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I subscribe to the Wrightslaw Special Ed Advocate Newsletter. The Wrightslaw.com website (run by two people named "Wright"-who would have figured), which is a great source for getting/keeping yourself informed with all things having to do with special education law. They also publish a few books, which I have found helpful.
The use of restraints and seclusion in U.S. schools has been a fairly hot topic over the last few years in the U.S. There are at least 3 different (general) views on this. One, that all people deserve basic human rights, and tying them down and putting them into locked closets at school are not the type of thing that should be done to anyone. A second view (we'll refer to it as "the ignorant view", for lack of a better term), thinks that special ed kids shouldn't be mainstreamed with the general population in schools. And if they are, then if they are at all "disruptive" then it is perfectly OK to do "whatever it takes" to preserve peace and quiet in the schools, including tying kids down, putting them in locked closets, or having them arrested. And wouldn't things just be much better if they all just went back to "some other place" to be
Federal laws (referred to as "bills" before they are passed) are passed in the U.S. by being voted on by two houses of Congress, the House of Representatives (or just "House") and the Senate. After being signed by the President (or in some cases, even after them not being signed) the bill becomes law.
The U.S. House passed H.R. 4247 (the House version of the bill), and passed it on to the Senate. The Senate version is referred to as S. 2860. Evidently the Senate version would change how student's Individual Education Plans, or IEP's, are administered.
Wrightslaw sent out an e-mail alert today, stating:
The Senate would let school staff put restraint and seclusion in a child’s IEP or 504 plan. Call your Senators now and ask them to reject this proposal.
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.
The new law (S. 2860) would take precedence over the old law (IDEA).
The Wrightslaw alert also included these helpful instructions for taking action:
How to Call Your Senator
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Call Senator Tom Harkin and ask for his disability counsel (phone 202-224-3254, fax 202-224-9369). Senator Harkin 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.
Here is a link to http://www.senate.gov/, which has a nice little "drop down" box on the top right to find your own state's senators, and to the committee page for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, http://help.senate.gov/.
Senator Tom Harkin, from Iowa, has always been a pretty good advocate for disability issues. He is also the Chair of this committee. Even if you don't live in his state, I urge you to contact him, and not let this portion of the bill be included.
For a brief overview of how U.S. laws are made, watch this: