Implement Safe Restraint Policies for Special Needs Children in Indiana Schools

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Target: Governor Mike Pence

Goal: Establish and regulate seclusion and restraint policies for use in Indiana schools.

Currently the Indiana Department of Education suggests that schools adopt their own policies on the use of seclusion and restraint. The mere suggestion of creating such regulation has resulted in a number of schools with bad policies and many with no policies at all. Please sign this petition and demand that Indiana lawmakers establish and regulate seclusion and restraint policies to protect both children and educators.

Seclusion and restraint policies are intended to provide educators with resources to handle out-of-control children safely and effectively. In many cases these resources are accessed when dealing with special needs children. Seclusion rooms are enclosed spaces that are supposed to be used to calm or restrain children who become violent. When getting physical with a child becomes mandatory, restraint procedures provide educators with tactful, safe and hopefully effective measures to calm the child.

Unfortunately, recent studies have found that seclusion rooms are more often used to punish students who misbehave and restraint procedures range in their effectiveness and proper implementation. Indiana has seen some of the most alarming stories in the past couple of years where educator judgment has been outright wrong. Educators have been accused of striking disabled students, locking students in “safe rooms” and one teacher was accused of deliberately trying to sicken a 7-year-old boy with autism and food allergies. Most recently, an 8-year-old girl with Down syndrome returned home with her shoes and socks duct taped so tightly around her ankles that she could not walk.

Indiana is one of 20 states that lack laws requiring school policies that prohibit excessive use of seclusion and restraint. Special education advocates are urging Indiana lawmakers to adopt policies that would not only protect the students, but also the educators. The Indiana Center for Autism is also supporting seclusion and restraint policies cautioning that the wrong approach to an upset child can escalate challenging behaviors.

Please sign this petition and urge Indiana lawmakers to establish, regulate and enforce policies prohibiting excessive force and restraint, while also guiding educators in implementation.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Governor Pence,

Recently an 8-year-old girl with Down syndrome had her socks and shoes duct taped to her by an educator at Westlake Elementary School in Indianapolis. This alarming and disturbing story brought to my attention your state’s lack of seclusion and restraint policies. I am writing to urge you to establish, regulate and enforce policies protecting children from excessive force and seclusion while at school.

Indiana is one of 20 states that do not require schools to have policies against excessive restraint and seclusion. Unfortunately, that oversight has led to abuse and neglect in the classroom. Seclusion rooms are intended to provide solace for students to calm down or provide a structural restraint if children become violent. Restraint procedures are established as a tool for educators to safely and effectively manage out-of-control children who pose a threat to themselves or others. Sadly, recent studies have found that seclusion rooms are more often used to punish misbehaved children, and restraint procedures are not being implemented properly.

The current system of merely suggesting that schools create their own policies has resulted in a variety of outcomes; some good, some not so good, and some non-existent. It is time for the state to step in and ensure child safety while at school. Include educators, child advocates, parents and special education professionals to establish policies that will protect both the children and the educators. A teacher’s frustration should not be taken out on students, and a special needs child should not be abused or neglected for being difficult.

Please demand that Indiana establish, regulate and enforce policies against excessive restraint and seclusion in schools.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: dispatch via Yahoo

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