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 Home > News > Call to Action: NYS Regs Allow Schools to Use "Aversive Interventions" on Children -- Including Electric Shock (07/17/06

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Call to Action: NYS Regs Allow Schools to Use "Aversive Interventions" on Children - Including Electric Shock
Aversive Interventions l Time Out Rooms l Health & Safety
Public Hearings & Comment l Call to Action l Resources

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In June, the New York Board of Regents approved "emergency regulations" that permit public schools to use aversive behavioral interventions and time-out rooms as consequences for behavior of children with disabilities. These regulations went into effect on June 23, 2006.

What Are "Aversive Behavioral Interventions"?

According to the New York regulations,

"aversive behavioral intervention means:

(i) application of noxious, painful, intrusive stimuli or activities intended to induce pain such as electric skin shock, ice applications, hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking, hurling, strangling, shoving, deep muscle squeezes or other similar stimuli;

(ii) any form of noxious, painful or intrusive spray, inhalant or tastes;

(iii) withholding sleep, shelter, bedding, bathroom facilities or clothing;

(iv) contingent food programs that include withholding meals or limiting essential nutrition or hydration or intentionally altering staple food or drink in order to make it distasteful;

(v) movement limitation used as a punishment, including but not limited to helmets and mechanical restraint devices;

(vi) the placement of a child unsupervised or unobserved in a room from which the student cannot exit without assistance; or

(vii) other stimuli or actions similar to the interventions described in subparagraphs (i) through (vi) of this paragraph." (Section 200.22(b) of the Regulations; pages 6-7 of the print document)

Download the regulations.

Note: These regulations are 18 pages when printed. Please study them. You will find an Action Plan and more advocacy tips at the end of this article.

Regulation 200.22(e) describes "child-specific exception to use of aversive behavioral interventions to reduce or modify student behaviors." (pages 12-14 of print document)

Public hearings and a public comment period are scheduled for August. By declaring them "emergency regulations," the Regents could pass the regulations in June without public hearings or a period for public commentary.

In September, the Board of Regents will vote and decide whether to make these regulations permanent. if you are the parent of a child with a disability and live in New York, you have work to do. Call to Action.

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"Appropriate Supervision" of Staff

The regulations state, "Any person who uses aversive behavioral interventions on students shall receive appropriate supervision, including direct observation."

What is "appropriate supervision" of school personnel who are using "noxious, painful, intrusive stimuli or activities intended to induce pain" including electric shock, hitting, and strangling?

What type of supervision is appropriate for school staff who "withhold sleep, shelter, bedding, bathroom facilities, clothing, food, or hydration"?

Research on Use of Aversive Behavioral Interventions

Although the regulations say that schools must use research validated methods, they acknowledge that there is no research that supports the use of aversive behavioral interventions in public school settings.

"Humane and Dignified Treatment"

The regulations state that a program that uses aversive behavioral interventions on a child "shall provide for the humane and dignified treatment of the student and for the development of such student’s full potential at all times."

"The program shall promote respect for the student’s personal dignity and right to privacy and shall not employ the use of threats of harm, ridicule or humiliation, nor implement behavioral interventions in a manner that shows a lack of respect for basic human needs and rights."

How can a program that may include electric shock, punching, strangling, withholding sleep, shelter, bedding, bathroom facilities, clothing, withholding meals, limiting essential nutrition or hydration "promote respect for personal dignity and right to privacy"?

Time-Out Rooms

The regulation about time-out rooms is at Section 200.22(c) (see pages 11-12 of the print regulations)

Although the state department of education (NYSED) has received many complaints about abuses and misuses of time-out rooms, the department has not remedied these problems.

Here are three examples of time-out room abuses:

* A special education student was punished on twenty-two occasions by being placed in a small locked room with no supervision. On one occasion, the student was found on the floor of the room after having suffered an apparent seizure.

* A child clawed his fingers bloody trying to get out of a time room.

* A young child with autism who was "included" in a regular classroom was thrown into a time-out room when he couldn't sit down and do his assigned work quietly. The school district had not performed a Functional Behavior Assessmentand had not developed a Behavior Intervention Plan, as required by law.

Given this dismal track record, how can parents believe that the New York state department of education will protect their children with disabilities from abuse in time-out rooms?

Health & Safety: NY Regs Contradict Federal Regs

New York's regulations contradict federal regulations and policies about using restraint and seclusion for mentally ill youth in inpatient facilities and other non-hospital settings.

New York's new regulations specifically permit the use of restraints and seclusion/time out rooms in virtually every school building in the State of New York.

"Trauma, Injury, and Death"

According to the training manual of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMSHA), restraints and seclusion/time out rooms often leads to "trauma, injury and death." The position of this federal agency is that restraints and seclusion to treat individuals with mental illness should be eliminated.

Note: The federal regulations cited below (42 CFR Ch. IV Subpart G) are for youth aged 21 or younger who are in inpatient psychiatric facilities or psychiatric residential treatment facilities.

"Right to be free from restraint or seclusion..."

Federal regulations state, “Each resident has the right to be free from restraint or seclusion, of any form, used as a means of coercion, discipline, convenience, or retaliation.”

New York's new regulations permits restraints and time out rooms to be used as a means of discipline or coercion.

Genuine Safety Emergencies

Federal regulations state that restraint and seclusion can only be used for genuine safety emergencies, and that the restraint or seclusion must be terminated as soon as the emergency subsides.

