Other People's Words

Dallas Williams, 6-year-old autistic boy facing felony charges

Posted in Uncategorized by Tera on May 4, 2010

This is an Autism Women’s Network interview with Tina Obanion, whose six-year-old autistic son facing felony charges.

Tricia Kenney: Hello, everyone and welcome to the show. You’re listening to AWN Radio; my name is Tricia Kenney, and I’m going solo today. Sharon couldn’t make it today, so it’s just going to be me. But I think you’ll all be okay with that. It is February 24, 2010, and today we’re doing a special show about a little boy in Nevada, Missouri named Dallas Obanion. He’s facing felony charges right now from the school district. We have his mother with us today, and she’s going to give us a little bit of background into this story and let us know exactly what led to these charges being filed. So welcome to the show, Tina.

Tina Obanaion: Thanks.

Tricia Kenney: Hi. Glad to have you here. First of all, Dallas is six years old and he’s in first grade.

Tina Obanion: Correct.

Tricia Kenney: Did the problems in the school start this year, or did they go back to kindergarten? What transpired with that?

Tina Obanion: He began having the trouble in kindergarten. At that time, we did not know that he was on the autism spectrum. They had him labeled as “emotionally disturbed.” He was restrained frequently every day, and I had to be called practically daily to leave work to come and get him from school. They would just send him home. And then the last four to six weeks of his kindergarten year. he was put on homebound and received homebound schooling five hours a week until we could get a med evaluation, because they felt his medicine was not working.

Tricia Kenney: So you had him on medication already in kindergarten?

Tina Obeanion: Yes.

Tricia Kenney: What type of medication was he on?

Tina Obaanion: In kindergarten, he was on Lithium, Lamictal, Abilify; he was on medicine to help him sleep at night. He was on a buttload of medicine last year, and all I continued to hear from the school was:”His meds aren’t working; his meds aren’t working.”

Tricia Kenney: What about the doctor who prescribed that medication? They didn’t run any testing on him or anything?

Tina Obanion: They had tried to do some neuropsych testing, but of course, Nevada’s a smaller place. There’s only one person that did the neuropsych testing, and she said that Dallas wouldn’t cooperate and she wouldn’t do it. At that time, we didn’t have anything. Over the time that Dallas was homebound and through the summer, I took him to a different psychologist, a different psychiatrist. He began seeing Dr. Randy Nobel, and he had been _great_ with Dallas. He was the one that said: “You know, I see a lot of autistic traits in Dallas,” and sent him for further testing. That’s what it did come back as.

Tricia Kenney: Wow. And so, he missed out on a portion of the end of kindergarten.

Tina Obanion: Yes, he did. And then they refused to let him go to summer school as well.

Tricia Kenney: Now, in kindergarten, did he have an IEP even?

Tina Obanion: Yes, he did.

Tricia Kenney: And what did that include? Were they giving him services for speech?

Tina Obanion: No. It mostly just gave him the smaller class with other kids like Dallas and other disabilities and such. It provided him with a little less work, that sort of thing. But for the most part, he didn’t receive a lot for his IEP his kindergarten year.

Tricia Kenney: Okay. So when you got the diagnosis and the first grade year was coming, you went in for another IEP meeting before school started?

Tina Obanion: Yes. Dr. Nobel and I, as well as Debbie [Lowell-Stewart?] from Impact met with the school; we had an IEP; we shared the new information, the new diagnosis; we shared that he was on new medicine. We requested at that point that he be given a one-on-one [aide] all the time, because Dallas is an elopement risk. They said that they would provide a one-on-one that would be available if Dallas needed it, but would not provide one for him all day. Dr. Nobel instructed on that Dallas does not like to be touched; that he needed probably three prompts before transitioning from one task to another. Transition is one of Dallas’s biggest downfalls. He has a lot of problems with that. It was also noted that he has trouble with perception. He doesn’t understand, he doesn’t always process things. So sometimes you have to reword it several times until he actually understands what you’re trying to say to him. The first week of school, I was called two or three times, probably. At 9:00 in the morning I got a phone call one day, because Dallas was not doing his work. It was every little thing.

Tricia Kenney: What did they expect you to do when they would call you for things like that?

Tina Obanion: They would usually have him sitting in the counseling center, and I would go in and talk to Dallas. After I left, sometimes he would do his work and sometimes he wouldn’t.

Tricia Kenney: Wow. Were they doing restraints on him at all in kindergarten?

Tina Obanion: Yes. Two or three times a week, at least.

Tricia Kenney: What sort of restraints were they using?

Tina Obanion: I don’t always know, because sometimes I would get there and they would have already let go of him. But there would be times that I would come in, and he would be laying on his back. And there would be a teacher that had a hold of each arm, and then one on his legs. I would walk in and pick Dallas up, and usually he was fine. I think there was once that I got there and picked Dallas up and he was still outraged. And it took me a little bit to get him calmed down.

Tricia Kenney: Now, were any of these teachers educated at all in autism in even the slightest little bit?

Tina Obanion: Last year, I don’t know that any of them had any kind of training. This year, they do have an in-school autism spectrum specialist. The first time that I actually met her, she had called me to come and get Dallas because she tried to get him to do a puzzle and he

wouldn’t do it, and he kicked her. She sent him home. In my opinion, anybody could do that. It doesn’t take a specialist to do it.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah. Wow. So they were restraining a tiny little five-year-old kindergarten kid. They had no idea how to do things

peacefully and in a positive manner to make him feel good about himself and to work on his self-esteem and things like that. What did you say about the restraining and stuff like that, when he was in kindergarten?

Tina Obanion: It was terrible to walk in and see your son being restrained at five years old. It was heartbreaking. I didn’t have all

that trouble at home. To an extent, we were having trouble with Dallas at home, just because he was on so much medicine. A lot of it was counteracting each other, and actually making him worse. We didn’t have to restrain Dallas at home. We just didn’t have those problems of him

throwing things or being aggressive to the extent of hurting anybody that he had to be restrained by any means.

Tricia Kenney: Did you ask them not to restrain him?

Tina Obanion: At that point, no, because I didn’t know that I had the right to do that. They made it seem like: “Oh, well, the allows us. We have to protect the other kids,” blah, blah, blah. So I didn’t know my rights as a parent until I got in contact with Impact. Now, I’m much more knowledgeable about it.

