HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Students being slapped and punched, staff using prone restraints when they weren’t necessary, and students being threatened with suspension for refusing to delete pictures taken during improper restraints. Those are just a few of the allegations against staff at the Peck School in Holyoke.
These are 4th through 8th graders we’re talking about.
The Disability Law Center investigated complaints about teachers and staff using excessive force on special needs students in the spring. The investigation found staff had a consistent practice of restraining children. Students have to pose a threat to be restrained, it cannot be a form of punishment.
The report claims a student lost a tooth while being restrained, students being thrown to the floor and slapped and punched, and school records show one student was restrained 50 times, including prone restraints. Prone restraints are when a student is held down and restrained in a lying down position.
Christopher King, a parent, told 22News, “I’m not surprised at all, I hear stuff from other kids about how the teachers treat them and it’s not right. When we listen to our kids and tell them what our kids are saying, they want to give a whole other story and that’s not right.”
Holyoke Mayor Alex Mores released a statement on the DLC report. In it he says, “I am outraged by these allegations. This type of behavior is completely unacceptable. Our schools should be a safe place”
We heard from the Holyoke School’s receiver Dr. Stephen Zrike who said they have replaced the schools leadership and developed procedures for conducting restraints and communicating with parents.
Here is Mayor Morse’s full statement on this report:
Like many of you who have read the report regarding Peck School, I too am outraged by these allegations. This type of behavior is completely unacceptable. Our schools should be a safe place. No parent should have to fear that their child could be hurt in such a way; no student should be treated in the way described in this report.
After reading the report this afternoon, my team and I consulted with Dr. Zrike. I have been made aware that since these allegations first came tonight, there has been a major overhaul in the way the TIP program is administered at Peck School. This includes removing the former principal at Peck and hiring a new principal, as well as hiring a new operator, the Center School, who have a proven track record providing a supportive educational experience for students with disabilities. These incidents took place before Dr. Zrike came to Holyoke. Since he started in July, he has conducted a top down review of our programming for students with disabilities and has incorporated many new safeguards into the district. I trust that he and his team are qualified to prevent something like this from happening again. I will personally be monitoring their progress and pledge to work with DESE and the Disability Law Center to ensure that none of our students are subjected to the deplorable conditions described in the report.