Monday, June 9, 2014

ON JUNE 12: ASK CONGRESS TO SUPPORT BILL TO PREVENT DANGEROUS RESTRAINT & SECLUSION, 202-224-3121



ACTION ALERT:  ASK CONGRESS TO SUPPORT BILL TO PREVENT DANGEROUS RESTRAINT & SECLUSION
CALL OR EMAIL CONGRESS ON JUNE 12 

On June 12, 2014, please call your two Senators and Representative and ask them to COSPONSOR the KEEPING ALL STUDENTS SAFE ACT, S. 2036 and H.R. 1893.  Ask your friends and family to do the same.  Call 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senators and Representative.  If you cannot call, then please email (Senate: http://1.usa.gov/Senat ;  House:  http://bit.ly/RepWrit ).  You can also do it another day if needed.  The most important thing is for Congress to hear from thousands of parents, people with disabilities, students, advocates, professionals, friends, families, and neighbors.  You can look up your Senators and Representatives at the links above.  Personalize this if you can.  Describe your connection to disability. If you have a story about restraint or seclusion or worry that it could affect your child or friends, please say this.  Explain how you, your family members, friends, and those with disabilities whom you advocate for have the right to be protected.


MESSAGE TO SHARE WITH YOUR SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVE
( SAMPLE TALKING POINTS/EMAIL)
Please cosponsor the Keeping All Students Safe Act, S.2036 and H.R. 1893, and protect all American students nationwide from restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools.  Over 110,000 students were subjected to restraint and seclusion in 2011-12.  These procedures have killed, injured, and traumatized students, according to Congressional reports.  They include a child suffocated in restraint after he tried to get lunch; a 7 year old who died in restraint after blowing bubbles in her milk, and a young teen who hung himself while his teacher sat outside the seclusion room.  These dangerous procedures are often used when no one is at risk of harm.  Parents often are not notified or find out much later; prompt notification is necessary to detect concussions and seek medical help.  The Keeping All Students Safe Act, S. 2036 and H.R. 1893, will forbid the use of restraint except in emergencies threatening physical safety.  Both will prevent non-emergency seclusion.  Both require schools to notify parents on the same day.  The bills will promote a necessary shift towards positive behavioral interventions that evidence shows will keep students safe.

MORE DETAILED INFORMATION AND BACKGROUND
Some people like more detailed information when they call a Senate office.

·         A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that 20 students had died in seclusion; countless others have been injured and traumatized, according to numerous reports.   One teen hung himself in a seclusion room while staff sat outside the locked door; a seven year old died face down in physical restraint after blowing bubbles in her milk; and a young teen was suffocated face down in restraint by his teacher twice his size when he tried to get lunch.  Recent stories include an 8 year old with Down Syndrome whose shoes were duct-taped so tightly that she could not walk; a 10 year old with autism who was pinned face down after a tantrum over a puzzle; and a child with Cerebral Palsy who severed her finger when confined in seclusion.  Parents often do not learn that restraint/seclusion occurred or learn long after the events.  Prompt notification is important to seek medical care and to work with schools to prevent future episodes. 

·         The most recent national data has shown that in 2011-12, over 110,000 students were subjected to restraint and seclusion.  These included at least 70,000 students were subjected to physical restraint; 37,000, to isolated seclusion; and nearly 4,000 to mechanical restraint.  The actual total is likely much higher.  Restraint and Seclusion are used disproportionately upon students with disabilities and minority students.  Some states break data down by disability; this data shows that restraint and seclusion are disproportionately used on students with autism.

·         Both Congressional bills, S. 2036 and H.R. 1893, will forbid the use of restraint except in emergencies threatening physical safety.  Both seek to prevent non-emergency seclusion:  the House bill, by limiting it to threats of physical harm; the Senate, by banning it.  Both bills require schools to notify parents on the same day.  Prompt notification enables parents to seek medical care for concussions or other injuries and to work with schools to prevent recurrences.  Both bills will ban restraints that impede breathing, and dangerous mechanical and chemical restraints.  They will ensure that teachers have the tools and resources they need to prevent challenging behaviors.  The bills will enhance public oversight by requiring data reporting and collection. 