Tricia Kenney: Wow. So, we’ve started this school year. How did things go from the beginning of this school year?

Tina Obanion: The same thing: he was restrained frequently. Probably not as much as last year. They started out the year sending him home early, and so I brought it to their attention that they were letting my six-year-old dictate to them whether or not he would be in school. The days he didn’t want to be there, he knew how to get sent home. So they got to where they quit sending him home, but they would continue to restrain him frequently. A lot of times, I wouldn’t even know that they restrained him unless I asked Dallas, or unless I would call the school and talk directly to the teacher and ask how his day was.

Tricia Kenney: And they didn’t keep records of the restraints done on him?

Tina Obanion: No. Actually, his disciplinary record that I received at the beginning of first grade—I had requested [it] from his kindergarten year, just to show what had happened and let the doctor know how things were. When I received that, there were two things documented from that whole year of kindergarten, even though he was restrained all the time, and kicked out, and put on homebound, and not allowed to go to summer school.

Tricia Kenney: Was he ever suspended?

Tina Obanion: No, he was never suspended. They would just send him home, which wasn’t a suspension. They just gave him the rest of the day to go home and calm down.

Tricia Kenney:L Wow. Okay, so we’re back in first grade and the same thing is going on. He’s still getting restrained; he’s still getting sent home early. Does anyone come in and say: “Hey, we need a new plan. We need to do something, because none of the things that we have tried are working. We need a different approach, as opposed to just laying on top of him and restraining him, or hurting him in some way to get him to change the way he’s reacting”?

Tina Obanion: The school had Project ACCESS] come in and evaluate Dallas at school. They made a few suggestions, which were to have a visual schedule. They are doing a backchaining with him for his specials, as far as music, art, gym. He’ll go the last five minutes instead of going to the whole thing.

Tricia Kenney: Well, what is the point of that?

Tina Obanion: He doesn’t like music, and so instead of making him feel like an outcast because he’s going in and leaving early, then they would send him in the last half of it.

Tricia Kenney: But he barely has a chance to get used to the classroom, and then he’s got to leave. That just doesn’t make any sense to me.

Tina Obanion: Right. And then the visual schedule was put in effect, and then they also recommended to do Social Stories with him. His teacher that has him in the morning at Brian Elementary was pretty good with him, but then she went on maternity leave, and he had a different teacher in the afternoons. So then the teacher he had in the afternoon took over full day, and he was not near any good.

Dallas’s case manager would go to the school and hang out in his classroom to see how he was doing, and she would be like: “Where’s his visual schedule?” “Oh, well, it’s free time now, so we put it up.” Well, that’s not how a visual schedule works.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah.

Tina Obanion: When the teacher came back from maternity leave, I asked her: “How’s the visual schedule going?” And she said: “Well, I’ve only been back two days and I have to find all the pictures, because it was thrown in the closet.” So obviously, they had not been using it. His last IEP, we asked if they had been doing the Social Stories. Since October to January 27, they had done a couple.

Tricia Kenney: But it wasn’t part of his regular day.

Tina Obanion: Right. No. Not at all.

Tricia Kenney: So how many times was he sent home during first grade this year?

Tina Obanion: I would say 10 to 20.

Tricia Kenney: Was he ever suspended this year?

Tina Obanion: No. He was totally kicked out of Brian Elementary, if you wanna consider that a suspension.

Tricia Kenney: Let’s get to that, then. You had your IEP meeting on the 27 of January. How did that go?

Tina Obanion: It was terrible, to say the least. We wanted it just to be sure everything was being followed in the IEP, but also to update his regional manager from Joplin. The principal wanted me to sign a piece of paper saying that anybody could restrain Dallas, even if they have never had any training. I would absolutely not do it. She at one point said she needed to retire and the other teachers needed to find a new profession.

Tricia Kenney: Get a little bit more into that conversation, so you can paint the picture for the people that are listening. They were in the meeting with you, and during the meeting they slide over a notebook?

Tina Obanion: Yeah. [The principal] asked the special ed director for a piece of notebook paper so that everybody could sign it, saying that anybody could restrain Dallas. And then she asked if I was in agreement to that. I said: “No, absolutely not. I am not going to agree to that.” And then she threw her hands up. She said: “Well, I might as well retire and these other teachers need to find a new profession as well.”

Tricia Kenney: Right. And these are the professionals that you are dealing with that are taking care of your son. Continue through the IEP. What happened after that?

Tina Obanion: Debbie from Impact was saying: “You know, if Dallas comes in and he has a rough morning and you can tell, then maybe have him do half of his school paper, and then take a break and then come back to the other half.” So the prinicpal said: “Well, let’s just let Dallas come to school and play all day. How about that? We’ll just be a daycare for him. Let’s put that in the IEP right now.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Tina Obanion: The regional manager said: “That’s not exactly what we’re saying.” So [the principal] said that since I would not agree to have just anybody restraining Dallas, there’s usually three to four grown adults on Dallas, because they supposedly cannot hold him.

Tricia Kenney: Why would they need to hold him down? Did they explain why they need to keep holding him down all the time?

Tina Obanion: Dallaa might kick a chair, or he might climb under the table and put his feet up under the table and pick up the table with his feet. They felt that that was endangering himself. However, I have documentation from the school saying that Dallas was restrained, flash held in his chair, because he tore up his spelling paper. That morning, he was restrained for not complying with directions.

Tricia Kenney: Wow. What about the lunch incident?

Tina Obanion: Yes. He got restrained several times before lunch, because Dallas didn’t like to go to lunch. And when they’d put their hands on him and try to make him, it was a big fight, so he would be restrained.

He would go to lunch at 12:10, and one day about 11:30 I got called to the school. Dallas had been restrained. I’m like: “What is the problem?” Dallas was hungry and they wouldn’t give him a snack, so he refused to do his work. So he ended up being restrained because he was hungry. So then I got a doctor’s note saying that they had to offer him snacks twice a day, before and after lunch.

Tricia Kenney: Were they abiding by that?

Tina Obanion: I don’t know, honestly.

Tricia Kenney: Wow. So then you finish with the IEP meeting. I take it nothing was resolved? Did you sign the paperwork or anything like that?

