By Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop, November 02, 2010
A coalition of disability advocacy groups is beginning to splinter after a revised restraint and seclusion bill introduced in the Senate last month opened the door for the practices to be included in students’ individualized education plans, or IEPs.
The National Disability Rights Network — an umbrella group for the protection and advocacy organizations in each state — is now publicly supporting the new Senate bill, which allows restraint and seclusion to be included in IEPs under certain circumstances. Curt Decker, the group’s executive director, calls it a "political compromise" that is necessary in order to protect students, many of whom live in states with no regulations over the use of restraint and seclusion.
"In a perfect world (restraint and seclusion) would not belong in such a document," Decker says of the IEP. "I know there are a lot of parents who feel very strongly about this, but for those of us who work in Washington, we know that an absolute ban is a non-starter."
The news comes as the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, or COPAA, said just last week that they oppose the measure as it is now being considered, arguing that allowing restraint and seclusion in IEPs "legitimizes practices that the bill seeks to prevent."
Both groups are part of a coalition of nearly two dozen national disability advocacy groups known as The Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion, or APRAIS, that helped secure passage of a bill in the House of Representatives in March. The House version would limit restraint and seclusion to situations where there is imminent danger and prohibit the practices from being included in students’ IEPs.
However, convincing the Senate to take up the measure has been an uphill battle. In an effort to gain bipartisan support, a new version of the bill was introduced in the Senate last month that would allow for restraint and seclusion to be included in IEPs if students have a two-year history of behaviors that create an "imminent danger of serious bodily injury in school."
The change appears to be dividing advocates who were once united. Leaders of the APRAIS coalition have remained quiet since the new Senate bill was introduced. Meanwhile, member groups are determining which side they will take when Congress returns later this month.
Beyond the divisions emerging in the disability community, the restraint and seclusion bill faces other challenges. Little time remains in the current session of Congress and the measure’s chief sponsor, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., is not seeking reelection and will leave the Senate when his term expires at the end of the year.