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Take Action Now: Missouri HB 1543 and Federal Legislation HR 4247 and SB 2860

February 10, 2010

**Please note, once I get the emails out, I will return to this post and try to improve the readability!**

Missouri HB 1543, a proposed state omnibus bill dealing in part to improve school safety, is continuing the use of corporal punishment in schools and adding the vague language “use of force to protect persons or property”. This bill is far from the minimal standards set forth by proposed federal legislation HR 4247 and SB 2860.

• HB 1543 (state): http://www.house.mo.gov/content.aspx?info=/bills101/bills/hb1543.htm
• HR 4247 (federal): http://edlabor.house.gov/documents/111/pdf/markup/FC/HR4247-PreventingHarmfulRestraintandSeclusioninSchoolsAct/MILLCA_171_xml.pdf

The proposed language in Missouri HB 1543 does not protect teachers or students in several ways:

• Does not define “use of force,” “to protect persons or property,” “reasonable,” or “certificated personnel”

• Does not require notification to parents if schools apply “use of force” or “spanking”

• Does allow any school personnel to apply “use of force” but only allows “certificated personnel” to apply “spanking” (certificated in what?)

• Does not require any follow up (such as a visit to school nurse) to ensure applying “use of force” or “spanking” was in fact “reasonable” nor any methods as to avoid future applying of “use of force” or “spanking”

• Does not ban proven deadly “use of force” (restraints) such as those that restrict breathing (e.g., prone restraint)

• Does not ban “spanking”. There was an amendment to ban spanking of special education students, but this has been withdrawn as of 2/10/2010

• Does not allow Children's services to conduct an investigation if abuse allegations are due to “spanking” or “use of force to protect persons or property”. (To understand more about the convoluted investigation process, go here http://dss.mo.gov/cd/pdf/guidelines_can_reports.pdf.)

Who determines what is “reasonable”?

We would like to believe that school districts and school personnel can determine, with good judgment, what constitutes what is “reasonable”, but even stories over the past month show this not to be the case (see below). Not all schools or teachers are bad and many, if not most, have good judgment and intent; however, this bill does not protect those students who are attending schools or who have teachers that are using poor judgment and are abusing corporal punishment and/or use of force nor does it protect students or personnel when personnel hasn’t had access to adequate training and support.

• Feb. 2, 2010: Queens girl Alexa Gonzalez hauled out of school in handcuffs after getting caught doodling on desk: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2010/02/05/2010-02-05_cuffed_for_doodling_on_a_desk.html

• Feb. 4, 2010: Two-inch LEGO gun gets 4th-grader in trouble: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/35234742/ns/today-today_people/

• Feb. 8, 2010: Mom upset with corporal punishment at son’s New Mexico school (note pictures): http://bit.ly/dsuFWH

• Current and ongoing: Missouri mom’s testimony regarding extensive use of force on 6 year old with disability: http://nomoseclusion.blogspot.com/2010/01/young-boys-story.html

Corporal punishment/use of force

• According to The Center for Effective Discipline, Missouri is one of only 20 states that still allows corporal punishment (in Missouri’s case “spanking” is allowed) in schools: http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=statesbanning

• Corporal punishment and “use of force” is used much more often on poor children, minorities, children with disabilities, and boys: http://www.aclu.org/human-rights/impairing-education-html#toc19

• Schools are the only institutions in America in which striking another person is legally sanctioned. It is not allowed in prisons, in the military or in mental hospitals. Schools are also the only place where use of restraint and seclusion remains mostly unregulated: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09719t.pdf

Missouri model policy in progress

Experts in the state of Missouri (designated as such by DESE in agreement with Missouri statute) agree that the use of force such as restraint and seclusion should only be used in cases of imminent harm and that certain forms of restraint should not be used (e.g., prone restraint). Local, state, and national experts in the fields of education and behavior management agree that focus should be on de-escalation and positive methods of preventing behavior.

• Current statute in Missouri: http://nomoseclusion.blogspot.com/2009/11/current-statutes-in-missouri.html

• Official minutes of DESE meeting regarding restraint (use of force) and seclusion: http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AcxWbMnTyx1iZGc1ZDh2ZGdfNWh0bXo5emY5&hl=en

• Crisis Prevention Institute, Inc. Presents to Missouri Department of Education: http://www.crisisprevention.com/whatsnew/ (3rd article down)

Federal legislation in progress

The federal government is currently working on legislation to avoid the misuse and abuse of seclusion and restraint (a type of “use of force”) in part because states and local school districts have failed to do so. The federal bills in progress (HR 4247 and SB 2860) are consistent with the Children’s Health Act of 2000 and federal protections already in place in other settings.

• Bill text: http://edlabor.house.gov/documents/111/pdf/markup/FC/HR4247-PreventingHarmfulRestraintandSeclusioninSchoolsAct/MILLCA_171_xml.pdf

• General information: http://edlabor.house.gov/blog/2009/12/preventing-harmful-restraint-a.shtml

Take action: protect the teachers and the students

• Call your state representatives and senators and tell them that the provision regarding “spanking” and “use of force” in HB 1543 does not protect teachers, students, or school districts. At a minimum, Missouri should:

 Ban deadly “use of force” (i.e., restraints) such as those that restrict breathing (e.g., prone restraint)

 Define what is “reasonable”, for example in other areas as of HB 1543 “acts of violence” is used and in federal bill “imminent harm” is used

 Ban corporal punishment

 Require parent notification when “use of force” or “spanking” (if left in bill) is applied

 Require minimal training in positive interventions, de-escalation, and safe methods of “use of force”

• Call your federal representatives and tell them to support HR 4247 and SB 2860. We need a minimal federal baseline to keep students and school staff safe. It is clear that even with current information, states such as Missouri are missing the point!

Government contacts

• Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee (state): http://house.mo.gov/content.aspx?info=/bills101/commit/com455.htm
• Missouri Joint Committee on Education (state): http://www.senate.mo.gov/jced/index.htm
• Missouri Senate Education Committee (state): http://www.senate.mo.gov/10info/comm/educ.htm
• Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (state): http://governor.mo.gov/contact/
• Missouri congressional members (federal): http://nomoseclusion.blogspot.com/2009/12/how-to-contact-congress.html

Ange Hemmer
Missouri: Families Against Seclusion and Restraint

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