Tina Obanion: No, nothing was signed; nothing was resolved. At that point, they wanted me to try to transition Dallas over into the second grade school so that he would start to get familiar with it. Myself as his guardian and his case manager from Impact Regional felt that we needed to try to get documentation done first. Try to find out what Dallas is doing every minute of every day, so that we can find a pattern of where his biggest faults are and what his triggers are. So we felt that we needed to do that for about three weeks, and then we would meet back up. That was the original plan.

On the next day, Dallas went to school. I called the school between 11:30 and 12:00 and checked to see how he was doing. He was doing fine. I received a phone call about 1:20, asking me to get to the school. My friend and I go to the school. We get out to the trailer (Dallas’s classroom is a trailer that’s not totally connected to the school, but it’s out back), and I walked in the door and Dallas was sitting on the floor to the right of the door, playing with Legos. There were some plastic Legos thrown in the room, and there were anywhere from six to eight teachers on the other side of the room standing around watching Dallas.

Tricia Kenney: Where were all these teachers from?

Tina Obanion: A couple of them were para[professionals]; one of them was his particular para. The teacher, the principal, the nurse, the counselor: they were all in there. And they had also called the special ed director, but she had not made it there yet.

Tricia Kenney: What was the purpose of them all being in the room?

Tina Obanion: I have no clue. So I bent down and talked to Dallas and I’m like: “You know, you have to clean up these blocks. However, I want you to tell me why you’re upset. What happened?” So he begins to tell me what happened, and his para’s telling me what happened at the same time. It was the exact same story: they weren’t understanding why Dallas was upset. So the principal looked at Dallas and said: “Dallas, get up right now and get this mess cleaned up. We’ve got kids missing out on an education because of you.

Tricia Kenney: [Sarcastically] Nice.

Tina Obanion: [Sarcastically] Yeah. Wonderful. So Dallas starts picking up the blocks, knowing that he’s gonna get to go home. I get up and I say: “You know, if you guys are gonna call me—” And she said: “This is what you wanted, Mom. Remember, you didn’t want us to touch him?” I said: “Right. But I need to have time to talk to him and find out what the problem is, too, so that I can try to resolve the situation, and he can continue to be at school.”

Then a para said: “What are we supposed to do? Just duck and cover when he throws stuff?” And I said: “Well, if that’s what you guys need to do to keep your hands off my son and keep from leaving bruises on him, then yes.” She then said: “You are lucky that I did not press charges against him for biting me.”

Tricia Kenney: Did she show you a mark or something?

Tina Obanion: No. She was actually across the room. I’ve never seen any mark, and that was actually the first that I had really heard about it. So I said: “Well, if you feel that you need to press charges, then I completely understand.” So the principal said: “You know what? Dallas never has to be accountable for anything that he does. Just get him out of my school, and you get out, too.”

Tricia Kenney: [Sarcastically] Nice.

Tina Obanion: And I said: “Well, my son is looking for his shoes and his coat.” So Dallas continues to look for that stuff, and the principal said: “Come on, guys. Get up, so we can clean up Dallas’s mess since he’s never accountable for anything.” I said: “You wanna talk about accountability and you’re looking at retirement? You’re acting five [years old.]” She then said: “You know, I told you to get out of here.”

So Dallas and I leave, and we go with the special ed director over to her office, and the superintendent comes over to meet with us. By the time that we got done meeting, the plan was for Dallas to attend Bryan Elementary of a morning until close to lunchtime, since he had a fairly good rapport with the teacher that was in there of a morning. Then I would pick him up and he would recieve five hours of homebound [school] a week. I got to pick the homebound teachers, if they would agree to do the homebound training.

So that was the plan. He did not go to school on Friday, and then on Monday he was scheduled for surgery and would be out that whole week. While he was out of school for surgery, the juvenile office contacted me and wanted me to meet with her, [and] the special ed director. They changed Dallas’s para and got somebody that I knew well and that I trusted with Dallas. [She also wanted us to meet with] the principal of the second grade school, because the principal did not want him back in Bryan Elementary.

I go to this meeting. They decided that Dallas would go to Benton Elementary with the second graders half a day for now, and then they would progress him hopefully into full day before Spring Break.

Tricia Kenney: Had they talked with you at all about him attending a private school, paid for by the public school system?

Tina Obanion: No.

Tricia Kenney: Because that is an option. When the public school is not able to meet his needs, there’s always that option. They never brought that up to you?

Tina Obanion: Right. Other than this school, nothing has ever been given to me as an option. I have another son that’s in Bryan Elementary under this same principal. Even though Dallas is not in that school now, I have to worry about my other son: Are they retaliating against him and treating him the same way they were Dallas, just because they’re mad at me?

Tricia Kenney: I know. And what are the odds that they would keep records of it, either?

Tina Obanion: Right, right. Yeah; they’re not gonna document any of that. And looking at the behavior record, whatever he supposedly did on the 25th is not documented on his behavior record from the school. They pressed charges against my son for something; however, [they] never even documented it.

Tricia Kenney: Wow. So he’s at a new school. He’s at the second grade school, where he’s only a first-grader and he has special needs. But they put him in a second grade school. He’s being treated a little better—still not ideal, by any means. They’re still using physical force on him when he’s not complying, correct?

Tina Obanion: Right. He does still get restrained, yes. The are implementing his visual schedule and they are doing the Social Stories. Dallas has a happy face sheet that he gets to color when he has a good 30 minutes of time. He loves it; he gets to visually see how he’s done for the day. That’s stuff that we requested at Bryan, and we were never able to get.

That stuff has really helped Dallas. So even though he’s totally out of his peer group and his whole world was turned upside-down by putting him with totally different kids, he’s actually doing better. We expected so much worse, just because of the transition.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah. Well, I mean, not being physically abused by people is always better. But it’s still occurring, and he’s only going three hours a day.

Tina Obanion: Right. Correct.

Tricia Kenney: And it’s still to the point where they feel that they need to use physical force on him, which I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around why they feel the need to do that to a little boy. He’s only there for three hours. How can you not be able to work with a child? It’s your job as a teacher to work with children. How can you not be able to do that? How can you have such a hard time doing it that you need to use physical force on children?

