From the COPAA Discussion list:
This week, as the Senate drafts its final version of the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, S. 2860, a very dangerous provision is creeping in. The Senate would let school staff put restraint/seclusion in a child’s IEP or 504 plan. Call your Senators now and ask them to reject this proposal. See Instructions Below on How To Contact Congress.
Senators: Please Do Not Allow Restraint/Seclusion to be Added to the IEP in S.2860.
Currently, in both House and Senate bills, Sec. 5(a)(4) forbids including restraint/seclusion in an IEP as a planned intervention. The Senate should not change it. Evidence shows that when student plans contain restraint/seclusion, staff use them as a first resort, not last resort. Restraint/Seclusion provide no educational benefit; instead, they kill, injure, and traumatize. They do not belong in IEPs.
Senators: S. 2860 should require that all students receive IEPs which treat them with dignity, with positive interventions, and appropriate services. These are the techniques that prevent dangerous behavior. They help deescalate hot situations and prevent them from arising. Those in Congress who say they don’t work are wrong. 70% of the parents surveyed in Unsafe in the Schoolhouse (J. Butler, COPAA, 2009) reported that their children received only restraint and seclusion--not positive interventions. The planned Senate bill, while supporting school-wide positive interventions, wouldn’t require positive interventions in individual student plans, but it would permit restraint/seclusion instead.
Senators: The Proposed Amendment to S. 2860 Will Take Away IDEA Rights. Unlike IDEA, 504, and ADA, the Restraint/Seclusion bill has been written to prevent parents from seeking to enforce it in with lawsuits. It is like NCLB and FERPA. By adding a provision permitting restraint/seclusion in IEPs, the bill may be used to prevent parents from challenging those IEPs under the IDEA. This appears to be inadvertent, but it would have a major impact on exercising IDEA rights! The new law (S2860) would take precedence over the old law (IDEA).
Parents might be unable to invoke stay put to stop the new IEP; to demand that it not be implemented without their consent; to seek an IEE to challenge elements of it; and to go to mediation and due process to fight it. This will occur unless the Senate puts in language to protect those IDEA IEP rights.
The Senate bill would not require fully informed consent from parents before IEPs include restraint/seclusion. The amendment wouldn't require giving out a notice of procedural safeguards. The Senate bill has no requirement that the IEP team consider medical and psychological contraindications to r/s (e.g., no pressure to a child with brittle bones or chronic pain; sensory issues for children with autism; avoiding physical restraint for an abuse victim).
Putting R/S in an IEP Is NOT necessary to plan for crises. Some Senators claim that restraint/seclusion should be in an IEPs when a person is in danger of injury and the student has a history of injuring others. They may tell you this when you call them. But the current bills always allow restraint/seclusion to be used when someone is in danger of injury (Sec 5(a)(2). Adding it to the IEP isn't needed to make this effective. Nor is it needed to plan for violent students, a claim made by the amendments supporters. Students who continue to be aggressive need strong positive interventions and solid de-escalation techniques.
The bills already allow schools to undertake school-wide and other safety plans that aren't specific to an individual child (Sec. 4). These will take care of crisis planning needs (e.g. “If a teacher cannot safely move a large child into the seclusion room, Mr. X should be called.”) And certainly nothing in the bill stops staff from talking about what they would do in an emergency. Nor is the IEP IEP provision needed to simply add protections for children to IEPs (e.g., permit a nonverbal child access to assistive technology). The current bill only forbids adding restraint/seclusion as a “planned intervention.” It doesn’t prevent anyone from adding protections to an IEP.
Senators: Schools have the upper-hand in IEP negotiations; parents rarely are equals. Some Senators think that IEP meetings are even-sided negotiations and parents who oppose restraint/seclusion could simply say no. They need to hear from you about how one-sided IEP meetings are. Every person reading this has stories about how unequal IEP meetings are; the Senate needs to hear those. Even if the Senate requires informed consent, parental consent is often coerced and parents are not aware of their rights, or fully informed of the dangers.
PLEASE CALL THE SENATE NOW. If you want to impact the amendments being written, now is the time to be heard! The Senate is drafting the amendments now. The professional lobbyists for school districts are making themselves heard. Why not you?
INSTRUCTIONS FOR CALLING YOUR SENATORS:
-- Always use the bill number, S. 2860, Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act. Please call; Senators pay more attention to calls. Email may get lost. Use Email only if you must.
-- Dial 202-224-3121 (TTY 202-225-1904) or go to www.senate.gov, click on Senators for contact information (including local numbers). You will have 2 Senators. When you call, ask for their Education or Disability Aide. Leave a detailed voicemail message if they are not available. Be sure to identify the bill by name, Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act and use the number, S. 2860.
Please call your Senators--but especially if you live in these states on the Senate HELP Committee: AK, AZ, CO, CT, GA, IA, KS , MD, MN, NC, NH, NM, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, TN, UT, VT, WA, WY. If you are in these states, check the HELP Committee website so you call the Senator on the Committee, http://help.senate.gov/. If you have friends or family in the Committee states, please get them to call. And even if you are not in a Committee state, please call. Senators from all over the country are impacting this bill.
-- Call Senator Tom Harkin and ask for his disability counsel (phone 202-224-3254, fax 202-224-9369). Senator Harkn chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, http://help.senate.gov/ and has much power over this bill. He needs to hear from parents and advocates from around the country; he certainly is hearing from the other side.
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As the mother of a child with autism, Jess is currently Congressional Affairs Coordinator for the Autism National Committee (www.autcom.org) which has worked to promote civil rights for people with autism for two decades. She previously was Chair of the Board of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, and cochaired its Congressional Affairs efforts from 2004-09, authoring Unsafe in the Schoolhouse, Abuse of Children with Disabilities