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Act now: Autistic Child Charged with Felony

Posted Jan 06 2010 1:29pm

Below is an email I received from Meg Evans of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network on a situation involving a child who is being charged with Felony Assault for resisting restraints in his school. Worse yet is the possibility that the student could end up being sent to a mental hospital pending a competency hearing.

This is another ASAN Update for bloggers in the Autistic and disability rights communities. ASAN has created an Action Alert regarding the case of an 11-year old Autistic boy in Arkansas named Zakhqurey Price, who has been charged with felony assault after a school restraint incident. There were no serious injuries, and 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. We are asking that you take action by contacting the school principal and superintendent to inform them of your concerns and by reposting the ASAN Action Alert set forth below.

As always, we encourage you to contact us with your comments, and please let us know if you would prefer to receive these announcements at a different address or to be removed from the list.

Best regards,

Meg Evans, Director of Community Liaison
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
mmevans@woh.rr.com

Below is the statement by Ari Ne’eman:

By Ari Ne’eman, ASAN President.

Hello,

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:

School Principal:
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)
Phone: 479-646-0834
E-mail: psiebenm@fortsmithschools.org

School Superintendent:
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)
E-mail: bgooden@fortsmithschools.org
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: info@autisticadvocacy.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. His 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!

I usually avoid posting names and phone numbers like this. All to often blogs post such information in an attempt to intimidate. Take to heart Mr. Ne’eman’s call to be polite but firm when you call.

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