Tina Obanion: Right. And he’s 52 pounds, so for three or four individuals to be laying on him at Bryan worried me. Every day when I dropped him off at school I would wonder myself if that would be the last day that I would get to pick him up or drop him off.

Tricia Kenney: Exactly. Because the type of restraining that they were doing on him is deadly—literally deadly. Children do and have died from people using that method of restraint on children. I just don’t get why the felt that it was okay to do that to him. It’s just unreal.

He’s at the new school, and then this past week you got a notice in the mail. What did the notice say? Do you have it there where you can read it to us?

Tina Obanion: I do. It says:

“You and the above named juvenile are requested to appear for an informal adjustment conference before [the] juvenile officer to Judicial Circuit Court at the Vernon County Juvenile Office, February 25 at 3:45 PM. The purpose of this conference is to discuss a referral that our office received from the sheriff of Vernon County, Nevada, dated January 27, 2010, stating that Dallas A. Williams committed the delinquent-status offense on January 25: Assault while on school property, Felony D, which is alleged to bring the juvenile Dallas A. Williams within the juristiction of the juvenile court.

You and the junvenile are entitled to be represented by an attorney at the conference. You also have the right to make no statements at the conference. The purpose of the conference is to reach an agreement on the best plan of action for handling this referral and preventing future referrals. We also want to discuss the juvenile’s general behavior at home, in the community, and at school. Participation at this conference is voluntary. However, it may prevent the filing of a formal petition with the juvenile judge.”

Tricia Kenney: Wow. The reason I wanted you to read that is so that people will know that it wasn’t some handwritten note that was just handed to you, like: “We’re gonna charge your son with a felony,” and then you flying off the handle for no reason. There was actually a statement that I read online today that somebody was contacted by the prosecutor for Vernon County and told that there was no case pending. So I’m trying to figure out exactly why people are saying such things. But there is actual documentation, and people need to understand. Can you imagine getting this letter in the mail about your six-year-old?

Tina Obanion: Right. And I don’t know if the Juvenile Office has the record and they are pending this informal hearing to see if they want to go ahead with the charges. I’m not sure how that works. I just know that I do not want my six-year-old to have any kind of charges for biting himself. With autistic children, it’s a fight or flight [response,] and he was fighting because he felt that he was in danger.

Tricia Kenney: Well, they’re attacking him on a regular basis. Eventually he’s gonna have to fight for his life. Some kids do and some kids don’t, and a lot of times there ends up being some very serious damage done. We do have a caller on the line, so I’m gonna bring them through.

Tina Obanion: Okay.

Dana Commandatore: Hi. It is Dana.

Tricia Kenney: Hi, Dana. How are you?

Dana Commandatore: I’m good; how are you?

Tricia Kenney: I’m doing all right. We’re sitting here talking about Dallas and the situation that has happened with him. Do you have any questions or suggestions?

Dana Commandatore: I do. First I wanna say hi, Tina, and how my heart goes out to you. I have a boy in second grade who’s autistic, and we are in Los Angeles. Even though the school district has its problems, we have enough people around that are much more experienced with this sort of situation.

The more I hear stories like this, I obviously become sadder and sadder and sadder, and want to revolutionize our education system, as it pertains to autistic children. They’re obviously teaching your son to react that way to get attention and to get out of situations. It’s almost textbook, what’s happening with him and his behaviors.

Part of me just wants to take all these kids out of school and let them stay home and they’ll be a million times better off, but we know that’s not an option. [Laughter] I wish I could homeschool my son. I would just feel safer, because I don’t think people realize the pain and the stress that we go through just sending our child to school on a daily basis and not knowing how other people are going to react to him.

I was curious: the para that was in your son’s class with him, what were their qualifications?

Tina Obanion: I don’t know if they had any or not. I couldn’t really tell you.

Dana Commandatore: Unless you have somebody who’s a trained behaviorist in those situations who can educate everybody on the situation, it just depends on how lucky you get with the person’s personality. My son’s aide in school doesn’t have autism training, but she naturally gets it and understands it, and I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel that I have her with him.

I was really just calling to say that I’m sorry that you and your child have had to go through this. I’m working with a lot of other parents who are trying to make this much more of a national issue and get as much media attention as possible, because people have no idea it’s going on. As part of the autism community, I just wanted to say that there are people out there that are trying to help on a much larger scale, if we can’t help you on a small scale in exactly what’s happening. We’re trying everything that we can.

Tricia Kenney: There are attempts on a larger scale, too. There’s the National Call-In Day coming up in two days to try and pass legislation pertaining to restraint and seclusion. You hope that this stuff would be common sense—yet, we still have cases like this happening across the country or across the world every day. It makes you wonder: What has gone wrong with the people that are doing this, that they don’t understand or they don’t realize that hurting kids is not right?

I really have such a hard time figuring out how these people are processing things: that they just no longer view those kids as children? Or they have so many issues going on in their brain, they just can’t function properly. I don’t know; but in any case, they just shouldn’t even be around children. Aren’t there any screening processes when people work around children—to become a teacher, to become a principal, to work in these positions where you are around the most vulnerable portion of our population? Don’t they do any sort of screening to make sure that this person is not the type of person who would hurt children?

I know that a lot of schools still allow spanking, and I know that a lot of schools use this excuse of: “They were a danger to themselves,” or “They were a danger to other students or the teachers.” I have a really hard time imagining a little five-year-old boy putting the school in such danger.

Tina Obanion: Right.

Dana Commandatore: It’s a very tricky situation, because there have been times where my son has picked something up and thrown it, whether it was on purpose or by accident or he just wanted to get a reaction out of something. I can understand how sometimes children can be perceived as threatening to other kids or scary to other kids, but I honestly believe that through education and through research and through correct behavior supports, those incidents can come down tremendously.

Tricia Kenney: Well, sure. If you know how to work with children, how hard is it to say: “Well, that kid really got upset when we did this”?

Dana Commandatore: “Let’s not do that.”

Tricia Kenney: “Let’s help them work through that and figure out a way to make them okay with ‘This is time for math. Even if you don’t like math, this is math time and we’ll make it more fun for you.'” How hard is that?

