Advocates for special needs children examine training standards in Kentucky schools

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Recent security footage showing a special needs student being dragged down the hallway of a Kentucky school has sparked concern from parents around the state, but other reports show this type of incident isn’t isolated.

Two educators have already been fired from the Fayette County Public Schools system this year alone after separate incidents involving special needs students.

Melissa Stanford says something similar happened to her son in Frankfort, and she still has a lot of questions. Stallard’s son William is a non-verbal student with autism at Elkhorn Middle School.

According to a state investigative report Stallard shared with WKYT, a classmate saw William being grabbed and hit by a teacher’s aide in October 2017. Stallard says officials in William’s school don’t want to address the issue.

“They never wanted to address this issue. Whenever I brought it up in the school, they’re just like, ‘We can’t talk about this. We can’t talk about this,’” said Stallard.”

While the investigative report shows no evidence of abuse in the school was found, there were “concerns for inappropriate redirection techniques” used by the aide who assists William. The report states that Elkhorn Middle School would attempt to provide retraining to staff members.

But a lack of training in the first place is what’s upsetting Dr. Michael Winkler.

Winkler is a medical doctor in Kentucky, and also has special needs children of his own. He says he’s working to help the Stallards and other families with special needs children demand accountability in Kentucky’s public schools.

“They were disciplining him, punishing him, for behaviors that he couldn't control, that were associated with autism,” said Winkler.

While Winkler says Franklin County Schools’ legal counsel told him that public schools in the commonwealth are expected to train teacher aides in accordance with their assigned duties, it is up to the school district to design those training plans, according to the Kentucky Department of Education.

This again is not satisfying Winkler.

“We need some sort of baseline training that's based on best practices, national standards, that's normative so that we're not an outlier Commonwealth or state, and that is uniformed across all counties, school districts, and schools,” said Winkler.

The Franklin County School District says it cannot comment on William Stallard’s case due to student privacy laws.