San Diego

Father Calls Out School District for Harnessing Special Needs Students on Bus with Zip Ties

A controversial practice of using zip ties to secure special needs students in a school bus was brought to light Thursday at a Poway Unified School District meeting. 

Poway parent Tim Rand says his son, Keita, has autism and is one of three special needs students at Stein Education Center who wore harness restraints zip tied to their bus seats.

Rand said his son, Keita, sometimes has violent outbursts. Four years ago. Rand gave the bus driver permission to reinforce Keita's harness with zip ties to stop him from getting out of his seat. In hindsight, Rand said that was wrong.

Now he says there are better ways to control special needs kids like Keita on a school bus.

"This is my child, zip tied in your bus seat. Do you understand?" Rand said. "If the bus rolled over or there was an accident, how do you get the kids out?" 

The use of zip ties was abandoned at the end of last school year after Rand brought it to the attention of new Superintendent Dr. Marian Kim-Phelps.

For the first time, Kim-Phelps spoke publicly about the practice.

She said an internal investigation verifies Keita and two other special needs students were restrained in this way.

"They felt like that was the only thing at that time that the staff and the parent agreed that it was necessary," Kim-Phelps said.

Since last year, Rand has asked the superintendent and some board members a number of questions about the zip tie practice. Not satisfied with the answers, he addressed the issue publicly on Thursday.

“I want a full-on investigation. The only reason I had to do it this way, is they wouldn't have done it unless there is public pressure," he said.

Despite Thursday's passionate demonstration before the board, the superintendent said there is nothing more to do.

"Since the district is no longer utilizing those practices and have new safety vests, there is no reason to dig any further," Kim-Phelps said.

Rand said he no longer allows his son to ride the bus and drives him the 80 miles round trip to and from school.

The superintendent says the district uses new restraints purchased just this year.

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