How to maintain safety in the self-contained classroom…

We’re Zooming with the Dawg this Friday!  Hope to see a lot of you Loyal Daily Dawg Readers.  I’ll be joined by attorney Jennifer Carroll from our Irving office, and we’ll be talking about the updated Dyslexia Handbook.   Starting at 10—be there!!

An ugly fact situation in an Oklahoma district illustrates the sad reality that life in the self-contained classroom can be stressful, and can lead to teachers behaving badly.  This case is yet another reminder of how important it is for campus administrators to keep a close eye on the classrooms where we serve our most vulnerable children. 

In Oklahoma, things came to a head on January 16, 2018 when students and staff witnessed Ms. Morris, a teacher in the life skills unit, dragging a student with severe disabilities to the bus.  This led to an investigation of Ms. Morris.   It turns out that the aides in her classroom had a lot to say.  The district suspended Ms. Morris the next day. She never returned to the classroom, resigning in February.  She then entered a “no contest” plea to two misdemeanor counts related to her treatment of two of her students. 

The parents of one of the students filed suit with mixed success.  Their federal claims were dismissed, but a negligence claim under state law was allowed to proceed.  But that’s really beside the point. That’s for the lawyers for the parties to sort out.  The point is: sometimes bad things happen in the self-contained classroom. Sometimes we have people working there who should not be working with children.  This is why Texas schools are sometimes required to put a camera in the classroom.  It’s about safety for those children who cannot speak up for themselves. 

Putting a camera in the self-contained classroom is probably the most expensive and least effective way to maintain safety.  The most effective way to maintain safety involves three simple steps. First, let’s be very careful about who we put in charge of that classroom.  Second, administrators should regularly visit the classroom. Let your presence be known.  Pay attention.  Third, administrators should cultivate a relationship with the aides who support the teacher.  If they see something that doesn’t look right, they should feel comfortable speaking to the teacher, and to the principal about it.  

This one is Nation v. Piedmont ISD No. 22, decided by the federal court for the Western District of Oklahoma on July 23, 2021.  We found it on Special Ed Connection at 79 IDELR 68.


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at

Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!