·         The Keeping All Students Safe Act will shift schools towards preventing problematic behavior through evidence-based positive behavioral interventions and supports, and keep students and staff safe.  In many cases, the use of positive supports and interventions greatly diminishes and even eliminates the need to use restraint and seclusion.  For example, the Centennial School in Pennsylvania cut restraint and seclusion use from over 1,000 occurrences per year to less than ten through the use of positive intervention plans.  Montgomery County, Virginia uses “easily accessible, evidence-based practices” that have reduced crisis-level behaviors by 78% and targeted problem behaviors by 81%, according to Senate testimony.  Restraint and seclusion are rarely used.

·         Many states don’t adequately protect all students from restraint and seclusion.  Many allow their use when no one’s safety is in danger.  Only 14 states restrict restraint to dangers threatening safety emergencies for all children; only 18, for children with disabilities.  Only 1 state bans seclusion of all children; 4 ban seclusion of children with disabilities, and another 10 limit seclusion to physical safety emergencies.  Only 20 states require parents of all children be informed of restraint and seclusion use.  Roughly half of all states allow restraints that impede breathing.   

WHAT YOU CAN DO: CONTACT CONGRESS on JUNE 12 or soon after
Please call or write to your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor the Keeping All Students Safe Act, S.2036 and H.R. 1893.  Calls are more effective, but you can also use email.  Call 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senator or Representative.  Then ask for their education aide or disability aide.  Leave a voicemail if you do not reach them.  Please make a call if you can.  Calls count much more.

Email your Senators through http://1.usa.gov/Senat and your Representative through http://www.house.gov/ (put your zip code in the box in the upper corner).    Please personalize your message, even with a single sentence.  Explain your connection to disability.  If you have a story about restraint or seclusion or worry that it could affect your child or friends, please say this.  Explain how you, your family members, friends, and those with disabilities for whom you advocate have the right to be protected.

The more we reach out to Congress directly, the more successful we will be!  Every call or email sent to Congress is very valuable and very important. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Senate Bill S. 2036 and Senate Committee Description about bill
House Bill H.R. 1893 and House Statement about bill
Find your Laws in AutCom’s report: My State’s Seclusion and Restraint Laws
GAO Report about Dangers of Restraint and Seclusion; Education Department’s recent Data Snapshot

Thank You,
Autism National Committee
www.autcom.org

Monday, February 10, 2014

SENATOR HARKIN RESTRAINT/SECLUSION BROADCAST LIVESTREAM & TWITTER, Wed Feb 12 at 10 am EST


On Wednesday, February 12 at 10:00AM EST, Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, will announce the results of a special Senate investigation of obstacles parents face in trying to keep their children safe from these dangerous practices. The special investigation report focuses on families who have been unable to to address restraint and seclusion under current law when it happened to their children.  He will also discuss recommendations from the report and Senate legislation to prevent the use of restraint and seclusion in school and keep children and staff safe.  Watch and listen to the event at  http://www.senate.gov/isvp/?type=live&comm=help&filename=help021214 Follow the event and news from Senator Harkin about the legislation on twitter @SenatorHarkin

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.  

Obstacles to addressing restraint and seclusion are faced by parents every day.  Over 2/3 of states lack laws protecting all students from 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.  Children have died and been injured and their parents did not know what was happening to them.  http://www.autcom.org/pdf/HowSafeSchoolhouse.pdf 

Watch Senator Harkin on Wednesday, February 12 at 10AM EST, at http://www.help.senate.gov/,  and follow his work to combat restraint and seclusion on twitter @SenatorHarkin

Jessica Butler
Congressional Affairs Coordinator
Autism National Committee (AutCom)
23 years of advocating for children and adults with autism

                                    


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Call Key Senate Committee to Ratify Convention of Rights of People with Disabilities ( CRPD ); Protect People with Disabilities World-Wide

