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Letter Regarding H.R. 4247/ S. 2860

I write many letters, copy and pasting from different information and past letters. On occasion (i.e., when I have time and/or remember!) I try to post some of my personal letters here so that anyone can take whatever information they need to make advocating for this issue easier.

I am a parent of a child who experienced the misuse of seclusion and restraint in public school and founder of Missouri: Families Against Seclusion and Restraint.

I encourage you to take H.R. 4247/ S. 2860 The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act seriously as a federal issue and responsibility. The states are failing. Children are not safe. Until recently, Missouri had no laws guiding restraint and seclusion. The law passed in 2009 only bans placing a child in a locked room and does not address restraint. Otherwise it loosely mandates that the local school districts develop their own policies that address “the use of restrictive behavioral interventions as a form of discipline or behavior management technique” but does NOT require data collecting, reporting, monitoring, or accountability. There has also been state legislation introduced (HB 1543) that allows “use of force to protect persons or property”, yet there are no definitions or restrictions. This same bill does not allow Children’s services to conduct an investigation until the school district conducts its own investigation and, then, only if the school district finds itself liable for abuse.

My son Zach was denied appropriate evaluations, services and accommodations for months after transition from preschool to kindergarten. Shortly after he turned 6 years old it was clear he was suffering and not coping well with lack of support. Out of confusion, desperation, misguidance, and lack of information, Zach’s father and I agreed to allow restraint and seclusion in the crisis plan of Zach’s behavioral intervention plan. We were assured that it would never be used unless there was imminent harm to himself or others.

He was restrained and secluded three times in one day for behaviors such as squeezing his paraprofessional’s hand. We was also placed in the seclusion room quiet for no documented reason and left in there 20 minutes. I was unaware of how the room was being used until I requested logs. I was shocked at what I read and immediately demanded that seclusion and restraint be removed from his education plan. He was placed in the seclusion room at least one more time after that request. Due to continued and repeated failure to support Zach, we are now homeschooling Zach and his 6 year old brother.

I do not believe a system's failure is justification to abuse or mistreat individuals, especially those with disabilities. I encourage you to support this legislation and also suggest the following changes:

• The bill should not only apply to locked seclusion but to situations where children are forced into other spaces from which they cannot exit. A door may be unlocked but blocked by furniture or a teacher may be holding it shut, which is the case when my son was placed in a seclusion room at 6 years old.
• The bill should also protect a child’s entire body against harmful restraint, including restraints to the chest, abdomen, or other body parts that don’t affect the arms, legs, and head (e.g., prone and supine restraint).

Also, please DO NOT remove the section where it is prohibited to include restraint or seclusion as planned interventions in student’s education plans, including Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). These procedures are NOT interventions, but proof of failed treatment.

Please respond with your viewpoint and intentions. If you require any further information, please contact me; I would love to discuss this serious issue with you regarding the abuse of children in our schools.


Ange Hemmer

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