A Coventry man, father to a second grader at Tiogue Elementary School, reached out to 990WBOB on Tuesday with disturbing allegations of abuse and bullying from the school's staff towards his son, Zachary.
While we continue to investigate the allegations, we wish to share with you his letter, which if credible, is a shocking look into the school's use of disciplinary procedures with special needs students.
Editors Note: These are allegations made solely by the individuals directly related to the incidents, and have not been confirmed by any outside sources. 990WBOB intends to offer the school and district an opportunity to respond and rebut any of the allegations. This letter and accompanying photos are published, unedited, with consent from its author.
See photos of Zachary below
Nick Tetreault's Letter:
To whom it may concern,
My name is Nick Tetreault. I am writing this because my son Zachary Tetreault has been getting bullied in school as of late. It’s not what you think however. The bullying is NOT coming from the students; it’s coming from the teachers. We live in Coventry and my son is a 2nd grader in a special needs classroom at Tiogue Elementary School in Coventry, RI. We’ve learned that the school finds it appropriate to use physical restraints and threaten to use physical restraints as forms of discipline. For example, my son was in timeout, and wanted to get out. He then grabbed his teacher’s belt, and then leg to tried to get out and the teacher put him in a hold. He was not hurting her, he grabbed her leg. That is not a valid reason to physically restrain a child. There are many examples of this.
My wife, Elizabeth and I researched the state laws regarding physical restraints as it seemed to not only be happening quite often, but for what seemed inappropriate reasons. We were correct. In the state of Rhode Island, there are only 2 situations where it’s considered appropriate to restrain a child: When he’s a violent threat to himself, or a violent threat to others. In the example I listed in the first paragraph, he wasn’t a violent threat, just a scared kid wanting out of time out. On top of that, restraints can’t be used as punishment, and can’t be used to result in trauma (I think mental stress qualifies under that) and can ONLY be used when no other methods work.
Just to give a touch of back-story. 2 years ago, we lived in West Warwick and lived there for 6 years. Zachary went to 2 years of preschool, Kindergarten and then 1st grade in West Warwick between Greenbush, Maise Quinn, and Wakefield Hills schools. In the 4 years he was in that school, he was only restrained one time and it was for a just reason. In this past month in Tiogue School, Zachary has been restrained several times, sometimes even multiple times per day.
This town has been showing nothing but apathy toward our plight, they even IGNORED his IEP when we first moved to Coventry. Where we live, Hopkins Hill School is the school he should be going to. However, that school doesn’t have a program for autistic children until grade 3. When we first moved, we showed the special ed director, and principal of Hopkins Hill Zachary’s IEP and they threw him in a class w/ about 20 kids, on top of that he was the only autistic child in his classroom. My wife and I voiced our concern about him being in that environment as it conflicts w/ his IEP. The teacher, principal, and special ed director all said he’d be fine here. The other thing we were concerned about was if Zachary was struggling, there’d be a possibility of making him change schools. This was a big concern to us because autistic children are not usually very good w/ change. In less than a week, we got a call that Zachary wasn’t working out there and had to be transferred to Tiogue School. We told them that this should’ve been done in the first place as his IEP states he needs to be in a smaller classroom that specializes in children w/ special needs. This is also against the law as the law states they have to follow his IEP.
Since he’s been in Tiogue School, things have been shaky, especially this year. Zachary consistently gets restrained for trivial reasons, here’s a verbatim from one of the restraint forms: “While screaming and crying, Zach began to push me in the doorway. I reminded Zach to keep his body safe or I’d have to hold him safe. After 3 warnings, he was held for one minute. “Zachary pushing his teacher to get past her is NOT him causing bodily harm to others or himself, on top of that you’re not allowed to THREATEN to hold a child and the teacher and the assistants do this repeatedly. When you threaten an autistic child w/ something they fear, it makes the fear more intense and there instinct is to retaliate. Finally, the hold is supposed to be soft so that they don’t injure the child, yet we’ve had to take Zachary to the walk-in next door for my kid having bruises on his body. He’s also complained of his wrist hurting, and that they choked him. One verbatim on the restraint form I can’t even understand: “Interrupted by staff w/ a new expectation that he wasn’t ready for. Staff left and Zach became loud again. Grabbing and pushing my leg” “reminded Zach he would be held again if he couldn’t keep his hands to himself” “continued to be aggressive grabbing and holding my thigh” Again, not a valid reason to hold, and threatening to hold him. They’re supposed to teach him coping skills to handle things like this instead of treating him like an animal
When we brought this to the school’s attention, they said the holds were justified. When we explained the laws to them, they turned a deaf ear and blind eye to what we had to say. It’s gotten to the point where we’ve pulled Zachary out of school for mental health reasons as he’s afraid to go to school, and is especially afraid of the teacher assistant Beth Arrico. He’s afraid to the point where he has nightmares about her holding him, and he said she killed him in his dream. He even goes so far as to say she’s a super villain. Principal Louise Seitsinger was made aware of this and instead of trying to find a way to help my child, she tried to strong arm us into keeping Zachary in school even though he’s scared to go and it’s affecting his mental health. She told my wife, “It’s illegal to keep your son out of school” to which my wife replied, “It’s also illegal for your teachers to put their hands on my kid” to which she denied the whole thing. Principal Seitsinger told us that Beth Arrico was under investigation, a day later the investigation was over and she found nothing wrong. Sounds like a cover up to me.
We even have Zachary on video describing what his teachers have done to him and he’s crying in some of them because it upsets him so much. We also have photos of the bruises and several more of the restraint forms from the school. The videos break my heart to even watch as it pains me to see my kid go through this.
Zachary’s a good kid whom much like most kids w/ autism is having trouble finding his way. In the 8.5 years of life he’s had, I’ve NEVER had to restrain him. We recently started having Zachary going to the Kent Center for intensive therapy and the social worker, Sam has been wonderful for Zachary. In the short time she’s been w/ him, she’s NEVER had to restrain him. He’s stayed w/ my parents overnight on many occasions, as well as other family members and NEVER had to be restrained. In the 4 years he was in West Warwick, I can count on 1 hand the amount of times he had to be held. My child is being abused and the school is letting it happen. Please help us expose them so that not only can my child feel safe at school, but other kids can too.
Thank you for your help in advance,