All children, especially those who have been labeled as “Special Needs,” are keenly aware of the subtle energy of adults. Meaning, you can’t hide behind a smile or say one thing while believing another. They will know and what you teach them through mixed messages is that either an adult can’t be trusted or that they can’t trust their intuition. Since it’s natural to notice differences as a way of making sense of things, when parents send their children to school, they expect them to be in a safe environment.
When school staff violates the trust given to them by the parents and their children, the results can be traumatic for the student. All children have the right to a safe school environment. The same goes for special needs children, except they need extra supervision on top of that. Although every special needs child is different, there are common concerns among parents. Parents want to know their child is safe, getting appropriate care, the accommodations they need, acceptance by others, and the education they deserve. Children with disabilities are the most vulnerable people and a lot of it has to do with them being dependant on others for help. Research suggests that 97-99% of abusers are known and trusted by victims who have developmental disabilities. Of that percentage it is estimated 44% had a relationship with the victim specifically relating to the person’s disability (Baladerian, 1991).
In the news last week, a school bus driver in Florida was arrested and charged with eight counts of capital sexual battery and two counts of sexual battery. He allegedly sexually assaulted four special needs children under the age of 12. 72-year-old Carlos Ojeda of Haines City, Florida had been working as a bus driver for nine years before he was arrested. This horrific act serves as a stark reminder that special needs students are the most vulnerable students and may require special supervision to protect them.
Special needs children suffer from sexual abuse at a much higher rate than children without intellectual disabilities. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, special needs students are at 4.6 times the risk for sexual mistreatment. Vera explains that children with disabilities may be more susceptible to sexual abuse due to isolated settings with adults who may take advantage of them.
Perona, Langer, Beck, Serbin and Harrison Law Firm fight for the rights of special needs students. Our mission has been to provide legal support to children who desperately need the full assistance and support of the law. We provide legal representation to the families of children whom have been abused by teachers, coaches, administrators, or other students. We strongly believe that every child has the right to a bully-free environment. For a free confidential consultation call our offices today at (800) 435-7542 or visit our website at plbsm.com. We can help your family through these difficult times.