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Personal Letter: Thank You/HB1810/HB1543

Representative Smith,

Thank you for supporting autism insurance reform. I hope that this can springboard into equal health care for all those with developmental/neurological disabilities in the near future. Have you seen HB1810?

Also, I have spoken to you before regarding the abuse of restraint and seclusion in schools (Did you hear federal legislation passed committee yesterday?), and you will be hearing more from me soon regarding the "use of force to protect person or property" provision in HB1543 (http://nomoseclusion.blogspot.com/2010/01/corporal-punishment-and-use-of-force-in.html) and how I think this language will indirectly allow the continuing misuse and abuse of restraint (as what is happening to this Missouri child right now: http://nomoseclusion.blogspot.com/2010/01/young-boys-story.html).

These issues, along with other repeated failures of the school system, are the reason why I homeschool my children with disabilities; however, I understand the need to preserve teacher rights and the responsibility to ensure a quality and safe education for children. This is one of the reasons I am still advocating on the issue of restraint and seclusion even though it no longer directly effects my children.

Legislation can have negative unintended consequences, as I believe will be the case with the "use of force to protect person or property" provision in HB1543. The misuse of restraint and seclusion is a serious and widespread issue. The law passed last year in Missouri only bans locked seclusion; however, it leaves it up to individual school districts to decide how, when, and why to use dangerous, life threatening forms of restraint. I wouldn't be concerned with local school district's regulating and monitoring themselves on this serious issue if there wasn't already proof of this type of abuse happening for over a decade all over the country.

Regulating the use of seclusion and restraint not only protects student, it protects teachers and staff. It would be a serious disservice to children and schools to continue using the provision "use of force to protect persons or property". As in last year's HB96, "use of force" and "property destruction" are not defined, and since Missouri does not ban harmful methods of "force" (restraint), a child could be legally held face down for property destruction as minor as ripping up paper. I know this sounds inconceivable, but it is happening repeatedly to a small child right now (http://nomoseclusion.blogspot.com/2010/01/young-boys-story.html) and will continue happening if something is not changed.

Please let me know if you would like to discuss any of these issues, otherwise I will be contacting your office to discuss my concerns regarding "use of force to protect person or property" provision in HB1543 in the near future.

Ange Hemmer

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