DETROIT – A Detroit teacher is being accused of locking a nonverbal student inside of a chest-high box as a form of punishment.
The student's mother, Andrea Tulton, filed a lawsuit through The Fieger Law Firm against the Detroit Public School District.
Tulton's daughter, 20-year-old Ashely Speight, is autistic and has special needs. Tulton claims a teacher from the Charles Drew Transition Center in Detroit on Oct. 7 chained her daughter inside of a "standing box."
According to the lawsuit, this nonverbal student was chained inside of a box, causing her to panic and topple the box over on top of herself.
"This is a very aggressive and intimidating device, one no parent would want their child in," said Martin Shepard, trial lawyer for Tulton. "She's nonverbal. She can't speak. She couldn't even say anything to protest the action. It's corporal punishment and it's against the law."
The device is formally called a standing frame. According to the website Rehabmart.com, it is used to protect students from hurting themselves and others.
"Ashley's mother noticed significant bruising on her daughter when she came home from school and after inquiring with the teachers discovered her daughter was locked inside of this device and wasn't able to move," said Shepard.
According to published reports, Speight was acting out during her session at school. The teacher allegedly tried to restrain her but then put her in the box and locked it up with a chain.
Due to the lawsuit, the district would not comment but did provide a statement.
Detroit Public Schools released the following statement:
The district cannot comment because of the lawsuit, and we have not been served. However, note that the apparatus in question is used by occupational therapists to assist students who have difficulty standing.
The school is extremely well regarded by the parents of families it serves and its principal just selected Michigan PTA Outstanding Administrator of the Year.
The Drew Transition Center is a post secondary vocational center for special-needs students ages 20-26 and cares for severely impaired students. Ashley no longer attends the center.
-- Andrea Tulton and Ashley Speight