LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A mother of a child with autism is upset her son was placed in handcuffs at school. Olivia Espinoza exclusively spoke with the I-Team after she was awarded a settlement from CCSD. But just as her family was ready to move on, they experienced another setback.
Espinoza found her son Matthew handcuffed at Sierra Vista High School on Nov. 12. He was kept in the restraints even after he had calmed.
“I can’t believe that this happened to my son,” she said.
She told the I-Team she received a call that morning saying her son bit a school aide and a student. Matthew has autism and is non-verbal.
CCSD Police officer: “Matthew, you okay?”
Olivia Espinoza: “Of course he’s not okay. He can’t talk. He can’t say his feelings.”
Espinoza said while Matthew is 14-years-old, he has the mental capacity of a two or three-year-old and just stopped wearing diapers last year.
“It’s hard to see our children like that, treated like they’re delinquents.”
She noted Matthew is supposed to have the same “one-on-one” aide, but that day, it appears he was with someone else. She blamed a lack of training for school staff and said there are other ways to handle a child with special needs in crisis, without handcuffs.
“Two grown men it took to restrain this young man, and you think one woman by herself? You need to rethink the situation,” said a CCSD Police officer.
This isn’t the first time the family has had trouble with the Clark County School District.
“You know he was abused four years ago? And that’s why he’s like that,” stated Espinoza.
Last February, the school board approved a settlement for three families, including Espinoza’s, so split a $1.2 million settlement after CCSD mishandled reported abuse by a teacher in 2015. The teacher pleaded guilty to a battery charge. Records show Matthew was one of the victims.
“For me, as a mom, I don’t like the system,” said Espinoza.
It’s a system she believes has failed her family more than once.
“It’s like he’s a delinquent. You see? This is our system,” she expressed. “My respect to all the professionals, thank you to the police, thank you to the teachers, thank you. But I don’t think that’s the way.”
A CCSD spokesman said the district is aware of the matter and looking into it. School police officers use handcuffs on a case-by-case basis, depending on safety needs of the situation. School staff do go through training for de-escalation techniques.
The I-Team’s story on the family’s settlement with CCSD aired on Nov. 11. The handcuffing incident happened the next day.
Matthew is currently being homeschooled.