Giving Our Children A Voice When Restraint and Seclusion Is Being Used.

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Three years ago now, we had to remove our son from his school because we had concerns for his safety.  Our happy little boy had become afraid of school and the "angry eyes" there.  His begging us to not send him with tears in his eyes, became a daily occurrence.  He had anxiety about school, undoubtedly because he had started to become restrained there numerous times a week, one time coming home with trauma to the skin under his arm pits.  In that one particular instance it took the school 2 weeks to give us an account of what had transpired, while during this time our son continued to be restrained numerous times a day. 

We learned that he was being placed in a small space off of one of the classrooms with one aide, who had been instructed to ignore him. On these occurrences, he was there for close to an hour, being ignored in a room with nothing but a filing cabinet. Even after we requested for him not to be brought to this space, he still was.   

Now, our son had never been aggressive before.  And while we understood that school is a different environment and there are more demands placed, we began to ask the school questions and press for more information.  As parents, we needed to understand how this change in personality at school happened.  Unfortunately, we were not afforded the right to transparency of the situations or communication with staff involved. 

We understood, and respected that staff had the right to protect themselves, or others, in situations that eminent harm was present (as stated in special education laws).  The problem was we did not feel this was the case and we had no way of finding out what was happening behind closed doors.  All we knew was there was a significant change in our son, his new fearful feelings about school and "teachers hurting him" along with, what we felt was guardedness, from a school that should be completely transparent when something as traumatizing as restraint and seclusion is being used. 

I would love to say that our son’s story was his alone, but unfortunately that is just not the truth. The stories that I have heard are heartbreaking.  Children are so very vulnerable and when they do not have the ability to communicate and something that has been shown to cause injury, trauma and even death is being used, it becomes that much more important to have a way to view what transpires in these situations. 

Collectively, we need to make sure that our children have a voice. We need to make sure that teachers have the training and help they need to not use restraint and seclusion as a first resort and we need to ensure that children are being taught the skills they need and be given the patience and support they deserve in school.  This bill has challenges, but we hope that it's a starting point for better safeguards in our school and that it starts a much needed conversation about the importance of this issue. 

We urge you to sign this petition and help support H.3758, a bill that would require:

1. Video monitoring be installed in Special Education Programs at a parent request.

2. Documentation and disclosure when time-outs are used.

3. A Creation of a Task Force that would study the effects of restraint and seclusion in our schools.