New York's new regulations allow schools to plan to use restraints and time-out rooms for non-emergency situations. The regulations do not limit how long a child can be put in restraint or a time-out room.

Restraints & Time Out Rooms Should Never Be Used as Punishment

Federal regulations and the policies of all major mental health commissions and agencies state that restraint and seclusion should NEVER be used as punishment.

The New York department of education takes the opposite position and allows schools to use restraint and seclusion/time out rooms as punishment.

Trained Clinician Continually Monitors Physical and Psychological Status

Federal protections say that if seclusion is used for a safety emergency, a trained clinician must continually monitor and assess the individual's physical and psychological status by being inside or immediately outside the seclusion room.

After the individual is removed from seclusion, a physician or licensed practitioner who is trained in emergency safety interventions must assess the individual's well-being.

The NYSED regulations state that a "staff member" has to monitor the child who is in a time-out room. The regulations do not specify the staff member or the training of the staff member, so this is likely to be an untrained aide -- or the janitor.

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Public Hearings and Comments

Three public hearings have been scheduled:

Albany on Tuesday, August 8
New York City on Monday, August 14
Syracuse on Tuesday, August 15

The New York State Department of Education will accept public comments until August 28, 2006. Please send your comments to:

Dr. Rebecca H. Cort, Deputy Commissioner
Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities
Room 1606, One Commerce Plaza
Albany, New York 12234
Or by email:
Attention (or Subject line): Comments: Behavioral Intervention Regulations

For information about providing testimony and/or comments, please go to:

Download the regulations from

Call to Action

If you are the parent of a child with a disability, you represent your child's interests. You need to be knowledgeable about these regulations - they may be used on your child.

Read the regulations. Study them. Make your voice heard.

Here is your Game Plan.

1. Print and study the regulations.

Print these regulations. Study them carefully so you know what they do and don't say. Use a highlighter. Make margin notes.

The regulations are confusing and difficult to follow if you try read them on a computer screen. For example, the regulations state that aversive interventions are not permitted, until you read "child specific exceptions" in Section 200.22(e).

2. Write to your policymakers, legislators, and the media.

Write a letter to your Regent AND to the New York State Education Department to express your opinion about the proposed regulations. Before you write that letter, you need to do some homework.

Read Tips for Effective Activism and 12 Rules for Writing Great Letters.

Contact Your Regent:

Send copies of your letters to your state assembly member, state senator, Member of Congress, and your Senators.

Contact your Assembly member:

Contact your State Senator:

Contact your Member of Congress:

Contact Your Senators: Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer

Send a copy of your letter to your local newspaper (if your newspaper receives 100 letters about the use of "aversive interventions" on young children, they are likely to investigate). Read Working with the Media.

List of New York Newspapers:

The more people who write to their Regents, Assembly members, State Senators, Representatives, Senators, and newspapers, the more likely it is that your voice will be heard. Your goal is to overturn this regulation that allows schools to use aversive behavior interventions on disabled children.

Note: For suggestions about writing letters to policymakers and contacting the media, see the resources at the end of this article.

If your child has experienced aversive behavioral interventions, you need to document these incidents and the setting where they occurred (regular education building, BOCES center, etc) in a letter to the Regents and the New York State Education Department. Please email a copy of your letter to Dr. Leslie Packer at admin[at]

Read Action Alert for Parents at

3. Provide testimony at one of the scheduled hearings. When you provide oral testimony, be sure to provide your testimony in written form at the same time. If you cannot provide testimony, write to your Regent and the state department of education and send copies of your letter to the individuals described in #2 (above).

Read the State's notice on how to provide feedback and deadlines.

4. Get the Word Out. Please forward this article and Action Alert for Parents to email lists, parent groups, PTAs, SEPTA groups, and individuals who are involved in educating children with disabilities.

5. Send Copies of Statements. If your organization sends a statement to the New York state department of education, or you write a letter that includes specific examples of abuses that your child or your client experienced, please send a copy of statement or letter by email to admin[at] so advocates can track how many statements NYSED received.

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Regulations Authorizing Corporal Punishment, Aversive Behavior Interventions

Notice of Public Hearings and Comments, Information about How to Provide Testimony and/or Comments, Deadlines

Contact Information

Contact Your Regent -

Contact your Assembly Nember -

Contact your State Senator -

Contact your Member of Congress -

Contact Your Senators: Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer

Contact Your Newspaper:

Action Alert for Parents in New York -

Articles About State-Sanctioned Physical Abuse

Abu Ghraib on the Hudson by Dee Alpert, Esq., Special Education Muckraker (in pdf)

Action Alert: Abu Ghraib on the Hudson (html)

Call to Action: New York Regs Allow Schools to Use "Aversive Interventions" on Children, Including Electric Shock - In June, 2006, the New York Board of Regents approved "emergency regulations" that permit public schools to use aversive behavioral interventions and time-out rooms as consequences for behavior of children with disabilities. These regulations were approved without public meetings, testimony of comment. Article includes a detailed plan of action to defeat these regulations.

Advocacy Articles & Tips

Tips for Effective Activism -

The Art of Writing Letters -

12 Rules for Writing Great Letters

Chapters 23 and 24 in From Emotions to Advocacy describe how to write effective letters; sample letters; and tips for writing letters.

Working with Policymakers -

Working with the Media -

More Resources About Abuse & Restraints

To learn more about these issues, download free publications, read cases, and contact advocacy groups, please go to Restraints, Physical and Sexual Abuse in Schools.

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Created: 07/17/06
Last revised: 02/16/10

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