Be a 15 Minute Advocate – Support the Restraint and Seclusion Bill!

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Be a 15 Minute Advocate! Tell Congress:

Support Restraint and Seclusion Bill!

Make sure it protects all children, in public and private school.

On FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26, WE WILL KICK OFF A WEEK OF ADVOCACY TO ASK CONGRESS TO COSPONSOR AND SUPPORT THE PREVENTING HARMFUL RESTRAINT AND SECLUSION IN SCHOOLS ACT (H.R. 4247 AND S. 2860).

Dial 202-224-3121 (TTY 202-225-1904) and ask for your Representative and then your Senators. See instructions at the end.

The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act (H.R. 4247 and S. 2860) is a bill in Congress to stop schools from restraining children, confining them in seclusion rooms, and using aversive interventions on them. It is important to let Congress know that the bill must continue to protect children in public and private school. It is important to ask members of Congress to cosponsor and support the bill so that it passes.

The House Education and Labor Committee has approved the bill, but it must go to the full floor for a vote. Members of the House of Representatives should be asked to support and cosponsor the bill. Members of the Senate should be asked to co-sponsor the bill.

WHAT TO SAY TO YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE AND SENATORS.

(1) PLEASE SUPPORT AND COSPONSOR THE PREVENTING HARMFUL RESTRAINT AND SECLUSION IN SCHOOLS ACT. Please ensure that all children are protected at school.

H.R. 4247 and S. 2860 will do much to protect children with disabilities from abuse. This bill prohibits restraint and locked seclusion of schoolchildren unless there is an imminent risk of physical injury that less restrictive interventions would not stop. Restraint and seclusion could not be used as punishment or behavior modification, or to deal with educational disruption and the like. Schools could not use mechanical and chemical restraints or restraints the impede breathing. Schools must notify parents within 24 hours; no school will be able to hide abuse. The bill bans aversives that affect health and safety.

The bill will create a minimum floor of protection in those 23 states with weak or no laws.

(2) ASK CONGRESS TO ENSURE THE BILL PROTECTS ALL CHILDREN, IN BOTH PUBLIC OR PRIVATE SCHOOL. DON’T LET PRIVATE SCHOOLS USE ABUSIVE TECHNIQUES ON CHILDREN.

Private schools want to be exempt from the bill. They claim its one more form of federal intrusion and will stop them from breaking up playground fights.

The bill will not prevent private school staff from stopping a playground scuffle or a coach from separating two hot-tempered players. Both the law and legislative history make clear that escorting a child away from a fight or playground scuffle, holding a child to comfort him, and temporary touch are not restraint. And the law allows all staff to use restraint when any child is in danger of injury. It is very important to share these points in this paragraph with Congress. The private schools have been making inroads with this argument.

The bill should protect all children, in public and private schools. Private schools exist to serve children and parents, not to injure or traumatize children. Asking private schools to notify parents that their child was restrained or secluded is not an unfair burden. Parents must know to watch for trauma or injuries. Many children with disabilities are placed in private schools by school districts and they should not lose vital health and safety protections. Other parents choose to send their children to private school for religious or other reasons; they should not be forced to give up protections from abuse.

The bill only applies to schools that receive federal education aid. This is just like the ADA and Civil Rights Act.

(3) CONGRESS SHOULD PROTECT THE EXISTING PROVISION THAT RESTRAINT AND SECLUSION MAY NOT BE PLANNED INTERVENTIONS IN AN IEP.

Restraint and seclusion are not therapeutic treatments or educational services and may actually deny a student access to education. So, they should not be included in IEPs or BIPs as planned interventions. Instead, IEPs and BIPs should include positive behavioral supports and other services to prevent the use of restraint and seclusion and to provide a student with FAPE. IEPs should also protect children by describing the special needs a student may have because of the nature of their disability or prior trauma. The new law applies to all children, and the IEP should not become a way to avoid the law.

TAKE ACTION! CALL OR EMAIL CONGRESS ON FRIDAY.

FOLLOW THESE EASY STEPS:

Call or email Congress and ask them to support and cosponsor H.R.4247 and S.2860. Ask them to ensure the bill continues to protect all children, in public school and private school. Ask them to protect the bill provision that prohibits using restraint and seclusion as a planned intervention. When you call or write, be sure to include the bill’s name, “The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act,” and its number (H.R. 4247 in the House and S.2860 in the Senate).

Even if your Representative has already cosponsored the bill, you should call to share the points above about private schools and IEPs.

Telephone/TTY: Call your Congressional Representative and Senators at 202-224-3121 (TTY 202-225-1904). This is the switchboard, so you will need to know your Representative’s and Senators’ names. When you are connected, ask for the aide who handles education or disability. If you get voicemail, please leave a detailed message. (If you can only make one call, call your Representative. This is the top priority.) See instructions below to find out who your Representative/Senators are.

You can find local numbers, direct dial numbers, and fax numbers on your Representative’s webpage at http://www.house.gov and Senators’ webpages at http://www.senate.gov/ (click on Senators).

Email: A call is best because it is more personal. But if you are unable to call (e.g. due to a disability, work schedule, etc.) and need to use email, go to http://www.house.gov/writerep for the House of Representatives (your local area Congressman or Congresswoman). For the Senate, go to http://www.senate.gov/ and click on Senators and then “Choose a State” and then select the webform.

If you cannot call on Friday, it is okay to call on another day, before or after Friday. We’d like to get as many calls over the next week as possible.

Find Out Who Your Congressional Representative is: If you do not know who your Congressional Representative is, go to http://www.house.gov and put your zip code into the box in the upper left corner. (You usually only need your five digit zip code.) You can find your Senators through http://www.senate.gov/ and clicking on Senators and then “”Choose a State.” You have one Representative and two Senators.

If you have already contacted Congress about this bill, please do it again. Please ask your Congressional Representatives and Senators to support the bill, and ensure it applies to all children, in public and private schools.

For more information on the dangers of restraint and seclusion, see COPAA’s report “Unsafe in the Schoolhouse: Abuse of Children with Disabilities” (Jessica Butler, 2009),” which can be found at http://www.copaa.org/pdf/UnsafeCOPAAMay_27_2009.pdf.

See www.govtrack.us for full text of the bills, to track bill progress or to see if your Congressman is a cosponsored.

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About Melissa

Melissa is the mother of two children on the autism spectrum and strives to provide information about all aspects of autism through her blog, The Autism Education Site. Follow Melissa on Twitter. Like me on Facebook.

© Melissa Hincha-Ownby and The Autism Education Site, 2008-2014.