Dana Commandatore: It’s really not that difficult. Like you said, a lot of it is common sense, and a lot of it is the most basic form of action and reaction. But a lot of these people are tired and have no interest in doing anything more than just teaching a lesson plan. At this point in the game it’s up to parents, unfortunately, to try to find somebody who is willing to help your child.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Tina Obanion: It’s way too easy for the schools just to do what they want. They don’t have people coming in and checking up on them to see that they’re doing their job effectively. So it’s been made very easy for the education department to do as they please.

Tricia Kenney: Exactly.

Tina Obanion: In December, Dallas came home with carpet burn after being sent outide by himself in 45 degree weather with no coat for time-out. That was hotlined and the school was able to do their own investigation, which was found “unsubstantial.”

Dana Commandatore: How can they send a kid out by himself in a time-out?

Tricia Kenney: They already know that he has an elopement issue, and they put him out—

Dana Commandatore: But he probably wanted a time-out. He probably wanted to be alone and by himself, and he got what he wanted. I don’t even think they realize how they’re encouraging that sort of behavior. It’s so sad.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah, but they put him outside of the building, unsupervised, in 45-degree weather without a jacket.

Tina Obanion: Right. And then that led to them trying to make him go to lunch, and he was restrained. [He] had carpet burn. I hotlined that, and we met with an investigator from Clinton, Missouri. On Christmas Eve, I received a phone call stating that the superintendent said that they would conduct their own investigation. The school never talked to Dallas about the situation. However, it was found to be “unsubstantial” and they found nothing. So it was okay.

Dana Commandatore: I can’t even believe the conversations that they’re having in front of your son and the things that they’re saying to him. He obviously can comprehend all of it and knows how to work it.

Tina Obanion: Yeah, yeah. Definitely.

Dana Commandatore: Well, again, Tina, all I can say is that I’m sorry and I’m trying on my end as well as a lot of other people to make phone calls and bring this to the attention of as many people as possible.

Tina Obanion: Thanks a lot. [Unknown] a long way.

Dana Commandatore: I wish you the best of luck, and please give Dallas a big hug. Hopefully, we’ll be in touch. Take care.

Tina Obanion: Okay.

Tricia Kenney: Thanks for calling in, Dana.

Dana Commandatore: No problem. Take care, Tricia.

Tricia Kenney: All right. Bye-bye.

[Dana hangs up]

We have another caller.

Amy Caraballo: Hi. It’s Amy Caraballo; how are you?

Tricia Kenney: Hi, Amy. How are you?

Amy Caraballo: I’m doing pretty well, thanks. Hi, Tina. I just wanted to let you know that I’m listening to your story and my blood’s just starting to boil, because it’s our story. Other than the felony charges we never had happen, but [otherwise] the same exact situation: kindergarten and first grade, prone restraints with adults sitting on his back.

I just wanted to let you know one of the things that we hadn’t thought of until we ended up with four inpatient stays. He’s now 10, and [the] most recent [inpatient stay] was last April. He has post-traumatic stress disorder from this now. So it might be worth investigating for your son, getting him some counselling now, and possibly hopefully avoiding that. But this stuff is really traumatizing to these kids, because they don’t have behavior control and they’re expected to be able to control something that they don’t know how to control.

Tina Obanion: Right.

Tricia Kenney: Well, the thing I think is going to happen if he doesn’t get help coping with his emotions that are going to stem from all the things that have been done to him, he will be acting out in class. And that he will become more and more frustrated and agressive. So I think for his own well-being and for his education in the future, there’s no doubt about it. He’s going to need some counselling, some therapy, some support to help him learn how to cope with what has been done to him. They’re just setting him up for a lifetime of hardship if that isn’t done.

Amy Caraballo: Yeah. I can attest to that, because my son, who actually, we had gotten his diagnosis when he was four, he had been in preschool and he was doing quite well once we got a diagnosis and figured out what his needs were. So when we transitioned to kindergarten, we thought: “Okay, we’ve got this down. This should go smoothly.” From day one, the school started to fight us. They told us that he had an IEP, but he really didn’t. We started to see the real agendas of the school district.

To comment on how these schools can get away with this, it’s because there’s just no oversight. I really think that there’s an overall mentality problem in the administrators of these school districts that are having these problems. They really don’t believe that autism is as prevalent as it is, and that a lot of these kids are just kids who are not getting enough discipline at home because parents aren’t around to raise their kids; that whole mentality of dual-working families. I really think that that’s a big part of it.

That was part of what was going on with us. Our district’s special ed director said to my face: “We don’t really think he has a disability. We think that you just let him rule the roost at home, and so he wants to do that here.” This was after we had multiple psychological second opinions.

Tina Obanion: Right. We have done the same. And I hear that all the time: It’s because I don’t make Dallas take accountability, and he doesn’t get disciplined at home. At Brian, I take full credit for that. I don’t discipline him at home, because I don’t believe that the majority of the time he gets [unknown], it’s even really his fault.

Amy Caraballo: Exactly. You can’t discipline a child for something that happens after the fact.

Tina Obanion: Right. And even if I could have, I wouldn’t have.

Tricia Kenney: How would any child act when they are being treated in the way that Dallas was treated? How would they be acting to abuse? Any child who’s pushed around and hurt by anybody on a regular basis, they’re gonna react in some way. It’s going to show itself in some way. And then he gets punished for it.

Amy Caraballo: Yeah. And that’s typically what I think we experienced and it sounds like what Tina’s experienced is, the more that the parents get involved and the more that we try to help, the more annoyed the school gets with you. And then they say: “Okay, fine. This parent wants us so involved in their kid’s education? We’ll be involved.” And then they start to take it the other direction. It becomes about them being annoyed with the family, and it’s not about the kid at all.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Tina Obanion: Right.

Tricia Kenney: Wow. Did you have anything else to add [Amy?] We have a couple more callers that are waiting on the line.

Amy Caraballo: No. I wanted to point out that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder thing, because it’s just so prevalent for these kids that have been through this.

Tricia Kenney: I agree. I think that’s a very important point, and Dallas is really gonna need some help in the coming years.

Tina Obanion: Absolutely.

Amy Caraballo: All right. Well, thanks, guys.

Tricia Kenney: All right. Thanks a lot, Amy.

Amy Caraballo: No problem. Bye.

[Amy hangs up. Someone else calls in.]

