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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

ALERT: New Bill In Congress Aims to End "Seclusion and Restraint" of Students with Disabilities

from our friends at Access Living ...

Dear Access Living friends and allies,
One of the most disturbing aspects of the education of many students with disabilities is the continued use of seclusion and restraint in school settings across the nation. Last week, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a giant in the world of disability rights, announced Senate legislation to prevent the use of restraint and seclusion in school and keep children and staff safe.  The legislation is titled the Keeping All Students Safe Act.  
Harkin, who is the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, also shared the results of a Senate investigation of obstacles parents face in trying to keep their children safe from these dangerous practices.  The special investigation focused on families in selected states who have been unable to address restraint and seclusion under current law when it happened to their children.
Each year, tens of thousands of students are restrained and forced into seclusion.  They have been killed, suffered broken bones and other injuries, and traumatized.  Students have been restrained and secluded for being unable to do class work, being unable to pay attention due to disability issues, pushing items off desks, having tantrums, convenience, punishment, and similar issues. Parents regularly face obstacles to protecting their children. More than two-thirds of states lack laws protecting all students from both restraint and seclusion.  Only 14 states by law require that an emergency threatening physical danger exist before restraint can be used for all children; only 11 protect all children from non-emergency seclusion.  Fewer than half of the states require schools to notify all parents when their child is restrained and secluded.   
While Illinois was not a selected state for the Senate investigation, that does not mean that seclusion and restraint does not happen here. Technically, our state is one of 19 that have some protection against seclusion and restraint; all children in our state are supposed to be equally protected against seclusion and restraint.However, the exact definition of “seclusion” and “restraint” can vary from state to state.
Here is a link to the Senate’s select state investigation report: http://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Seclusion%20and%20Restraints%20Final%20Report.pdf
Here is a link to “How Safe is the Schoolhouse,” an overview of seclusion and restraint in the 50 states, which does offer information about seclusion and restraint in Illinois: http://www.autcom.org/pdf/HowSafeSchoolhouse.pdf.
Finally, here is a link to Disability Scoop’s coverage of the issue: http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2014/02/13/report-renewed-restraint/19106/
California Democratic Congressman George Miller has introduced a companion Keeping All Students Safe Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Miller is also well known as a champion of disability rights, and is a good friend of our own Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.
The Keeping All Students Safe Act is a matter of human rights for children with disabilities living in our country. Access Living urges you to contact your United States Senators and Representatives to urge that this bill be passed as quickly as possible. Safety should not be at issue in our schools; education should be the priority.
Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy, Access Living

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