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Action Alert: Support Keeping All Student Safe Act

Tuesday, February 11, 2014   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall
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Please Get the Word Out to Keep All Students Safe! Write a letter to both of your U.S. Senators in support of the Keeping All Students Safe Act. Ask them to become a cosponsor now!

ISSUE: Chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) will introduce legislation, the Keeping All Students Safe Act that will prohibit seclusion and reduce and prevent the use of restraint in schools.

On Wednesday, February 12, Senator Harkin will introduce the legislation and host an event to discuss the findings of a Committee investigation into the obstacles faced by parents whose children were secluded or restrained in public schools. Thanks to all COPAA members who shared information during the investigation. We thank Senator Harkin and his team for taking the time to conduct additional research into this issue, and issuing a new report that will illuminate the difficulties and hurdles families face in trying to limit or seek redress for the imposition of deadly and harmful techniques on their child.

BACKGROUND

There are many accounts of school districts that impose restraint and seclusion on students for minor, non-dangerous behaviors or as a form of punishment even though there is no evidence showing that either restraint or seclusion provide any educational or therapeutic benefit to a child. The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights released a report in March 2012 that revealed of the tens of thousands of school-aged children who are secluded or restrained at school each year, 70 percent are students with disabilities.

We thank Senator Harkin and Senator Murphy for introducing legislation that creates a minimum standard of protection for every student in America. We specifically applaud the provision prohibiting the use of seclusion, a deadly and traumatic practice, on school children.

COPAA members know firsthand that too many families have had their case dismissed, even in cases that present very troubling facts, because the court ruled that the parents had failed to exhaust the administrative remedies available under IDEA before bringing the suit. This bill includes a provision that specifically removes the need to exhaust under IDEA. This removes a legal hurdle for parents seeking justice and is a positive step forward towards protecting the rights of students; especially when combined with passage of minimum standards that prohibit seclusion and limit restraint to emergency situations presenting imminent danger of serious harm.

Other very important provisions of the bill include:

1) Allows for physical restraints only in emergency situations, and only if not contraindicated or does not inhibit a student’s primary means of communication;

2) Bans the use of seclusion in schools;

3) Allow for a student or family to file a civil action while also pursuing resolution of seclusion and restraint concerns through IDEA and other statutes;

4) Require state educational agencies (SEAs) to establish policies and procedures to promote preventative systems and instruction to prevent the need for emergency use of restraints;

5) Require states to collect and make public data on the occurrence of seclusion and restraints;

6) Require schools to notify parents within 24 hours that a restraint has been used with their child, to conduct a debriefing with parents, staff, and where appropriate the student, after a restraint is used, and plan for positive behavioral interventions that will prevent the use of restraints with the student in the future; and

7) Establish a state grant program to enhance the State’s ability to promote, within its local educational agencies (LEAs) preventative programming and training for school personnel.

We support Senator Harkin and Senator Murphy’s bill, Keeping All Students Safe Act, as an important step in the right direction. We will continue to work hard to ensure students are fully protected and towards that end will continue to urge passage of final legislation that completely prohibits restraint as a planned intervention.

ACT NOW: Write a letter to both of your U.S. Senators to ask them to cosponsor Senator Harkin’s legislation to end harmful seclusion and significantly limit restraint in schools.

Suggested language for your letter:

"I support Senator Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) and Senator Chris Murphy's (D-CT) legislation, Keeping All Students Safe Act that will set a federal standard that bans the use of seclusion and limits the use of restraint in schools. Federal minimum standards to protect all students need to be put in place now. As your constituent, I ask that you please co-sponsor and support the Keeping All Students Safe Act and put an end to the extensive use of restraint and seclusion practices in schools.”

_____________________

Watch and listen to Sen. Harkin and 19-year-old former Lexington, MA student Robert Ernst, who came forward with his story of having been locked in a seclusion room at school in the wake of the New York Times article "A Terrifying Way to Discipline Students" which exposed the use of physical restraints and isolation rooms in Lexington, MA, and others at the event live online Weds. (2/12) at 10AM Eastern at http://help.senate.gov/and join the national discussion about restraint and seclusion in schools on Twitter before, during and after at #KeepStudentsSafe

The Facebook page for Keep Students Safe is https://www.facebook.com/keepstudentssafe

Comments...

Catherine Borzi (Wright) says...
Posted Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I have never had a client whose behavior was improved by restraint or seclusion. However, I have seen it escalate a confrontation to violence, lead to anxiety, school refusal phobia and deep depression. It does nothing but damage. Please email your federal representative and senators. Children with disabilities are by far the children most often suffering from these practices. Stop the hurt.

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