Tricia Kenney: Hello? You’re on the air.

Heather Sedlock: Hi. It’s Heather.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, hi! How you doing, hon?

Heather Sedlock: I’m good. I’m sorry, but with my autism, I can’t tell if that’s still Tina with us.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, yeah. It’s just me and Tina and you now.

Heather Sedlock: Okay. I’m sorry. [Laughter] Tina, first I wanted to thank you for speaking with me last night for the article on Examiner, and I wanted to ask if you had a chance to read it to make sure I got the details correct.

Tina Obanion: No. I haven’t. I will do that today, though.

Heather Sedlock: Oh, trust me—no hurry. But I just wanted to make sure I got the details right. ‘Cause I [unknown] a telephone interview, and sometimes my memory doesn’t go well. And secondly, I wanted to ask: Pending the outcome of Dallas’s legal trouble, do you think you would do a civil suit against the school?

Tina Obanion: I don’t know. At this point, I just wanna make sure that he doesn’t have a felony charge. [Unknown] the way that Dallas can at some point can be compensated and be sure that this is never gonna happen again, I would like to do that. Of course, there’s not any kind of amount of money that they could give him that’s gonna make what they have done okay, by any means.

Heather Sedlock: Exactly, and I understand that. But my concern was: His abuse that he suffered from the principal screaming at him, just from the few instances that you told me about, and I know that there is much more that I’ve been reading about on the discussion boards on the page. He’s bound to have a lot of psychological impact from it.

I think Amy mentioned post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s gonna need counseling for that, and I don’t think you should have to foot the bill, because this wasn’t your fault. This was nothing that you could have prevented.

Tina Obanion: If we could find a lawyer that would take the case, I would definitely pursue it. It’s been a hardship on our whole family. On the days that I have to work as a single parent, I’m paying $30 a day for daycare for one kid, which is Dallas, because he only goes to school for three hours now, as opposed to eight.

Heather Sedlock: Oh, wow.

Tina Obanion: $30 a day—you do the math. Three days a week, that’s 90 bucks a week. As a single parent…Most two-parent families don’t have that money, let alone a family of one parent. That’s a hardship.

Heather Sedlock: Exactly. That makes it so much harder. I really hope that the awareness gets out there, because it really seems to be becoming an epidemic, unfortunately. I want you to know that you and Dallas are in my prayers.

Tina Obanion: Thank you so much.

Heather Sedlock: Thank you, Tricia, for reminding me.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, no problem. [Laughter] And thank you so much for writing that article. I thought it was done really well, and I appreciate that somebody at least is out there putting this in print. Because we need to have references, and we need to have a catalogue of these cases, because there are so many. And we need to be able to show that to people: “Look, this isn’t an isolated incident. This is going on like crazy, and this is happening mostly to disabled children.”

Heather Sedlock: Yeah. And the reason why it happens to disabled children is because parents, unfortunately, have to rely on public school personnel, and trust. I was talking to a Dr. Levy about this. There is a presumed sense of safety at public schools. [Parents] figure if you’re a teacher, you’ve been trained, you’ve been educated. And if you’re a special education teacher, you’ve been specially trained for it.

So you presume that your children are safe in their hands. When events like Dallas’s case happen, it blows that away and you’re left reeling. As a parent, you have a sense of guilt even though it’s illogical, because there’s nothing you should’ve done or could’ve done. It was on their head to provide trained, compassionate, patient and educated individuals to educate your children.

Tricia Kenney: I agree.

Tina Obanion: Right.

Heather Sedlock: So hopefully this will get this fixed, and we won’t have to hear about this anymore.

Tina Obanion: Yeah. Would be nice.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah, definitely. All right, well thank you, Heather. We’ll talk to you later, okay?

Heather Sedlock: Okay. Thank you. Bye-bye.

[Heather hangs up.]

Tricia Kenney: All right. And the next number, I believe, is Sharon daVanport. Hi, Sharon.

Sharon daVanport: Hi, Tricia. How are you?

Tricia Kenney: I’m good; how are you?

Sharon daVanport: Busy. I just wanna say hi to everyone. I wanted to thank Tina for coming on to AWN and sharing her story. I wanted to ask you: This just makes my blood boil. I’m so glad that Tricia takes the lead on shows like this and the advocacy when it comes to AWN Radio, because my blood just gets to boiling. I’m probably not a good person to have on air when I hear these stories. I’m the type of person, when it comes to even advocating for my own children, I really have to count to 1,000.

Tina Obanion: Yes.

Sharon daVanport: I just am amazed when I hear these stories from parents like you, Tina. It just makes me wonder what Dana said earlier: Do they even realize? Could they really even imagine what they’re doing and what they’re saying around this child?

What I wanted to know from you is: You mentioned earlier [that] you don’t have an attorney. What can we get out there in the public for you? If you had to name the top two or three things that you really needed the public to focus on for Dallas, what would that be?

Tina Obanion: Honestly, I don’t know. This is all very new. Money for the attorney is definitely hard right now. I’m doing [unknown] for daycare so I can continue to work. That’s the biggest thing right now. The letters to the juvenile court. I think that just the publicity of everything, to let everybody know that this really does happen is a big thing. I never knew until Dallas, and I thought: “God! Is my son the only one?” And then I start hearing about all these other stories, and I’m just heartbroken that it really does occur.

Sharon daVanport: I’m having a hard time with a six-year-old being charged with a felony. I thought when this whole thing happened with Zakh Price, [a kid] his age getting charged with a felony [was outrageous]. I’m thinking: “Okay. You cut that age in half and we’ve got Dallas here.” It’s like: “Is this just bizarre, or what?” [Take the?] felonies to the people who are out there murdering people, or using deadly force and weapons. Not a child who’s reacting out of having force used on him. I just don’t get that.

Tricia Kenney: And it’s not even that much. Look at the six-year-old girl who got handcuffed and taken to a mental facility. Look at that one girl who got handcuffed and taken to the police station because she wouldn’t take off her hat.

Sharon daVanport: What about the one in the cow suit in Alaska? That same thing happened to her.

Tina Obanion: It’s amazing that it really does happen. And a lot of people are saying: “Oh, he’s six. They’re not gonna do anything.” But I don’t want my son to end up in an institution, either. He’s just fine with me.

