A Colorado school district’s use of a special desk with a restraining bar did not violate the federal constitutional rights of a young student with disabilities, a federal appeals court has ruled.
The court said the use of the U-shaped desk, with a wooden bar designed to keep a student from pushing back his or her chair, did not amount to an unconstitutional “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment. It also held that the exclusive use of the desks in special education classrooms did not violate the 14th Amendment equal-protection rights of students.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, said in a unanimous opinion that it was not expressing any view on whether a Colorado statute that bars schools from using any “restraint” on a student except in an emergency applies to the U-shaped desk.
The use of the restraining desk by the Pueblo school district was challenged by the mother of a young student identified in court papers as Ebonie S., who was born addicted to cocaine and suffers from multiple intellectual and developmental disabilities. Court papers say a teacher and paraprofessionals at Bessemer Academy in Pueblo used the U-shaped desk to discipline the student, who attended the school from ages 5 to 6, and keep her from disrupting the classroom.