PLEASE CALL THESE KEY SENATORS ON THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE AND ASK THEM TO SUPPORT THE INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES!  The treaty will come before the committee on Nov. 5 and Nov. 12 for hearings, and so this is the critical week to call!  If it is impossible or very difficult for you to call, please send an email. 
Sen. Bob Corker:   202-224-3344  (Most Important; Senior Republican on the Committee).  If you only have time to make one call, call Senator Corker.
Sen. Jeff Flake: 202-224-4521
Sen. Ron Johnson: 202-224-5323
Sen. Jim Risch: 202-224-2752
Sen. Marco Rubio: 202-224-3041
Sen. Rand Paul: 202-224-4343

Sen. Robert Menendez: 202-224-4744  (Chair; Senior  Majority member)

THEN PLEASE CALL OR EMAIL YOUR OWN SENATORS AND ASK THEM TO VOTE TO RATIFY THE INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ( CRPD ). 202-224-3121 or send an email at http://1.usa.gov/Senat  Those who oppose the CRPD are pushing back hard.  The treaty will come up for a hearing on Nov. 5 and Nov. 12 and the Senate needs to hear from you now! Call your Senators and ask them to support for and vote for the Convention!  Protect all people with disabilities world-wide!

Short Sample Message to Your Senator:
You can cut and past this paragraph into an email, if you like or write your own:

Please vote to ratify the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).   Ratifying the CRPD is important so that America can lead the rest of the world to adopt legislation and policies that embrace the rights and dignity of all people with disabilities, just as we have in the United States.  The CRPD will help other countries adopt laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and enpower people with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and inclusion and integration into all aspects of society. Thank you.


More About the CRPD


Ratifying the CRPD is important so that America can lead the rest of the world to adopt legislation and policies that embrace the rights and dignity of all people with disabilities, just as we have in the United States.  The CRPD is designed to bring protections and rights for people with disabilities worldwide.  Of 1 billion people with disabilities, 80% live in developing countries.  Many lack the basic protections we have in America under the ADA, 504, IDEA, and other important laws.  Ratifying the CRPD will allow the United States to take a leadership role in helping these nations craft similar laws. The CRPD has bipartisan support, including Senator Tom Harkin, Former Senator Bob Dole, President George H.W. Bush, and Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.


Ratifying the CRPD means that America can advocate through the treaty process for the same basic principles worldwide that we all advocate for—the same rights in the ADA, 504, IDEA, etc.   Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms for All.  Full Inclusion in Society.  End Discrimination against People with Disabilities. Universally-Designed Goods, Services, and Equipment.  Use of Assistive Technology, Augmentative Communications, Braille, Sign Language, and Other Necessary Devices and Supports.  Increase Accessibility.  End the Exclusion of Students with Disabilities from General Education or Free Education.  Seek “An Inclusive, Quality and Free Primary Education and Secondary Education [for Children with Disabilities] on an Equal Basis with Others in The Communities in Which They Live.”  “Reasonable Accommodations” and Supports to Obtain Employment, an Effective Education and Inclusion in Society.  End Abuse, Torture, and Mistreatment of People with Disabilities.  You can read the full treaty here.

Autism occurs throughout the world in people of all racial, ethnic and social backgrounds.  But some foreign countries do not recognize the existence of autism.  In those countries, people with autism may get no supports. They may be wrongly diagnosed with disorders they do not have.  They may be assumed incapable of learning and working.  They may be institutionalized, kept away from their families and communities.  Ratifying the CRPD will enable the United States ensure that citizens of these countries who have autism are integrated in society and receive rights like those the Americans with Disabilities Act created for our country.

The CRPD will protect Americans with disabilities who work and travel abroad.  These Americans face constant barriers and discrimination abroad. By ratifying the CRPD, the U.S. will offer decades of honed technical expertise to reduce barriers globally and ensure that Americans who travel and study abroad have the same access they enjoy here.
  
The CRPD will not cost the United States any extra money.  The United States will not need to change its laws.  We will continue to follow the laws we have about disabilities and other issues at the federal and state levels.   Education, homeschooling, and parental rights will remain a matter of state law--the treaty will not change those rights at all.  The treaty ratification documents contain "reservations" that protect these issues for state law.  Some people think that the CPRD will somehow affect America's homeschooling laws, but it won't.  Homeschooling will still be subject to state laws and those state laws won't be changed by the CPRD (and cannot be changed by the CPRD).  You can continue to homeschool just like you always do. 

