Autism Society Sends Letter to Sen. Harkin in Support of Keeping Students Safe
June 4, 2012
By Scott Badesch, Autism Society President and COO
The Autism Society applauds Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) for his work on behalf of the Keeping all Student Safe Act. The Autism Society believes in protecting the dignity and well-being of all individuals affected by autism.
June 4, 2012
The Honorable Tom Harkin
United States Senator
731 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Harkin:
It is with great enthusiasm that the Autism Society of America (ASA) supports the introduction and passage of Senate Bill 2020, Keeping all Students Safe Act.
We strongly believe that it is far beyond the time for a national policy addressing restraints and seclusion in our schools. In 2009, a Government Accountability Office study found children have been injured, traumatized, and even killed through restraint and seclusion in schools. In March 2012, data released by the Department of Education showed that nearly 40,000 students were physically restrained during the 2009-10 school year. Nearly 70% of those restraints were of children with disabilities. There have been numerous news reports of students harmed by restraints and seclusion. We actually have a case of one provider in Massachusetts still using the archaic and very dangerous electric shock therapy to control behaviors of their developmentally disabled residents.
Less than 1/3 of states restrict restraint and seclusion use to emergencies involving an imminent risk of physical harm. While federal law protects children and adults from the use of restraints and seclusion in hospitals, group homes, and nursing homes, no similar federal laws exist to protect children in schools.
The Keeping All Students Safe Act will promote a shift toward preventing problematic behavior through the use of de-escalation techniques, conflict management and evidence-based positive behavioral interventions and supports. This shift will help school personnel understand the needs of their students and safely address the source of challenging behaviors – a better result for everyone in the classroom. 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, which serves children with disabilities in 35 school districts, has cut the use of restraint and seclusion from well over 1,000 occurrences per year to less than 10 through the use of positive supports. Reports and studies have also shown that students and staff are safer when positive interventions and supports, rather than restraint and seclusion, are used in schools. Worker's compensation costs even decrease significantly.
S. 2020 will also ensure that restraint is used only in emergencies posing an imminent threat of physical danger. If less restrictive and dangerous measures like de-escalation, conflict management, and positive behavioral supports will prevent the threat, the bill will require that they be used. The bill will provide similar protections from dangerous seclusion. It will ensure that school districts promptly notify parents if their children have been subjected to emergency procedures. It will ban the use of restraints that impede breathing or harm children or staff. The bill will ensure that staff is properly trained in evidence-based methods to minimize the use of restraint and seclusion and to protect children and staff.
We ask Congress to pass the Keeping All Students Safe Act and make our schools safer for students and staff. America needs more than the current patchwork of state laws to ensure that every child is afforded protection.
Scott B. Badesch
President/Chief Operating Officer
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