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5th-Grade Special Education Student Tasered by Police in His Oregon Class Room

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An Investigation of Systemic Failure | Written by Joel Greenberg, DRO Staff Attorney

In October of 2004, attorneys at Disability Rights Oregon (then known as Oregon Advocacy Center, or OAC) learned that an eleven-year old boy was tasered in his special education classroom by police in riot gear.  That report raised dual concerns that led OAC to investigate the incident.     

The first of those concerns -- one that has been raised with increasing frequency in the national press -- is the appropriateness and safety of using tasers on children, some as young as five-years old.

The second is an increasing tendency of teachers and school administrators to inject police into classroom situations that could be better handled through pro-active special education practices.  This concern, already on the radar screen of OAC and other Protection and Advocacy agencies across the nation, was the primary focus of our investigation. 

This investigation took more than a year to complete.  It revealed an incident that stands as an example of what happens when police involvement is substituted for good educational planning and practice.  In our view, what happened was as predictable as it was avoidable. 

More critically, our investigation has led us to conclude that systemic pressures contributed to this incident and remain very much in play across our state.  Absent the adoption of effective reforms and safeguards to counteract these pressures, we fear that this type of incident will be repeated, perhaps with even more severe consequences for other children.

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