Justice for Corey. Keep Students Safe!

September 06, 2013

End School Restraint and Seclusion of Students Awareness Rally

Monday, September 9 is the first day of classes for students at Leake & Watts school in Yonkers, New York, where 16-year-old Corey Foster was killed April 18, 2012, after being restrained by school staff.   His death made national headlines, from the New York Times to ABC News Nightline to Anderson Cooper, and fueled a search for answers by his mother, Sheila Foster.

To date, no one has been held accountable for Corey’s death.  To raise awareness of the need for national legislation to end the often lethal use of physical restraint and seclusion rooms in schools across the country, Action to Keep Students Safe will rally at the gates of the school where Corey died on Monday, Sept. 9, beginning at 8 a.m.

“No parent should send their child to school and have to worry he won’t come home,” says Sheila Foster, Corey’s mother.

Among the protesters scheduled to appear the Restraint and Seclusion Awareness Rally is the author Richard Stripp, whose book, Mommy, I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did To Me At School Today, portrays the dangers children with special needs have faced at school. Also scheduled to attend is a representative from New York Governor Cuomo’s office.

Corey Foster died on the basketball court of Leake & Watts school after being approached by staff members who wanted to use the court.  Corey was slammed into the wall, then the five men lowered him to the floor in what’s been called a “therapeutic hold” but witnesses say Corey at one point cried out that he could not breathe, and one of the staff members responded, “If you couldn’t breathe, you couldn’t talk.”

Forty-five minutes later, Corey’s lifeless body was brought out of Leake & Watts School.  No one has ever been charged or held accountable for Corey’s death.

“My child today; your child tomorrow,” Sheila Foster has said about her push to protect other children from the harm of restraint and seclusion at school.

The rally is supported by Action to Keep Students Safe, ( a group of six parents who have been touched by this issue, either personally or professionally. Along with Mrs. Foster, parents in the campaign include Bill Lichtenstein, the investigative journalist and filmmaker whose New York Times Op-Ed about his daughter’s placement in a seclusion room as a kindergartener at a Lexington, Massachusetts school started a firestorm of stories around the nation of children subjected to abusive restraint and seclusion; Scott Bryant-Comstock, CEO and President of the Children’s Mental Health Network; and leading child advocates Ellen Chambers, founder of SPEDWatch, a civil rights and advocacy organization, Amy Peterson, an advocate and writer, and Debra Pacheco, whose granddaughter was subjected to restraint and seclusion for years without the school providing notice.

The group is focusing on the federal Keeping All Students Safe Act (HR 1893) which would limit the use of physical restraint and seclusion rooms with students unless required in an emergency to keep a child or others safe. The Act would require schools to notify parents promptly if a child was restrained or secluded, and would ban dangerous mechanical and chemical restraints, and those that impede breathing.

The Restraint and Seclusion Awareness Rally on Monday is one step in the group’s effort to create a national conversation about the use of restraint and seclusion in school. Those interested in joining the protest are asked to meet near the front gate of Leake & Watts School, 463 Hawthorne Ave., Yonkers shortly before 8 a.m. Those unable to attend the rally can show support and receive updates on Twitter at the hashtag #justiceforcoreyrally.

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