Child advocacy groups are urging concerned parties to call their representatives and senators today in support of the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act (HR 4247). The groups are hoping that a concerted effort on January 21 will cause legislators to approve the bill that will prevent unsafe practices that some say are a direct violation of IDEA.
“The practices documented in the government report included instances of teachers holding students face down, gagging them, leaving them in dark, closet-like spaces for hours at a time and preventing students from using the bathroom, among other allegations,” says one community activist.
The bill was introduced on December 9 and referred to the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education on January 4. Since December, groups from across the nation are taking notice of the bill and sharing information.
The National School Boards Association recently let their members know that federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) has “unearthed hundreds of confirmed cases and allegations in a report that paints a grim picture of how school officials have misused techniques to restrain or seclude disruptive students-most of them with disabilities. Child advocates and lawyers for disabled students say the problem has grown as the number of cases of autism and other disabilities grows and more special education students enter traditional public schools.”
One of the cases referred to by the Arizona’s Daily Courier was from Lincoln Elementary where the administrators had a padded room that was been a part of the “self-contained emotionally disturbed student program” for more than 12 years.
The video at the end of this article from Autism News was filmed at the request of a single mother whose 7-year-old child with autism was forced into the “homemade jail cell on public school property and locked up for disobedience.” Since the video and article ran, the room is no longer in use.
Julie Beem, Executive Director Attachment and Trauma Network is calling on parents to get involved. “This legislation would prevent prone, mechanical and chemical restraints and would regulate the use of seclusion rooms and physical restraints. It would also require both that parents be notified when restraint and seclusion are used and that data be kept and reported to state Department of Education offices on all restraints and seclusion. It states clearly in the bill that restraint and seclusion are not discipline and are not therapeutic, says Beem.
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