Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Are Emergency Guidelines Needed?

By Deb Davis
Parent Advocate in Maine , Ch 33 Stakeholder

The U.S. Department of Education promised restraint and seclusion guidelines “before the next school year begins”. Well, we are on the verge of another school year passing without any action. How many more children and staff will be unnecessarily traumatized? Will it take another death of student before action is taken?

This parent and stakeholder says it’s time that the U.S. Dept. of Education is accountable for the potentially deadly and inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Back in May 2009, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a letter to Chief State School Officers advising them to review or develop their state polices. He urged them “to ensure that every student in every school under their jurisdiction are safe and protected from being unnecessarily or inappropriately restrained or secluded.” http://www.pbis.org/seclusion/restraint/arne_duncans_letter.aspx

States across the country, like Maine and Florida are working hard to create or update their restraint and seclusion laws. I’ve been a stakeholder with a consensus based rule making group that has worked for more than a year to create an effective rule. DOE Rule Chapter 33 has not yet been presented to the Maine Legislature. I’ve hoped and prayed every day that it passes this session. Maine students cannot wait another school year before Chapter 33 is updated. http://www.maine.gov/education/rulechanges/chapter33/index.html

Federal standards are still necessary to fully protect all students and staff. This mom and stakeholder urges you all to write your senators to support or co-sponsor the “Keeping All Students Safe Act S. 2020”. http://tash.org/why-our-children-can%E2%80%99t-wait%E2%80%A6%E2%80%A6congress-keep-our-children-safe/

But, while Washington and some states continue gridlock, emergency guidelines are necessary to protect all students and staff in schools. Federal guidelines (versus federal law) would be way better than nothing. No action seems negligent in light of what is happening in schools every day. On May 19, 2011, Dr. Alexa Posny, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) presented nine restraint and seclusion working principles (page 14). This would be a start.  Something has to be done!http://iacc.hhs.gov/events/2011/slides_alexa_posny_051911.pdf