For the CRPD to be ratified by the United States, it must be approved by the U.S. Senate. This means that 67 Senators (2/3 of the Senate) must vote in favor.  It is important that every Senator be contacted and asked to vote for ratification.

The CRPD has been scheduled for hearings on November 5 and November 12.  After that, the entire Senate can consider it.  That's why its important for you to contact your Senators and ask them to support the CPRD.  Contact your Senators' office (preferably by phone call) and ask them to support the CRPD! Please tell your Senator's staff, “I am a constituent from your state and I support the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Please support the Convention when it comes up for a vote. The CRPD is in the United States’ interests. It protects our citizens and veterans abroad, and it is vital to achieving the same goals as our disability laws, the ADA and many others.” 

Calling Senators is best because they know it takes a more effort than copying and pasting an email. So, they count it more.  But we recognize that some people cannot call, due to a disability or for another reason.  In that case, please email. If you can ask a friend to call, that will help too.


Thank You,
The Autism National Committee



Sunday, August 4, 2013

My State's Restraint and Seclusion Law's (look up your state policies and laws on restraint and seclusion)

Announcing a new publication:  My State’s Seclusion & Restraint Laws: Brief Summaries Of State Seclusion And Restraint Laws And Policies (August 4, 2013).

Several people have asked for a report that simply gives a brief summary of each state's restraint and seclusion laws ( statutes and regulations ) and policies.  This will let people look up the law in their state.  This new publication, My State’s Seclusion & Restraint Laws, by Jessica Butler, does that.  It is a short PDF publication, and has been bookmarked for each state.  There is a brief national overview at the beginning.  You can still find more detailed information, including comparisons and analyses of state practices, and illustrative maps and comparison charts for all states, in How Safe is the Schoolhouse? An Analysis of State Restraint and Seclusion Laws, available at www.autcom.org.

The two reports differ as follows.  How Safe is the Schoolhouse: An Analysis of State Restraint and Seclusion Laws categorizes each state's seclusion and restraint laws and policies down by topic area, such as limits on using restraint, limits on using seclusion, prohibitions on particularly dangerous restraints, parental notification, and many others.  States are grouped together so you can easily see which states have the same or similar practices.  There is a detailed analysis and maps and charts for various factors.  Page 106 of How Safe contained a description of each state's laws on a state-by-state basis, but this was difficult to find.  My State's Seclusion and Restraint Laws is shorter.  It lets you look up a state and see a summary of the major elements of its restraint and seclusion policy.   It also has a brief overview of the entire nation at the beginning. You can find the link here: http://bit.ly/MyStateRSlaw   My State will soon be on the autcom webpage (www.autcom.org, but you can use this link for now).


  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ASK REPRESENTATIVE: VOTE NO ON H.R. 5; STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES DESERVE THE RIGHT TO EARN A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA

CALL REPRESENTATIVE: VOTE NO TO H.R. 5; STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES DESERVE THE RIGHT TO EARN A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA

Please call your Congressional Representative (202-224-3121) and ask him/her  to vote against H.R. 5, which is called "The Student Success Act."  The bill weakens the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and allows schools to provide poor quality educations to children with disabilities with no accountability.  The bill allows schools to take millions of students with disabilities off track for a regular high school diploma as early as 3rd grade when assessment decisions are made in schools. 

If you cannot call, then send an email.  Go to http://www.house.gov/ .  In the upper right corner is a map where you can put in your zip code and find your representative to send an email.  PLEASE CALL IF YOU CAN.  THE BILL IS COMING UP FOR A VOTE ON FRIDAY, JULY 19 AND CONGRESS NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU! 


HOW H.R. 5 HARMS STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES:
The Student Success Act (H.R. 5) will let schools discriminate against students with disabilities by taking them off track to graduate high school and be college and career ready.  It will slash academic expectations for students with disabilities, allowing schools to provide a poor and inadequate education with no accountability.  HR 5 will eliminate performance targets for most schools and eliminate accountability that is important to ensure quality educations for students with disabilities and other historically underserved populations.  Please support the future of all students with disabilities and vote against the bill.  Please support the substitute offered by Congressman George Miller instead, which includes performance targets and accountability for all students, and protects students with disabilities from unlimited alternate assessments.