Sharon daVanport: Tricia, when’s that national call in? Is it tomorrow, or is it Friday?

Tricia Kenney: The 26th [of February.]

Sharon daVanport: Okay, so it’s Friday. Okay. So this is just something that we can really do in our community. We’ve got to do things like that. There’s only a handful of states that do not have regulations and laws that regulate seclusion and restraints. I unfortunately live in a state that’s like that—Nebraska. Missouri I’m assuming is like that. I don’t think that they could’ve gotten by with half of what I hear being described.

Tricia Kenney: Missouri does not.

Sharon daVanport: Isn’t it Georgia that doesn’t have it also, Tricia? Isn’t that one of them that you were saying yesterday?

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Sharon daVanport: So this is just crazy. ASAN has got a lot of great articles out there. Dana Commandatore who called in earlier, she’s got some information on her site. We’ve just really got to take this seriously, because if we can get it at a higher level, eventually, like Dana said, we’re gonna weed out these cases. We don’t wanna say that they’re the small cases or anything, because it’s happening to Tina and Dallas right now. It’s happening to their family. But there are larger things that we can do to be pro-active, along with helping families like Tina’s. It definitely sounds like you need an attorney, don’t you, Tina, to represent Dallas.

Tina Obanion: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: Are you sure that they’re gonna go through [with] these charges? Have you talked to anyone?

Tina Obanion: No. I talked to the juvenile office, and they said their goal isn’t to take him away—that they wanna meet with us and try to figure out what they need to do, [sarcastically] or what we need to do so that he’s not at school assaulting people. And my answer is that if the school doesn’t assault him, then he won’t retaliate and try to protect himself. And then the whole thing will be over.

I don’t know that they’ll go through with it; I hope that they do not. At this point, it’s just kind of in the air. We’ll meet with the juvenile office and see if they want to go ahead and send everything over to the prosecuting attorney to press the charges. So I guess we’ll know tomorrow how that’s gonna end.

Tricia Kenney: Well, I want to encourage people to voice their opinion on this to the juvenile court officer.

Tina Obanion: [My son] is actually legally known as Dallas Williams, so if you call in, you might say that. ‘Cause some people are like: “Oh, we’ve never had anybody call about this case.” Well, they know it as the Dallas Williams case. Like OCR, Missouri Parent and Advocacy, the same thing: “We’ve never heard of Dallas Obanion.” I don’t know if that’s why, or if they’re just trying to say they really never heard of it because they never stepped up to help. I don’t know.

Sharon daVanport: Gosh, Tina, I wish you the best of luck. I’m gonna have to get going here, but thank you again for coming on the show and sharing the story. And thank you, Tricia, for doing such a great job and doing all the legwork for this. I hope I can listen to the rest of it without wanting to just scream. Hang in there, Tina, okay? Say hi to your little guy, too, okay?

Tina Obanion: Thanks.

Tricia Kenney: Thanks, Sharon.

Sharon daVanport: All right. Bye.

Tricia Kenney: Bye.

[Sharon hangs up.]

So there are a few things we can do, but we really need to as a community bring light to these situations. We need to talk about this stuff with people in the autism community, as well as people who are not in the autism community. We need to talk to our legislators about this— anybody in our local government. We need to voice our needs, and voice how outraged we are at the injustice done to these children. And I know right now we’re focusing on children in the public school system, but this goes up into adulthood as well.

Tina Obanion: Right.

Tricia Kenney: The abuse on disabled people is just rampant. We don’t want Dallas to end up so damaged that he ends up having to be institutionalized when he’s older. Then the abuse continues, because at those institutions, everybody knows that people are abused, they’re raped, they’re beaten up, psychologically damaged even further.

It’s just absolutely atrocious that these things are going on in this day and age. If we start here protecting the children from the time that they’re little in public school systems, maybe we can create a brighter future for them—a future where they’ll actually be able to live and contribute to society. I think so many of these teachers and administrators just write these kids off like they’re never going to become anything, so they don’t even bother trying to educate them. And it does end up becoming a daycare center. They don’t do anything to work with their minds and they don’t do anything constructive with them. And that is frustrating for autistic children, too.

So much needs to be done, and somebody needs to be overseeing this. I hope that somebody is listening. I really hope that somebody is listening and is going to take action and help protect little kids. I mean, five years old [and] getting restrained like that! There’s absolutely no excuse for it. I don’t care what they say he was doing or throwing or whatever. There’s no excuse for what they did to him. You should be able to work with children in a more constructive way than that.

Hopefully, people will go to the page that we have set up for Dallas, and see some of the information, some of the suggestions, some of the things that people are doing to try and help Dallas and his case. Contacting media, all kinds of this stuff. Because those teachers, that principal, they need to be exposed for who they are. They need to be exposed for what they’re doing to children. I guarantee you, Dallas is not the only one. If they’re so used to doing this—if they’re so carefree about it—he can’t have been the only one that they’ve done it to.

Tina Obanion: Oh, I’m sure not.

Tricia Kenney: They need to be stopped. They need to be taken away from children. They should not be anywhere even near children. If that upsets any teachers’ unions or anything like that, so be it. We cannot put our children in danger just so they can get an education, and we should not be forced into homeschooling. We shouldn’t have the school district dictating to us that: “You know what? You can’t have a job and you can’t help support your family and your child is not going to have the same rights as any other child to an education among his peers.” It’s just absolutely insane that they’re forcing families to live this way.

Tina Obanion: Yes.

Tricia Kenney: I wanted to look through the chat room real quick. I know they’re having a pretty good discussion and bringing up some stuff. I wanted to see if there’s anything we need to bring up. I know there was a question earlier that was asked: [Do] you know if and where any of the teachers who were restraining Dallas were trained, and how they were trained?

Tina Obanion: As far as the autism training, I don’t know that any of them—

Tricia Kenney: No. Not autism training, but restraint training.

Tina Obanion: I know in the last IEP that we had, that was a question that we had asked. Brian Elementary had three people that they said were trained in retraint— one of them being the principal, who said she was not physically able. So that was two other individuals that had been through training, which they received from Hartland Hospital; Satori I think is what they called it.

Tricia Kenney: Hm. Okay. Now, were these the only people who ever did restraints on Dallas?

