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What you can do to protect your child?
Sign a No Consent Form
It is important that you make it clear to your child’s teachers or other program staff that you expect an environment free of aversives, non-emergency restraint, and seclusion. You should also expect the elimination of emergencies to be a priority. To put this message on record, sign and date a No Consent Letter and have it placed prominently in your child’s IEP or treatment plan. If you have seen warning signs which you believe may result from the way your child is treated at school, or in any situation where you are not present, it is important to ask questions immediately. View a sample No Consent Letter (.doc).
Monitor Your Child’s Program
Review your child’s records (especially the contents of the education and/or treatment plan, and any “incident reports” in your child’s files), and make visits during which you carefully observe all aspects of your child’s day.
Keep careful records. Document and date anything your child says or does that concerns you; take and date photographs of any suspicious injuries.
Share your concerns with your child’s physician, psychologist, or other health care provider.
Report Abusive Practices to
State and Local Agencies - If you have witnessed, or have evidence of abuse of a child, you have the right to call the police. The rule of thumb is: if you would call for police intervention to stop this from happening to a child without disabilities, you should call to stop it from happening to a child with disabilities. Your State Education Agency (SEA) will have a help line, hot line, or other assistance program to which you should report at once.
Disputes involving your child’s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), state special education regulations, or state school disciplinary laws and regulations can be addressed through the State Education Agency’s impartial due process hearings. You have the right to request a hearing concerning your child’s placement or program at any time, and your request must be granted promptly. Requests are made by sending a letter to your child’s school principal, with copies to your district’s director of special education and/or superintendent. Your letter should state the problem and your proposed solution.
States also may have public interest education law projects and disability law projects that can provide you with important information and may be able to provide direct advocacy.
Some states have established an Office of the Child Advocate to investigate allegations of systemic abuse and neglect of children within that state’s service systems. This can be an important contact, especially when a group of parents comes forward with similar complaints.
All 50 states, The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the federal territories have a protection and advocacy system (P&As). P&As are mandated under various federal statutes to provide protection and advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities. To find your state P&A contact information to obtain assistance, go to the National Disability Rights Network website or call (202) 408-9514.
Reporting to Federal Agencies - The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education provides the primary administrative enforcement for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), two civil rights statutes that address discrimination, equal access, and reasonable accommodations, as these laws apply to schools.
Section 504 prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities on the basis of their disability. To demonstrate violation of Section 504, parents would need to show that aversive techniques, restraint, or seclusion were used on students with disabilities who engaged in certain behaviors, but were not used on students without disabilities when they engaged in similar behaviors.
The ADA addresses the need for accommodations and access in public places and might be involved, for example; if a student is restrained or secluded “for his or her own safety” when environmental modifications would have made this unnecessary. Complaints about the use of restrictive and unsafe practices, and lack of the accommodations that would make these practices unnecessary, can be lodged with OCR for investigation. If necessary, all OCR and SEA hearing reports may also be appealed to federal court.
Complaints under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) can be made to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). CRIPA gives the DOJ authority to bring legal action against state and local governments for permitting dangerous conditions and unsafe practices that violate the civil rights of persons placed in publicly operated facilities.
Join With Other Advocates Nationwide to End Abusive Interventions:
The Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions, and Seclusion (APRAIS) was founded by major national and state disability organizations to address prevention from several directions. We are working at the national level to assure children with disabilities of equal protection across funding systems and service delivery settings, and of adequately staffed and funded systems of reporting and accountability to back up these protections. We are working to convince the states to raise the bar on child safety. In addition, we are partnering with individual parents and advocates, encouraging them to support and inform each other and to act as local watchdogs.
Keep APRAIS informed of what is happening in your state, to your family, or to suggest a link to an article of interest. In turn, we will keep you informed of upcoming opportunities to bring about long-overdue changes in the laws and regulations that should protect our children. Inform APRAIS of an incident involving restraint, aversive interventions, or seclusion by contacting TASH.
Until all children with disabilities are equally protected under the law from abusive practices — regardless of their disability, where they live, or which funding stream serves them — parents will need to employ a combination of these approaches to ensure their child’s safety.