THE COUNSELORíS CORNER

 

From time to time, my friends in the psychological community point out to me that most of my columns pertain to law.Well, this one is going to be a hybrid dealing with both legal and psychological issues.This is the story of Doug Shulby, Jr., a seventeen-year-old student in Manhattan Beach who suffers from Aspergerís syndrome.Someone with Aspergerís syndrome is, in effect, unable to interpret social signals such as casual comments or facial expressions that help people interact with each other.People with Aspergerís are often extremely intelligent, yet they tend to fixate on a single, obscure subject, such as the average amount of rainfall per year in every city in the country, or the number of mosquito bites the average person receives on a given Sunday in August.

 

The Manhattan Beach Unified School District had evaluated Doug six months before the incident that will be discussed shortly.In the evaluation, school psychiatrists concluded that if Doug acted inappropriately at school, employees should let it go and address the issue sometime in the future.It is well known in the psychological community that people who have Aspergerís syndrome suffer significant physical and psychological damage from being physically restrained.

 


Flash back to December 8, 1998.On that date, Doug and a Manhattan Beach School District employee got into a disagreement.Doug was standing outside a classroom waiting for his next class to start when a district security officer asked Doug what he was doing in the hall.When Doug told Security Officer Ray Lee that he was waiting, Lee didnít believe him, and became angry and combative with Doug.Knowing things could get bad, Doug tried to walk away and end the conversation.Unfortunately, Lee followed Doug and grabbed him by the arm in an attempt to take him to the security office.Doug resisted Leeís continual grabbing at him, and was subsequently restrained by six district employees.Lee then contacted Christopher Vargas, a Manhattan Beach Police officer who was on assignment at the high school.The officer handcuffed Doug and called called the Manhattan Beach paramedics to take Doug to the hospital for a psychological evaluation.Doug was then transported to the hospital, and was situated in leather wrist and ankle restraints for several hours.When Dougís mother arrived at the hospital, Doug was lying on a bed, still in restraints, but too tired to resist.

 

Doug was unable to return to school.He felt humiliated and had continuous nightmares which left him waking up screaming and crying.Dougís mother, Sharon Shulby says that for a while after this incident, she was afraid to leave her son alone, as he would shift from extreme anger to withdrawal and back again.Mrs. Shulby feels she lost part of her son that day.

 

Dougís attorney has sued for negligence, false imprisonment, and both negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, claiming that the school violated its contract with Doug by physically restraining him, when the school evaluation had specifically indicated that was not the way to handle Doug if Doug began to act out.

 


Two years before this incident when he was fifteen, Doug diagnosed himself with Aspergerís.Dougís self-diagnosis was later confirmed by a doctor.To give you a better feel for what Dougís life is like, he never understood the concept of homework, since he was doing well at school.He would also interrupt his teachers to correct their mistakes, as those with Aspergerís lack the social skills which would allow them to raise their hands and be called on.Many with Aspergerís are viewed as rude, until it is understood that they cannot help themselves.

 

Because of the psychological evaluation done by the school six months before this incident, I am on Dougís side.The school was made aware of his condition, he was given an extensive psychological evaluation, which specifically indicated what should and should not be done if Doug were to start acting out, and then what was in the report was either ignored by school personnel or not all personnel were made aware of the report and of Dougís condition.The purpose of the report was to prevent exactly what happened from happening.Itís not like the family snuck Doug into school and didnít tell anyone he had a psychological condition.The family was up front about it, and the purpose of the psychological report was to alert school employees as to how Doug needed to be treated.Doug suffered a lot on December 8, 1998, and it was unnecessary.The school district needs to be held responsible for its negligence and the damage done to Doug.