Tina Obanion: No. No, absolutely not.

Tricia Kenney: Wow. Just unreal. Is there anything else you wanted to bring up before we end the show?

Tina Obanion: No. I just wanna say I appreciate everybody’s help and [unknown] and everything that everybody’s done—setting up the [page] and being on the radio. I think the publicity hopefully wil help. So I appreciate everything.

Tricia Kenney: I hope so, too. There’s so many people who are behind you and praying for you and praying for Dallas, and just completely disturbed and heartbroken over what has happened to this little boy. If you go to the pages, there are actual photos put up of the bruising and scrapes that were done to Dallas by his teachers. I have a hard time even calling [his teachers] that. There are other things I suppose we could call them, but we won’t.

I hope that justice will be served in your case. I hope that children will be safe in your school district, and I hope that the people there—superintendent and everybody else involved—will step up and be responsible and do the right thing and stop hurting children.

Tina Obanion: I hope so, too.

Tricia Kenney: It’s just unimaginable that little kids have to deal with this, especially children with disabilities. It’s sickening. If people wanna get a hold of you for comment, or to talk to you about the case or anything like that, where should they try to reach you at?

Tina Obanion: I have my phone number, I have my e-mail, a account regularly trying to keep up with everybody on it. [My e-mail is obaniontina AT yahoo DOT com.

Tricia Kenney: I do have one last caller. I wanna get to them real quick. Hello?

Carol: Hi. My name is Carol, and I’m calling from Ashville, North Carolina. I just wanted to tell Tina that she’s in our prayers, and that I work with a young lady who’s autistic and also take care of a very good friend of mine’s little boy who’s autistic, and he’s the same age as her son.

I’m just flabbergasted that in the state of Missouri that they would do this to a child. It’s wrong, it’s abusive, and I hope, like you just stated, that the adults in this situation will step up and be responsible. I honestly believe that the two adults that restrained this child should have charges brought up against them, and I don’t think that they need to be in the public school system having anything to do with children with disabilities. These children can’t speak for themselves; they need advocates, and that is what we do. I just wanted to voice my support and find out what else I could do.

Tina Obanion: Thank you.

Tricia Kenney: All right. Well, if you’re on , please go to the Facebook page set up for Dallas. There are actually a couple of pages set up for Dallas.

Carol: I did that. I called the superintendent, and he was actually quite rude.

Tricia Kenney: Really.

Carol: Yeah.

Tina Obanion: Yeah. [He probably treated] you the same way he did me.

Carol: He was a little put out that I was calling, and I said: “Well, since you can’t talk, I can talk. And I would appreciate it if you would listen.” I wasn’t rude; I was very polite, and I just told him I thought this was very bogus, and I thought that they just shouldn’t do this. This is just outrageous. A six year old? Give me a break! It’s wrong.

Tricia Kenney: So he wasn’t very receptive?

Carol: Oh, no. He was very put out, you could tell. And he said: “I’m not trying to be rude,” but, obviously, he was rude and he’s very disturbed. He’s probably getting calls out the ying-yang.

Tricia Kenney: Well, good.

Tina Obanion: Nevada’s a smaller town, so they are probably just flabbergasted that somebody is actually standing up to them. But that’s my job—to protect Dallas.

Carol: I have called my cousin who works in the school system, and we’re gonna try to get something on the news there.

Tricia Kenney: Oh! Awesome. Awesome.

Tina Obanion: Wonderful.

Carol: We’re trying, girl. Just keep your fingers crossed. We’re praying for you, and I just know everything’s gonna work out okay.

Tina Obanion: Thank you so much.

Tricia Kenney: Thank you so much for calling in.

Carol: Uh-huh. Y’all have a good day.

Tricia Kenney: You, too.

Tina Obanion: You, too.

[Carol hangs up.]

Tricia Kenney: I agree. They should have charges brought against them, because anybody outside of the school—anybody. Any stranger, any parent, anybody who would do that to a child would be in jail. [They?] would be taken away, and they’d be in jail. Teachers are not above the law. Who decided to make that? Yeah, you can hurt kids and not get anything done to you because you’re a teacher. That’s insane.

We’re gonna wrap up the show. Again, if you wanna get in touch with Tina, she’s at obaniontina AT yahoo DOT com. The chat room is asking if we should set up a PayPal account for you. I think that’s a very good idea. We probably should, just in case. But why don’t we wait until tomorrow, because you have your hearing tomorrow, correct?

Tina Obanion: Right.

Tricia Kenney: Okay. So she has a hearing tomorrow, and we’ll see if they’re going to go forward with these charges. If they are, she will definitely need a lawyer and we’ll set up a PayPal account for you at that point. If they don’t go ahead with the charges, I think you still need to get in touch with a lawyer to see what you can do about making them accountable for what they’ve done. In those cases, I think what they do is they’ll just take on the case, and then if they win, they’ll take a percentage of it. That sort of situation. So we’ll wait til tomorrow, and please make sure you keep us all updated and let us know what happens during this hearing tomorrow. Are you going by yourself?

Tina Obanion: No. There’s four people from Impact that are coming. There possibly will be an attorney that will come from Kansas City. I don’t know for sure; I haven’t heard back yet. And then [Dallas’s] dad’ll be there, and then myself.

Tricia Kenney: Okay. Good. We’ve got a lot of people praying for you, hon. So we’ve got our fingers crossed that they drop the charges tomorrow and act like decent human beings. I wanna thank you so much for coming on the show today and talking with us about this, and letting us know what is going on in this situation. We’re all praying for you. Take care.

Tina Obanion: Thank you. You, too.

[Tina hangs up.]

Tricia Kenney: I wanna thank everyone for being with us today. Please do go on Facebook and check out the two different pages that are set up for Dallas Williams, and see what you can do to help support this family and help support that child, even if it’s making a phone call or voicing your outrage right there on the page about it. It’s just unreal that this is going on. But I think it we come together, if we work together, we can make sure that cases like this start dwindling away and someday we won’t have to worry about this stuff.

Please join us on Sunday. We are having Paula C. Durbin-Westby talk with us about the IACC. It should be an interesting show, so please join us for that. Until then, this is Tricia Kenney. Take care and God bless.


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