Washington State Launches Investigation Into Abuse at Private Special Ed. Schools
Allegations include staff kicking a fourth-grader and dragging a child with autism around by his leg.
Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has launched an investigation into a system of private schools for kids with disabilities after ProPublica and the Seattle Times reported on allegations of abuse.
The series of articles focused on Northwest School of Innovative Learning (NWSOIL). NWSOIL is a set of private schools that serve 500 Washington public school students with serious disabilities. ProPublica and the Seattle Times found years of complaints from parents and school districts against NWSOIL alleging abuse, overuse of isolation rooms, and unqualified aides teaching instead of certified professionals.
One district claimed NWSOIL staff kicked a fourth-grader. Another alleged that a child with autism was dragged around by his thigh.
Many former NWSOIL employees also claim that they were pressured by their parent company to to enroll more students and skimp on basic resources, like staffing.
In a seven-page letter, OSPI reminded NWSOIL of its authority to revoke or suspend a school’s approval, meaning that it could shut NWSOIL down.
“Given the serious nature of the allegations made in the articles, OSPI is examining what, if any, actions need to be taken with respect to Northwest SOIL’s approval to contract with Washington school districts,” Tania May, assistant superintendent for special education at OSPI, wrote in the letter.
OSPI has demanded any records of mistreatment, maltreatment, abuse, or neglect as well as documents pertaining to restraint or isolation of students and calls to the police. They are also seeking information about the student-to-teacher ratio and staff qualifications.
In the letter, OSPI claims that all of this was previously unknown to them as well as to police, Child Protective Services, and local school districts. They are asking NWSOIL for an explanation as to why the allegations were not reported.
NWSOIL defended itself in a public statement.
“Use of restraints and seclusion are always used as a last response when a student is at imminent risk of hurting themselves or others,“ it said. “We strongly deny any allegation that we understaff and/or pressure staff to increase admissions in order to maximize profits.”
Washington state representatives are considering a reform bill that will give them more oversight on the publicly funded system of private special education schools.
In this legislation, OSPI and at least one district that sends students to this program would be required to visit before approving the contract. It would also standardize district agreements with programs like NWSOIL, including financial safeguards to make sure funds are being used appropriately.
See the full series: (ProPublica) (The Seattle Times)
31 Children Found Working Graveyard Shift in U.S. Meatpacking Plants
Evidence suggests the company may have minors employed at 400 other locations.
The Department of Labor (DOL) recently found that a leading contractor for sanitation allegedly employed 31 minors from ages 13 to 17 for overnight cleaning of slaughterhouses and meatpacking facilities.
Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. is under investigation for employing over 30 minors in three locations in the Midwest. The DOL claims the children were cleaning dangerous equipment with hazardous chemicals up to 6 or 7 days a week. Several of these children reported injuries, including chemical burns.
The DOL filed a complaint with the Federal District Court of Nebraska for a nationwide injunction on Packers. According to their complaint, evidence suggests that Packers may have kids working at 400 other locations across the country.
The court partially fulfilled the DOL’s request and ordered Packers to “immediately cease and refrain from employing oppressive child labor.”
The order also demanded Packers comply with the DOL’s investigation because the complaint included claims that Packers’ managers had been tampering with evidence – including obstructing interviews and attempting to hide or delete important documents, text messages, and incident reports.
According to the complaint, the purpose for the nationwide injunction request is the safety of the kids while the DOL investigates.
“While Wage and Hour is continuing to pour over records to identify such children, it is slow, painstaking work. Yet, the children working overnight on the kill floor of these slaughterhouses cannot wait,” it reads.
Packers denied the accusations. In a statement to NBC News, it said that it has “an absolute company-wide prohibition against the employment of anyone under the age of 18 and zero tolerance for any violation of that policy — period.”
Packers also said it was surprised by the complaint because it claims to be cooperating with the investigation by providing important documents and responses.
A hearing has been set for Nov. 26 to decide whether the order will be dissolved, extended, or modified.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (NBC News) (CBS News)
Officers Charged After Detaining Woman in Car Hit by Train, Woman Faces Charges Too
The woman suffered nine broken ribs, a broken arm, a broken leg, a broken sternum, broken teeth, and several other injuries, her lawyer said.
Prosecutors Bring Charges
Less than two months after police in Colorado left a woman handcuffed in a patrol car parked on a railroad crossing as a freight train plowed through it, the severely injured woman has still been charged, according to a statement Monday.
In September, multiple law enforcement agencies responded to a road rage incident in Fort Lupton, where they arrested 20-year-old Yareni Rios-Gonzalez for allegedly brandishing a firearm at another driver. While they searched her vehicle, they placed her in a squad car that was parked on train tracks.
Despite being hospitalized for nearly two weeks after the incident, Rios-Gonzalez has been charged with felony menacing, the Weld County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Her lawyer, Paul Wilkinson, told Reuters the news that she was being charged was disappointing and added that he will file a lawsuit against police for his client’s injuries and for violating her civil rights.
Two officers were also charged for their involvement in the incident. Officer Jordan Steinke, from the Fort Lupton Police Department, faces one count each of attempted manslaughter and second-degree assault, both felonies, as well as reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. Sgt. Pablo Vazquez, from the Platteville Police Department, faces five counts of reckless endangerment, one count of obstructing a highway or other passageway, one count of careless driving, and one count of parking where prohibited, all misdemeanors.
Abandoned on the Tracks
A Platteville police officer reportedly stopped Rios-Gonzalez just past the railroad tracks and parked the patrol car on the crossing.
In body camera footage obtained by 9News, she can be heard screaming from inside the vehicle, trying to get their attention as the freight train barreled toward them.
At one point, the locomotive’s horn blares audibly in the distance, but the officers either fail to hear it or ignore it.
By the time the cops notice the incoming train, there are mere seconds until impact, and they scramble away leaving the woman trapped inside.
Vazquez can be heard saying he did not know he parked on the tracks and that he was unaware another officer had placed Rios-Gonzalez in his patrol car.
Rios-Gonzalez suffered nine broken ribs, a broken arm, a broken leg, a broken sternum, broken teeth, and several other injuries, according to Wilkinson.