Michelle Diament reports:
More than 200 disability organizations are urging Congress to reignite efforts to regulate the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.
In a letter sent last week to key legislators, a who’s who of disability advocacy organizations including the Autism Society, The Arc and the National Disability Rights Network said action is needed in order to ensure student safety.
“It is time for a national policy addressing restraint and seclusion in our schools for all children,” reads the letter sent to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives education committees. “America needs more than the current patchwork of state laws to ensure that every child is afforded protection.”
You can read more of her coverage on Disability Scoop.
This is an issue I’ve been actively involved in since 2005, and it’s high time Congress got off the dime and adequately protected students from the unfair, inhumane, and harmful practices that we have seen all too frequently in schools. If you are a parent of a child with a disability, I urge you to contact both your representative in the House and your senator and tell them that children continue to be harmed while they are playing unacceptable political games. Enough is enough. You can find your legislators’ contact information through http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml and can use your zip code to look up your Representative if you do not know what district you are in.
For an update on state laws on restraint and seclusion, see Jessica Butler’s report, How Safe is the Schoolhouse?, which has been updated as of July 2012.
I’ve blogged about the unnecessary and inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion a number of times, and the need for federal regulations that prohibit their inappropriate use. Now there is an important hearing coming up this Thursday in the Senate. Nirvi Shah reports:
Educators’ use of restraints, seclusion, and alternative strategies for managing disruptive student behaviors are scheduled to be the focus of a first-of-its-kind hearing Thursday before the Senate education committee.
The hearing, “Beyond Seclusion and Restraint: Creating Positive Learning Environments for All Students,” will mark the first time the issue has an airing in that chamber. Late last year, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chair of the committee, sponsored a bill that would sharply restrict or ban the use of restraints and seclusion, which have come under fire because of multiple reports of students getting injured or dying as a result of such actions. Similar legislation in the House of Representatives was passed more than two years ago and has been reintroduced, but since then, both bills have stalled.
Read more on Education Week.
I’m not sure if the hearing will be televised, but you can check C-SPAN to see. But do take a moment now and check to see if your Senator is on the committee. If s/he is, contact them to tell them that you want the Senate to pass a bill that will protect the safety and dignity of children with disabilities and that educating the educators to: (1) recognize behavioral symptoms of disabilities, (2) use functional behavioral assessments to analyze problems, and (3) provide positive behavior supports will reduce the use of aversive techniques significantly. Clicking on the link to your Senator’s name will take you to their Senate home page with information on how to contact them.
A few years ago, Congress had an opportunity to pass a bill that would restrict the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in schools. The bill was eventually watered down so much that most advocates, like myself, found it hard to actively support it, but even after its diluted version passed in the House, it never even came up for a vote in the Senate.
I’ll say that again: it never even came up for a vote in Senate, despite the fact that around the country, children’s dignity and civil liberties are being violated and children are being physically and emotionally harmed.
What does that say about the Senate?
TASH recently released a report, The Cost of Waiting that cites examples of what has gone in the last two years that might have been avoided if Congress had acted. It doesn’t seem to be available for download, but you can read the report online:
Representative Miller, who sponsored the original bill, reintroduced the bill last year as H.R. 1381: Keeping All Students Safe Act. You can read his blog entry about the bill on his web site. The full text of the bill can be found here.
Despite the fact that the bill has 42 co-sponsors, GovTrack rates its chances of being enacted as only 2%. If you don’t like the odds, contact your Representative (if he or she is not already a co-sponsor) and Senator and tell them that you want a straight-up vote on the bill because children are being harmed. You can see if your Representative is a co-sponsor here.
Colleen Kotke reports from Wisconsin:
Last fall, Mandy Rennhack was determined that her autistic son would never again be placed inside “the box.”
“The box,” a pressed plywood structure, was used to control her 9-year-old son, Ty, early in the school year after he had a “meltdown” at Rock River Intermediate School.
“I immediately called for a meeting with the special education team to update his IEP (individualized education plan) and tell them that Ty was never to go back in there, that they should call me and I would come immediately to pick him up,” said the Waupun mother.
Rennhack was stunned to learn from Ty that he had been placed inside the box again on March 27 — this time for a good portion of the morning.
“No one at school had contacted me. I had to hear it from my son,” she said.
Rennhack went to the school the next day and was told Ty — who has Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder — had refused to comply with a directive from his teacher. When he began pacing the room, he was told to either stand in the corner or he would be placed in the “quiet box” — a free-standing room measuring seven feet deep by five feet wide just under eight feet tall. The empty padded room stands on a bare, tile floor, has no ventilation system, and opens with a handle on the door that can be locked from the outside.
Interim district administrator Donald Childs says putting a child whose behavior has the potential to cause harm to himself or others into a secluded padded room until the episode subsides is a legal and accepted practice in the state.
Read more about this story on Green Bay Press Gazette.
This is yet another example of why we need a federal law prohibiting the use of seclusion except for instances of imminent danger to self or others.
Molly Bloom reports on a lawsuit over seclusion:
…. the Ohio Legal Rights Service says it has initiated a “district-wide investigation of abuse, neglect and/or significant rights violation” in Columbus, Ohio’s largest school district.
The investigation came about after the mother of an autistic student contacted the agency about her son being placed seclusion room — which she called a “closet” — more than once, according to the lawsuit. The mother said that her son, who is autistic, “had urinated in the room, was lying on the floor, and contracted a staph infection,” according to the lawsuit.
An agency investigator visited the school and described the seclusion room as a “a padded room with a metal door that had two peep holes and a foot latch lock,” according to the lawsuit. The agency said in the lawsuit that they believe at least four Columbus elementary schools have these kinds of rooms.
Read more about the case on NPR, where you can also read a copy of the lawsuit.