Under current law, schools must teach students with disabilities the same challenging curriculum as everyone else. As a result, the law ensures that students with disabilities learn at grade level.  The law also is designed to ensure when students fall behind that schools must give them the extra support they need.  Only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities are supposed to take an alternate assessment on alternate achievement standards.  The law allows this alternate assessment for up to 1% of all students (10% of students with disabilities).  The Miller substitute would continue the 1% cap. 

But H.R. 5 bill would change all of this.  It would allow schools to give as many students as they wish the alternate assessments by lifting the 1% cap.  In reality, schools could provide vastly inferior educations. Under H.R. 5 no one would be accountable for making sure that students actually learn what they need to graduate and succeed.  If a child struggles to read, the school could simply use the weaker alternative assessment, rather than teach the child to read proficiently.  Rather than continuing to support students with disabilities in achieving a high school diploma and pursuing employment and postsecondary education, the lack of a cap on the use of the assessment virtually encourages schools to expect less from students with disabilities. This will jeopardize their true potential to learn and achieve.  The bill would let schools to take millions of students with disabilities off track for a regular high school diploma as early as 3rd grade when assessment decisions are made in schools.  This will relegate them to lower career and college expectations—simply because they receive special education services. 


The existing cap of 1% supports current practice and ongoing research into assessing students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.  This is the cap in current regulation and it would be continued under the Miller substitute amendment.  To ignore this data by eliminating the cap would violate the rights of students who do not have the most significant cognitive disabilities and who should not be assessed on alternate standards. As data and student/family experience show, the decision to place a student in the alternate assessment on alternate achievement standards can take students off track for a regular diploma as early as elementary school. These limitations raise concerns for many students who are currently placed in these assessments. The problem would grow if the cap were eliminated. 

H.R. 5 also eliminates accountability for students with disabilities and other students from historically underserved populations.   Instead of requiring schools to meet performance targets set by their states, it eliminates accountability all together.  It is important that Congress establish performance targets and accountability requirements for all schools, and that Congress require that schools intervene when students are not making appropriate progress.  High school graduation rates for students with disabilities are below 66 percent in 30 states.  Schools must take action to address gaps in academic performance for all students and require all subgroups, including students with disabilities, to make annual progress towards performance targets and achievement goals.  In addition, HR 5 will cut funding for educational programs very significantly.  This harms all students, including students with disabilities.  Schools will look for ways to cut costs when their funding is cut, and it become all too easy to do it by failing to provide students with disabilities the education that they need.  Instead, those students will be given the alternate assessments, which enables schools to gloss over these problems.  

H.R. 5:
  •  Allows States and school districts to officially marginalize every student with a disability (and their academic potential), and expect less of them by virtue of having a disability
  • .
  • Fails to impose performance targets and accountability standards that ensure that schools work to improve education for all students
  • INCORRECTLY promotes that most students with disabilities can’t learn or achieve when most students with disabilities are able to learn and achieve, just like all other students, when provided appropriate services and supports.
  • Promotes abuse and overuse of alternate assessments by allowing any student with a disability to be tested through these assessments.
  • Will turn back the clock on advances made in educating students with disabilities in the past 10 years:
           --Most students with disabilities taking the general state assessment
           --Improved results in reading and math
           --Increased graduation from high school and higher college attendance rates
 

HOW TO CONTACT CONGRESS:  Please call your Congressional Representative (202-224-3121) and ask him/her  to vote against H.R. 5, which is called "The Student Success Act."  If you cannot call, then send an email.  Go to http://www.house.gov/ .  In the upper right corner is a map where you can put in your zip code and find your representative to send an email.  PLEASE CALL IF YOU CAN. THE BILL IS COMING UP FOR A VOTE ON FRIDAY, JULY 19 AND CONGRESS NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU! 

THANK YOU.
THE AUTISM NATIONAL COMMITTEE