What can you do to help prevent restraint and seclusion in our schools? Support pending legislation that seeks to do just that. United States Senator Tom Harkin (Chair, Health Education Labor and Pension Committee) introduced Senate Bill 2020 ("S. 2020"), KEEPING ALL STUDENTS SAFE ACT, in December 2011. The bill would ban physical restraint except in emergency situations when there is an immediate threat of serious bodily injury. This bill will protect children nationwide from restraint and seclusion in schools. The bill would have prevented a 7 year old boy from being restrained and secluded within the basement of an elementary school in the Deer Valley Unified School District. More aptly termed “scream rooms,” such seclusion rooms are exactly what Federal bill S. 2020 seeks to eliminate. The bill bans seclusion - confinement - of children in locked rooms and rooms from which they cannot exit. It bans life-threatening restraint that interferes with breathing or the ability to communicate, and mechanical and chemical restraints. It requires schools to notify parents within 24 hours of restraint. Please write to our U.S. Senators, Jon Kyl and John McCain, to co-sponsor the national Keeping All Students Safe Act.
Restraint and seclusion are dangerous, emotionally / psychologically and physically, and sometimes fatal. A study at the national level by the Government Accountability Study found that hundreds of children, mostly with disabilities, had been subjected to restraint and seclusion in school, resulting in death, injury, and psychological trauma. Examples included a 7 year old who died because she could not breathe as she was being held face down for hours by school staff, 5 year olds tied to chairs with bungee cords and duct tape and suffering broken arms and bloody noses, and a 13 year old who hung himself in a locked seclusion room while a teacher sat outside.
Arizona has no legislation pending for safety in the schools. Arizona Department of Education spokesperson Andrew LeFevre says only that Arizona chooses to let school districts decide what they'd like to do. Arizona had a task force that made "recommendations" in 2009 addressing behavior management in special education. The "Task Force on Best Practices in Special Education and Behavior Management" (created by Arizona Senate Bill 1197) was chaired by Michael Remus, the Director of Student Support Services for the Deer Valley Unified School District, the site of the scream room profiled in the news recently. Mr. Remus announced the findings and recommendations of the Task Force. See http://www.azsos.gov/info/reports/08272009Behavior_Task_Force_Best_Practices_Report.pdf. School districts were asked to consider the recommendations, but not required to adopt them. Moreover, even if a school district adopted behavior management policies, there is no enforcement agency. The seclusion room at Desert Sage Elementary School in Mr. Remus' district would appear counter to the recommendations of the Task Force chaired by Mr. Remus. We desperately need legislation that protects our children in schools. Contact your state legislators as well and, please, sign this petition: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/end-scream-room.html.