Thursday, April 23, 2009

Disability Rights Wisconsin announces report on seclusion of disabled children

From a Disability Rights Wisconsin press release. Pictured is a seclusion room in Tennessee.

A press conference April 20 in the Wisconsin State Capitol was convened by Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW), Wisconsin FACETS, and Wisconsin Family Ties (WFT) to release their new report entitled, "Out of Darkness…Into the Light: New Approaches to Reducing the Use of Seclusion and Restraint with Wisconsin Children."

"Out of Darkness…Into the Light" exposes the tragedy of secluding and restraining Wisconsin children in schools and treatment settings throughout the state. It describes the ways in which Wisconsin children have been both emotionally and physically injured by such practices, including one child who died in restraints. It further describes actions taken by many other states to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint of children, and calls for legislative and administrative agency action to protect Wisconsin children from these dangerous practices.

At the press conference, Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, of DRW, stated that, “no child should have to be victimized by the inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint in our schools and treatment facilities.”

Hugh Davis, of WFT, went on to state that, “the time has come for the state legislature to take action to bring an end to this ongoing Wisconsin tragedy ensuring that these measures are limited to acute emergencies involving imminent threats to the safety of people, and only when other non-coercive measures are ineffective.”

Jan Serak, of Wisconsin FACETS, added that “people need to know that these stories are just the tip of the iceberg, and without a Wisconsin law regulating these techniques, promoting positive behavior supports, requiring staff training and informed parent consent, we are sure to hear more heart-wrenching stories.”

Three parents of children who have been victimized by the inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint told their children’s stories at the press conference, all of whom are described in the report. Paula Buege relayed the story about her son, Donovan, who was secluded for an entire day at age 7. Jim Schingen told the story of his son, Justin, who had his elbow broken by a teacher who used a form of restraint he learned in the Marines. Finally, Hasmig Tempesta, talked about her 3 year old son, Zachary, who was restrained in a Rifton chair, which is designed for people with physical disabilities, not for behavioral control.

In addition, Rep. Sandy Pasch announced that she has a bill in the drafting stage which calls for reducing the use of seclusion and restraint in Wisconsin schools, making it safer when it is used, and which encourages the use of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) as a tool to prevent the use of seclusion and restraint in Wisconsin schools and teach appropriate behavior.

Copies of the report, as well as an executive summary, are available in electronic form:
Click here to download Out of Darkness - Executive Summary
Click here to download Out of Darkness - Full Report