Restraint and abuse: Time to get information out before more kids die
A Wisconsin girl died after after being restrained at a mental health facility. Her crime: blowing bubbles in her milk and moving during a time-out.
An Arkansas girl was suspended from school because she refused to go into a small isolation box that was locked at top and bottom.
In Colorado, children were locked in a seclusion room and forced to sit in their own urine because they weren’t allowed bathroom breaks. One child in a lock-down room injured himself and was left covered in blood. Other students were denied food.
These horrifying incidents are but a few that were outlined in a damning report issued last January by the National Disability Rights Network. Called Restraint or Seclusion in Schools, the report documented case after case of abuse of children, many of them with severe disabilities, at the hands of teachers and caregivers. It also highlighted the inconsistencies among state policies regarding restraint, recommended best practices, and called for change at the federal, state, and local level.
There was an outcry, as you might imagine. A few months later, the Government Accountability Office issued a similar report, outlining outrageous cases of abuse and finding that there is no federal policy on the use of restraint and seclusion.
Outrage! Horror! Promises were made. But it’s been a year since the first report, and the Department of Education has not released information on state regulations regarding these practices. The intrepid folks at Disability Scoop are on the case and have put pressure on federal officials. They report today that information will be released in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, Rep. George Miller of California has introduced legislation to curtail restraint and seclusion of children. Says Miller:
The types of abuse these kids are suffering are so disturbing, you’d think these were stories about torture tactics used at prison camps. Instead they’re happening to some of our youngest children, in our schools.
Torture tactics used at prison camps. And these things were being done to our youngest and most fragile children.
A year is too long to pass without the Department of Education issuing information and establishing forceful, unequivocal guidelines. Miller has been leading the effort on Capitol Hill, but the DOE should have taken immediate action — beyond soundbites and promises — that would ensure parents that such abuse will never happen again. It’s too late for the 14-year-old Texas child who died after being smothered while placed in a so-called “therapeutic hold.” Get the information out, and get it out now.