its contribution to the campaign. "We are most appreciative of the support of the CSOAA. By publicizing the MIND Institute, the CSOAA is connecting us with the families who we can help through our clinical services and who can help us by participating in our research," Abbeduto said.
      The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 110 children born today have autism. An estimated 1.5 million families cope with a neurodevelopmental disorder that threatens their child's independence.
      The UC Davis MIND Institute, in Sacramento, Calif., was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where parents, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers collaborate to study and treat autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The institute has major research efforts in autism, Tourette syndrome, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). More information about the institute, including previous presentations in its Distinguished Lecture Series, is available on the web at mindinstitute.ucdavis.edu

• • •

EDUCATION

Parents Say School Pressured Them To Waive Special Education Rights


      By Joanna Lin
californiawatch.org



      pixdeluxe/istockphoto.com

      By the time Krista McGhee pulled her son from school in the Riverside Unified School District, she said the fourth-grader had taken to hiding under his desk, been bitten by his classmates and been bruised by a teacher's aide trying to restrain him. McGhee's son, who has Asperger's syndrome, had been in a special day class for emotionally disturbed children since second grade – a setting she said had devolved into "a nightmare."
      Fearing for her son's safety, McGhee asked the district to hold an emergency meeting to discuss his individualized education program, a federally mandated document that guides the goals and services for each public school student who receives special education.
      A program meeting requires the participation of a specific group of people, including special and general education teachers. Instead, two district officials presented McGhee and her son's father, Mark McGhee, with what the parents said was a "take it or leave it" settlement: Their son would be placed at the school they wanted, but they would waive several rights under state and federal law, including the right to request changes to his individualized program for the next 16 months and the right to file claims against the district during that time.
      "I was just at my wit's end," Krista McGhee said. "I felt like a soldier with battle fatigue. … I felt backed into a corner." The McGhees signed the agreement within an hour.
      The McGhees and another parent, Mojdeh Ghadiri-Asli, claim in lawsuits that Riverside Unified pressured and duped them into signing agreements that violate state and federal special education laws.
      "They're sort of blindsided," said Heather McGunigle, the Inland Empire director at the Disability Rights Legal Center and an attorney for the families. "Even though they got something out of the contract, what they lost was something significantly greater, which was the right to participate, which they were not aware was going to happen."
      The lawsuits – the McGhees' was filed in October, Ghadiri-Asli's last year – are pending in U.S. District Court in Riverside. Jack Clarke, an attorney for Riverside Unified, said the school district is "actively trying to resolve these matters through negotiation and discussion with the families through their legal counsel."
+ Read more.

• • •

Chairman Tom Harkin Introduces Keeping All Students Safe Act

     
copaa.org


      We are pleased to announce the introduction of the Keeping All Students Safe Act in the Senate by Chairman Tom Harkin this afternoon.  We sincerely thank Chairman Harkin for his unwavering commitment to the safety and welfare of our nation’s children. This bill would promote the development of effective intervention and prevention practices that do not impose restraints and seclusion; protect all students from physical or mental abuse, aversive behavioral interventions that compromise health and safety, and any restraint imposed for purposes of coercion, discipline or convenience, or as a substitute for appropriate educational or positive behavioral interventions and supports.  Importantly the bill also works to ensure the safety of all students and school personnel and promote positive school culture and climate.
       For years, schools’ use of restraint, seclusion, and aversive interventions was unpublicized and little-known, despite their widespread use. However, recent reports by COPAA and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), and Congressional testimony of the U.S. General Accounting Office have served to shine a spotlight on these abusive practices.  See e.g.,  Unsafe in the Schoolhouse:  Abuse of Children with Disabilities, COPAA (Jessica Butler, 2009); School is Not Supposed to Hurt:  Investigative Report on Abusive Restraint and Seclusion in Schools, NDRN (2009); Seclusions and Restraints:  Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers (GAO-09-719T).  This bill recognizes that “physical restraint and seclusion have resulted in physical injury, psychological trauma, and death to children in public and private schools,” as described in these reports.   Existing laws alone have not protected students against such abuse and injury, though many do offer important protections.  The bill, therefore, includes a critically important savings clause that preserves existing additional rights under state and federal law.
+ Read more.

• • •

Special Tax Deductions for Special Education


     
online.wsj.com


      More than six million children in the U.S. fall into the "special needs" category, and their ranks are expanding. The number of those affected by one developmental disability alone—autism—grew more than 70% between 2005 and 2010.
      The tax code can help—if you know where to look.
      There are numerous tax breaks for education, but the most important one for many special-needs students isn't an education break per se. Instead, it falls under the medical-expense category.
      Although students with disabilities have a right to a "free and appropriate" public education by law, some families opt out and others pay for a range of supplemental therapies.
      Such families can use Uncle Sam's medical-expense deduction for help coping with costs, say experts. But many parents and tax advisers overlook it.
      "Parents are busy helping their children, and tax preparers often don't ask about medical expenses unless the taxpayer is old or ill," says Bernard Krooks, a New York attorney who is past president of the Special Needs Alliance, a nonprofit group with members specializing in disability law.
      In fact, tax rules allow medical deductions for "diagnosis, cure, mitigation, or treatment…primarily to alleviate or prevent a physical or mental defect or illness" (IRS publication 502).
      That can include the cost of a school or program if prescribed by a licensed health-care professional. It might even cover costs for a special two-year college certificate program for students with severe learning disabilities, such as the Reach program run by the University of Iowa, which costs as much as $40,000 a year.
      The deduction also can be used for additional therapies. Regina Levy, a Los Angeles CPA with two special-needs children, offers a partial list: occupational therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, physical therapy, social-skills groups and "hippotherapy" (horseback riding), among others.
+ Read more.
      
