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Seclusion Rooms Only Part of the Story

A third Lexington family has shared its special education story and asked for an independent investigation into the treatment of their 17-year-old son when he was a young student with special needs.

This past weekend, 17-year-old Robert Ernst had plans to visit Cornell University, where he might like to study entomology next year after graduating from Lexington High School. But, listening to the way his story begins, it sounds as though this high school senior’s road through LPS to the Ivy League has been rockier than most. 

Ernst is a member of the third local family to come forward with allegations of mistreatment of young special needs students in the Lexington Public Schools. More to the point, he is the one alleging the abuse. 

According to him and his mother, Wendy Ernst, Robert was put on an individualized education program (IEP) since pre-school, but wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s until fifth grade. During the intervening years is when, according to the family, Robert was shut in a seclusion room and physically restrained on several occasions by teachers and aids at the Fiske, route: {:controller=>"listings", :action=>"show", :id=>"fiske-elementary-school-2"} --> and

x September 20, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Anyone getting a regular education in Lexington, or are they all 'special?' Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
Greg Smith September 20, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Thanks a lot Robert and family. I know that it's not easy but it makes a big difference to other affected families when you speak up. It's especially helpful when a child tells their story first hand. I'm very sorry that this happened. I hope that talking about it helps bring closure. It certainly helps other kids and parents. Good luck, Greg S
M Klune September 20, 2012 at 09:35 PM
I don't know why all the focus is on Lexington. It seems to go on everywhere: http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/issue/seclusion-restraint The important thing is to get to the bottom of what happened, and make sure it never happens again. Bless the families that are speaking up. if anything, they need our prayers. They have done a good thing if you ask me.
LexingtonGuest September 20, 2012 at 11:10 PM
I thank Robert and his family for bringing his story forward. I think that the difference that skilled staff make who have been properly trained to deal with situations and actually understand and care about children with special needs can make the difference between a horror story and a wonderful turnaround story. We should not lose track that there are some very wonderful special needs staff within the Lexington school system. I know because our child was part of the PALS program at Bridge (I assume that's the CARE program referenced above) and it was incredibly positive experience for us - our child went from being a troubled kid who was disruptive to his class and could have been a problem for the rest of his life to a well adjusted productive student thanks largely to that hard work from the staff at PALS. This program was run by Roberta Pelkey and Carole Baumgarten, and they indeed ran it with open arms to any child who entered program with the firm belief that there were no "bad" kids - and proved it with results. When I first saw the Lichtenstein story I couldn't believe it was the same town because such a thing would have been unimaginable in the Bridge School PALS program I knew.

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