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Cover Letter Provided to Legislators in Early 2009

Missouri: Families Against Seclusion and Restraint

Right now in the state of Missouri and across the country, there IS a problem with the overuse and abuse of seclusion and restraint. Everyday individuals with disabilities are being restrained and forced into seclusion ("time-out", "isolation", "safe", etc.) rooms, often for noncompliance issues and/or after being antagonized. When they are restrained, this quickly escalates any behavior because they are often frightened and/or do not understand what is happening to them. To many, their reactions often then "justify" the use of seclusion rooms.

Many people cannot fathom that this is going on or that it is allowed to continue. Most people want to believe these cases are isolated, far and few between. The truth is, it shouldn't even have to happen to ONE child, but parents are burdened with the task of proving that abuse and misuse is happening and that it is happening statewide.

Many parents and school employees are afraid to come forward. They are afraid of retaliation from the school district towards themselves, the child who experienced the abuse, or even other children in the district. Some parents can't talk because they are in the middle of litigation. Some parents and staff have been convinced that this treatment is in the best interest of the child or that it was a one-time error. Others still choose to move to get their child out of the dangerous situation, but are not aware that while their child is now safe, there are possibly other children still in the district who are not.

And sadly, there are many parents who do not even know their child is being abused in this way--a crisis plan may indicate that "Time-Out" or a "Safe room" be used, but parents have no idea what those rooms really are, the minor reasons children are placed in the rooms, or how long children are subjected to stay there.

It is easy to sit back and wait for the individuals to fail and then "justify" this abuse and mistreatment because the individual is perceived as "dangerous". But what about the choices that the educational system is refusing to make, such as providing adequate services, support, and accommodations to give these individuals a chance at being successful?

I do not believe a system's failure is justification to abuse or mistreat individuals, especially those with disabilities.


Angelique Hemmer

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