ASAN has requested that we let our voices be heard in behalf of Zakh Price, that we email the superintendent and principal (or call).
Here is Ari's letter followed by my email:
Ari Ne'eman January 5 at 11:36pmDr. Gooden and Ms.Siebenmorgan,
In the past, we've written to you about advocacy issues relating to the rights of adults and youth on the autism spectrum. Our voices have made a difference on all manner of policy concerns and have sent a clear message that those who seek to deprive Autistic people of any age of their rights will have our community to answer to. Now we'd like to ask you to help us take action to help protect an 11-year old Autistic boy in Arkansas named Zakhqurey Price, currently being charged with felony assault after fighting back when two staff members restrained him in response to behavioral challenges. The school has ignored repeated efforts from Zakh's grandmother over the course of the last five months to obtain needed IEP supports to improve his educational options and manage his behavioral difficulties.
According to the suspension notice, the restraint was in response to Zakh destroying school property - something beyond the scope of what would be allowed under recently introduced federal civil rights legislation around restraint and seclusion in schools. Disability advocates, including ASAN, are fighting to pass this crucial legislation that would broaden the protections available to students like Zakh as well as those with other disabilities and with no disability at all. We have asked for your help in passing this important legislation, and together we can succeed in bringing proposed civil rights protections into law - but not in time to help Zakh. That is why we need you to take action now. Find out how below:
Pam Siebenmorgan (One of the charging parties in Zakh's felony hearing - polite but firm calls and e-mails encouraging her to drop the charges would be helpful)
Dr. Benny Gooden (The Superintendent runs the entire school district - polite but firm calls and e-mails communicating how this situation is damaging Fort Smith Public Schools' reputation would be helpful as well)
School Board Office: 1-479-785-2501 Ext. 1201
We recommend that you both e-mail and call if you can. If necessary, e-mail is the preferable option. If you would like your e-mails to be passed along to Zakh's grandmother, please bcc: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please stress the importance of Fort Smith Public Schools taking the following steps:
-Drop the charges against Zakhqurey Price
-Work with his grandmother to put in place an IEP that will fulfill Zakh's right for a Free and Appropriate Public Education in the Least Restrictive Environment
-Improve training for school personnel to prevent future such incidents and to ensure that students on the autism spectrum as well as with other disabilities are included, supported and educated in Fort Smith Public Schools.
If Zakh is declared incompetent as part of the hearing scheduled for January 12th, state law requires that he be placed into a mental hospital for at least 30 days. Carole's grandmother fears that, due to the negative repercussions of being taken out of the community and being forced into an institutional setting, Zakh may lose skills in such an environment and not be returned to her indefinitely. That is why we need you to act now. Please distribute and repost this action alert. Thank you for your time and your advocacy, and as always, Nothing About Us, Without Us!
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
I write to you on behalf of Zakh Price to request your active participation in seeing that Zakh Price not face legal consequences to the recent situation that saw him being arrested at school after being restrained by two school employees. It appears from the coverage of this event that things were handled rather poorly and that Zakh's educational needs were not being met.
It would appear that Zakh has had a difficult time in the last few years, not received the appropriate interventions and therapies, the emotional supports, and the educational supports that would help him to thrive. If the Fort Smith Public Schools and his own principal, Ms Siebenmorgan, don't stand for him, don't advocate for him, don't ensure his educational needs and support needs, are being met, if it allows this travesty to continue, it will have failed Zakh Price miserably. And it will have the light of the entire disability community shining light onto the school district's failure like a beacon.
It is important that the disabled be protected, that educational needs are met, that the laws regarding special education be upheld. Yes, with limited budgets, limited time, and ever-increasing needs, it can be too easy for a child to fall through the cracks, as it appears has happened with Zakh.
I encourage you to step up, to be allies with Zakh's family, to help Zakh, and to stand as a school district who does not allow such an injustice as has been done here to continue.
Thank you for your time,
Adjunct Professor, Psychology and English
Interesting blog up on the situation relating to special ed laws.