Internationally renowned advocate for inclusive education to speak at Eastern Michigan University on Nov. 6

Segregating kids with disabilities into different classrooms or schools is still a common practice that journalist and documentary filmmaker Dan Habib wants to end

by Debra Johnson, Published November 01, 2013

YPSILANTI – In his latest film, “Restraint and Seclusion: Hear Our Stories, Dan Habib describes the traumatic, dangerous and dehumanizing experiences that four students had to endure while attending public school. 

Habib, a photojournalist and documentary filmmaker at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, will be the special guest speaker at the 2013-14 John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education Speaker Series at Eastern Michigan.

The screening of Habib’s film will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Roosevelt Hall auditorium, located on Eastern’s campus. Following the film, Habib will take questions and then join a panel of colleagues to discuss the film. The event is free and open to the public. Please visit the EMU Campus Map for directions.


Dan Habib, documentary filmmaker

In the 27-minute documentary, Jino Medina, Brianna Hammon, Helena Stephenson and Peyton Goddard describe the devastating physical and emotional injuries they received during restraint and seclusion while students in public schools. Carolyn Medina and Wil Beaudoin, both parents of children who were restrained and placed in seclusion, describe how their children’s experiences have impacted them as parents.

Medina, now 12 years old, first experienced restraint and seclusion at age 10. Though he’s been moved to a new school now, he continues to experience vision loss, absence seizures and other neurological injuries he suffered during restraint and seclusion.  

Hammon, now 29 years old, was placed in a segregated classroom at the age of 8, which was built for kids who were physically disabled. She had difficulty speaking and did not have the benefit of a speech-generating device to help her communicate at that time.

Stephenson, now 24 years old, was considered a child with special needs. She had to endure mental and physical abuse starting at age 13 and was locked in a storage room for 35 consecutive days of solitary confinement. Stephenson has Asperger’s syndrome.

Goddard, now 37, spent two decades in special education classrooms where she experienced aversive restraints, punitive seclusion, and physical, mental and sexual abuse. Unable to tell her parents of this abuse, she could only express herself through self-destructive behaviors.

The John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education is named in honor of the late John W. Porter, a former Eastern Michigan University president who served with distinction from 1979-89. The Lecture Series was established to expand the EMU College of Education’s role in urban education and provide a venue for stimulating discussions to promote urban initiatives.

“The Porter Chair Lecture Series has a long history of providing unique and helpful information on how public education exists in the U.S.,” said Derrick Fries, associate professor of special education at Eastern and chairperson for the 2013-14 Porter Lecture Series. “I don’t think there is anyone better than Dan Habib to illustrate by film the policy conflicts that exist in all of today’s schools.”

Habib became passionately involved and focused on the critical issues surrounding individuals with disabilities after his son, Samuel, was born in 2003 with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that makes it very difficult to control the muscles.

In his first documentary film, “Including Samuel,” Habib chronicles his family’s efforts to include their mobility-challenged son in every aspect of life, including attending a regular public school.  

“Including Samuel,” which debuted in November 2007, examines the educational and social inclusion of youth with disabilities. The 58-minute documentary advocates the merits of inclusive education and incorporates the experiences of other children with physical and emotional disabilities.

Habib’s second film project, “Who Cares About Kelsey?” documents the life of Kelsey Carroll, a student riddled with emotional and behavioral challenges, who was also diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), which causes focus, overactive and control behavioral problems, or a combination of these symptoms. The documentary shows the innovative educational approaches that educational leaders took to help Kelsey succeed in school and graduate from high school.

Habib’s films have been screened nationally, and have helped spark conversations about empowering emotionally and behaviorally challenged youth across the country and internationally.

Before joining the University of New Hampshire and becoming a filmmaker, Habib was a photojournalist and editor of the Concord Monitor newspaper in New Hampshire. In 2006 and 2008, he was named the national Photography Editor of the Year. He is a six-time New Hampshire Photographer of the Year and his freelance work has appeared in Time, Newsweek and the New York Times. In 2012, Habib received the Champion of Human and Civil Rights Award from the National Education Association, and in 2013 he received the Justice for All Grassroots Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities. Habib, along with his wife Betsy and two sons, Isaiah, 17 and Samuel, 13 reside in Concord, New Hampshire.

For more information, visit the 2013-14 Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education Speaker Series.

Debra Johnson

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