• • •

Colorado District Embarks On 5-Year-Plan To Improve Special Education

Thompson School district uses co-teaching as a way of reaching children with autism

      By Shelley Widhalm Reporter-Herald

      Ponderosa Elementary School paraprofessional Britni Taylor, left, thanks student Becca Hannon, 6, right, for looking at her while the girl gets some exercise jumping in between lessons Wednesday during her exceptional students class. Becca, who is autistic, would not make eye contact with teachers when she started at the school and they say it is rewarding that she now looks them in the eye. (Photo by Jenny Sparks)

      Paraprofessional Britni Taylor holds 6-year-old Becca Hannon's hand as she takes her to the mini trampoline in the middle of the classroom for a break from studying colors.
      "You're not in a jumping mood today," Taylor says to Becca, a first-grader at Ponderosa Elementary School, before taking her hands. "There's a smile. Jump! Jump! Thank you for looking at me."
      Becca, who has autism, used to not be able to engage in eye contact, said Kari Artzberger, another paraprofessional in the school's intensive learning center.
      "Now she looks at us, and that it is so rewarding," Artzberger said.
      Taylor, Artzberger and two other paraprofessionals work with Nicole Fuller, the intensive learning center teacher at the school.
      "The biggest change I've seen is we've received research-based interventions, especially in reading and math," Fuller said, adding that her students are progressing at a higher rate with the new interventions. "I see a huge increase in parents wanting to be involved with what their kids are doing at school and how they can support that at home."These changes and more are the result of Thompson School District's implementation of a five-year plan, called Access to Excellence, with the goal of improving how the exceptional student services department operates. The plan, which was adopted two years ago, aims to increase the presence of students with disabilities in the general education classroom, close the achievement gap and encourage family engagement.
      The changes came about in response to concerns parents raised three years ago about the department, then called special education.
+ Read more.

• • •

Boston Principal Suspended Following Charges Against Aide

     
www1.whdh.com

      Dorchester, Mass. - An elementary school principal in Dorchester has been suspended without pay for breaking the rules, as a widening investigation probes alleged sexual misconduct by a teacher's aide.
      Thirty-three-year-old Lashawn Hill was in court on Friday. He was arraigned on a charge of lewd and lascivious behavior.
      Police say he behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner with an autistic student at the Boston Harbor Pilot School on Monday. The police investigation is ongoing, so more charges are possible.
      Hill has worked at at least four different schools over 7 years and officials uncovered a similar allegation dating back to last spring at the King School in Dorchester.
      An investigation found the principal at that school didn't follow the rules.
      The Boston Superintendent of Public Schools released a statement saying: "She did not file a report, or otherwise notify anyone. This is not the procedure that is clearly called for in our protocol."
      The statement says the King School principal did an investigation of her own and concluded the child was not in danger. But, that broke the school department’s rules - and perhaps state law, which mandates the reporting of suspected child abuse.
      The statement also said that all principals will be re-trained.
      
• • •

Kentucky Mother Upset Over Son's Punishment

     
www.lex18.com

      It's supposed to be a ball bag. Instead, a Mercer County mother said she found her son trapped inside it at his school. How he got there infuriated Sandra Baker. LEX18 reports on the special education teacher Baker said admitted it's a way to control the boy's autistic behavior.
      "It's uncalled for, I'm sorry. There's just no sense in it," said Baker, who is still upset, two days after she said her son was punished, sent to do time in a Mercer County Intermediate ball bag.
      "I told her, I said you need to get him out of the bag and you need to get him out of the bag now," said Baker.
      Christopher Baker emerged sweaty and agitated. Mom doesn't know how long he was there, only that his special education teacher's aide told him to stay there for disobeying her.
      "He was to himself, went to his room, was in there all night, didn't communicate with anybody," said Baker.
      Two years ago the nine-year-old was diagnosed with Autism and ADHD a year before that. An outburst Wednesday and the school asked mom to pick-up Christopher who was already in the bag when she got there.
      "It disturbs me because I don't know what else they have done to him, in forms of discipline that I don't even know about," said Sandra.
      In a statement, Mercer County School Superintendent Dennis Davis said, "We are aware of a situation and that situation has been investigated and school system has handled it consistent with our policies and procedures. Because this is a student issue, we cannot discuss any details because of state and federal confidentiality statutes."
      As for Baker, she has met with the school principal but said nothing was resolved.
      "I shouldn't have to live in fear to send my kids to school and he shouldn't have to be in fear of going," said Baker said the state is investigating and meeting with her privately on Monday before making an appointment with school officials.

• • •

Family Of Bully Victim Wins $300k Settlement


      Associated Press

      Nashville, Tenn. AP — The family of a teenager who was bullied at a Robertson County school has won a $300,000 settlement.
      The award to 19-year-old Jacob Gentry and his family by a judge last week is the maximum amount allowed under the law, according to WKRN-TV in Nashville (http://bit.ly/t2Ppj7).
      As a seventh-grader at White House Heritage School in 2006, Gentry was hit in his left eye with a textbook when his teacher left the classroom, causing him to become legally blind in that eye.
      Jacob's mom, Misty Phillips, warned school officials he should never be left alone because he suffers from a form of autism.
      Gentry was hit when students got into a scuffle while his teacher was out of the room.
      "No one would listen," Phillips said. "No one would take it seriously."
      Gentry had to undergo four surgeries after the incident. His attorney, Jonathan Street, said Gentry's medical bills were over $90,000.
      The Robertson County school system is reviewing the judgment and has 30 days to appeal.



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