10 Minute Activist! Tell Congress!
Support Restraint and Seclusion Bill & Keep it Strong!
by Jessica Butler, Esquire
1. Contact Congress. Ask them to cosponsor the School Restraint and Seclusion Bill.
Ask your Congressional Representative to cosponsor the The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act (H.R. 4247).
It will go far to strengthen the rights of children with disabilities, prohibiting the use of restraint and seclusion unless there is an imminent risk of physical injury that less restrictive interventions would not stop.
2. Ask Congress to make sure it keeps the bill section (5(a)(4)) that bans putting restraint and seclusion in an IEP, BIP, or other individual educational planning document.
The bill currently applies the same rule to all children; do not let it be modified to provide lesser protection for children with disabilities. According to the GAO, children with disabilities are at the greatest risk for being abused.
The new law is designed to make schools use less-restrictive interventions unless they would fail. Writing restraint and seclusion into the IEP will only encourage schools to use abusive techniques, instead.
Too often, parents have been misled into consenting to restraint and seclusion in IEPs only to find out their children have been abused, injured, and traumatized. School districts are pressing to remove this provision. Prevent school districts from getting around the law by putting abusive interventions in the IEP.
3. Ask Congress to amend the bill to include rooms that are unlocked but children are physically prevented from exiting.
The bill currently applies only to locked seclusion. Staff should not be allowed to hold doors shut or block them with furniture to imprison children with no protections. A child who uses a wheelchair but cannot operate it or a child with other motor disabilities may be secluded with the door open. Schools could use cheap child-proofing to prevent children with motor disabilities from opening a door that their peers could easily open. Because the rooms are technically unlocked, the protections in the bill would not apply to them.
At least 1/3 of the seclusion cases in NDRN’s School Is Not Supposed to Hurt involved unlocked rooms from which children could not exit. Ask Congress to amend the bill so schools cannot manipulate this technicality.
A full analysis of the bill is available on Wrightslaw here: http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/restraint.hr4247.butler.htm. The bill was introduced on December 9, 2009. Mark up (revision and approval by the full committee) of the House bill is expected in early 2010.
Take Action! Call or Email Congress
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).
Telephone/TTY: Call your Congressional Representative at 202-224-3121 (TTY 202-225-1904). This is the switchboard, so you will need to know your Representative’s name. When you are connected, ask for the aide who handles education or disability. If you get voicemail, please leave a message. You can also find direct dial numbers, fax numbers, and local numbers on your Representative’s webpage at http://www.house.gov.
Email: If you need to use email, go to http://www.house.gov/writerep for the House of Representatives. A call is always best because it is personal, but email is helpful too.
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.)
This action alert was prepared for Wrightslaw by Jessica Butler, the mother of a child with autism and an attorney who lives in Virginia. She was Chair of the Board of Directors of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates in 2007-08, and a primary coordinator of COPAA’s Congressional Affairs program while on the Board of Directors in 2004-2009. She is the author of Unsafe in the Schoolhouse: Abuse of Children with Disabilities.
You can reach Jessica at email@example.com