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Autism - Zakh, ASAN, and Wrongful Felony Charges

Author: Thomas C. Weiss : Contact: Disabled World

Published: 2010-01-11 : (Rev. 2016-01-04)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Zakh exhibited behaviors that are a manifestation of his Autism disability.

Main Digest

Zakhqurey P. is an eleven year old boy who has autism. When Zakh started the school year, his grandmother requested that an evaluation be performed because he was returning from another district. The district had recommended that Zakh have an aide with him at all times, and his family attempted to get an IEP together prior to the start of the school year. She was refused, and told to wait until the school year had begun.

Zakh's grandmother made requests to receive a copy of his evaluation results before his October fifteenth temporary placement IEP meeting. Again, she was refused - she was told it was not allowed by state law. On October fifteenth, a temporary placement IEP was held to begin services for Zakh. His grandmother feels that the people involved are not considering his prior tests, or the recommendations of Habberton House. Zakh's grandmother has repeatedly asked for a Functional Behavior Assessment, as well as a Positive Behavior Plan with Positive Behavior Strategies and Supports. Zakh's grandmother has asked the school to stop calling the police on her grandson. At the October fifteenth meeting agreements were made in regards to guidelines and suggestions were made, but a formal, positive behavior plan did not emerge. The suggestions were not put in place and Zakh experienced a form of meltdown two weeks later.

Zakh exhibited behaviors that are a manifestation of his disability; autism, on October thirtieth, leading to his restraint and police involvement. Two staff members were injured in the process of restraining eleven year old Zakh; they filed felony charges against him. Zakh's family and friends do not believe he is being given a full and complete evaluation. The school has denied him Physical Therapy, stating that Zakh could get around their school just fine. The school has also continued to ignore the suggestions made by Habberton House, and has not provided the aide suggested.

The very IEP Zakh has as of October fifteenth states that the school will not call the police. Zakh's felony hearing is schedule for January 12th. His family members and friends are afraid that he might be sent to either an alternative school or a facility. Family members and friends have repeatedly asked for a copy of his discipline file related to the incident, as well as any others the school district may have - they have been denied. Zakh's grandmother has only received records of his suspensions. Zakh has been suspended for a total of one-hundred and twelve days. No manifestation hearing has been conducted, although one has been requested on two occasions.

Zakh's crime? Autism.

Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN)

The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, (ASAN) is a non-profit organization that is run both by and for persons with Autism. ASAN supporters include adults and youth with autism, family members, professionals, cross-disability advocates, friends, and educators. ASAN was created in order to provide services and supports to people with autism while working to change the perceptions of the public and combat misinformation by educating communities about people on the autism spectrum. Their activities include community engagement, public policy advocacy, the encouragement of inclusion, quality of life oriented research, respect for neurodiversity, and development of cultural activities and opportunities related to both autism and persons with autism.

ASAN works to advance the principles of the disability rights movement in the world of autism. They draw on the principles of the cross-disability community on issues such as community living supports, inclusive education and others. The organization works to organize the community of adults and youth with autism, empowering their voices in relation to national conversation about them. ASAN seeks to advance the concept of neurodiversity, promoting the concept of autism advocacy and a world with people who experience autism. ASAN believes that the world is a place where people who experience autism should enjoy the same access, rights, and opportunities as every other citizen. The organization works in fields that include media presentation, public policy, and research and systems change to empower people with autism across the world.

ASAN and Zakh

ASAN has become involved in Zakh's situation with the school district. The organization created an action alert regarding him, stating that the injuries on the parts of the two adults who found themselves unable to work with an eleven year old boy were minor. ASAN has stated that the incident occurred under circumstances where the use of restraint would not have been legal if recently introduced federal civil rights legislation to protect children in schools had been in effect. The school Zakh attends has repeatedly ignored his grandmother's attempts over a five month period of time to obtain needed IEP supports to improve his educational options and manage his behavioral difficulties.

ASAN says that according to his suspension notice the restraints that were applied to Zakh were in response to destruction of school property. The act of restraining Zakh because of this is beyond the scope of what would be allowed under recently introduced federal civil rights legislation around restraint and seclusion in schools. Disability Advocates, to include ASAN, are fighting to pass this crucial legislation which would broaden the protections available to students like Zakh, as well as people with other disabilities. ASAN states that together we can succeed in bringing proposed civil rights protections into law, although it cannot be done in time to help Zakh.

Improvements in the training school personnel receive can prevent future incidents such as the ones that Zakh has endured, as well as helping to ensure that students with autism and other forms of disabilities are not only included, but receive support and are educated in public schools. For Zakh, should he be declared incompetent as a part of his hearing on January twelfth - state law requires that he be placed in a mental hospital for at least thirty days. His grandmother is afraid that due to the negative repercussions of being taken out of the community and being forced into an institutional setting, he might lose skills he has obtained. The institutional environment could hamper those skills, and his grandmother also fears that Zakh might never be returned to her love and care.

The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act

Students, both with and without disabilities, have faced situations for too long where they have to fear physical violence, injury, or even death as a result of aversives, restraint and seclusion in schools. School should be a place of learning, not one of fear. The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act represents a crucial step forward for students who also experience disabilities in particular. The Act calls on Congress to pass comprehensive legislation addressing the use of restraint, seclusion and aversives. Among the highly valuable provisions within this legislation are:

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