RE: ICOPElistserv State officials close to tightening rules on controversial disciplinary methods for special-ed students
KINDER MY FOOT! NYSED would like you to think that.
From: "Leonie Haimson" <leonie@...>
CC: "'Carmen Alvarez'" <calvarez@...>
Subject: ICOPElistserv State officials close to tightening rules on controversial disciplinary methods for special-ed students
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2006 12:41:13 -0500
Kinder punishment plan
State officials close to tightening rules on controversial disciplinary methods for special-ed students
BY JOHN HILDEBRAND AND JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER
Newsday Staff Writers
November 30, 2006
State school officials are moving toward sweeping new restrictions on the use of shock therapy and detention rooms for special-education students, in response to complaints by some Long Island parents that such disciplinary techniques were being abused.
After more than six months' debate, state school officials expect approval early next year of comprehensive new regulations covering the controversial disciplinary methods. Proposed rules were posted earlier this month for public review and are to be taken up in January by the state Board of Regents.
Schools violating the rules would risk losing their share of $650 million in federal special-education money distributed annually statewide.
Temporary restrictions on shock therapy now in place are already sharply reducing the number of students referred for such treatments, Albany officials report. Those restrictions would become permanent under the latest proposal. Meanwhile, the Nassau Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which had been criticized for its use of timeout rooms, welcomed the proposed regulations.
Supporters say the tighter restrictions underline their determination to protect vulnerable students from disciplinary measures that could prove physically and emotionally damaging and offend public sensibilities.
"They shocked me at first," said one supporter, Roger Tilles of Great Neck, the Island's representative on the Regents board, referring to the measures. He added that some "aversive" therapies reminded him initially of those from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," a 1960s novel and subsequent film about abuse of mental patients. After review, Tilles said he realized the issues were complicated but that such therapy should only be applied case-by-case.
Tilles credited a series of Newsday reports for heightening public awareness of the potential for abuses of disciplinary techniques used by some schools. The articles, appearing over the past year, focused on two teenage students from the Island who have indicated they were traumatized by their experiences.
Under the new rules, time limits must be set for children placed in timeout rooms, and schools would have to keep records on whether detentions actually help disruptive students calm down and return to classes.
It also will be much more difficult for any child to be approved for mild shock therapy. A new panel of experts meets to review each case. So far, the panel has either rejected or sought more information on all but one or two of about 20 applications.
Finally, a list of "aversive" therapies that could cause pain or discomfort would be banned.
Even so, some student advocates feel the new rules won't go far enough. One nonprofit group, Legal Services of Central New York Inc., objects to the fact that special-education centers such as those operated by regional BOCES on Long Island still won't be required to report their use of timeout rooms to Albany.
"They continue to let the fox guard the henhouse," said Beth Wallbridge, an advocacy specialist for the Syracuse-based group that provides legal representation for the disabled.
Some parents contend the state has gone too far in trying to restrict therapies that sometimes work when other methods fail. In September, a New York parents' group won a federal court order reinstating electric skin-shock treatments for 45 students at the private Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Mass., after Regents moved to temporarily limit such treatments.
Permanent rules now under consideration would continue allowing the shocks, which center officials liken to bee stings. But no additional students would be approved for such treatment after June 30, 2009.
Rebecca Cort, a deputy state education commissioner in charge of special education, voiced hope that in five years, New York will have the ability to provide more nonaversive treatment within the state, eliminating the need to send students out-of-state.
Read the proposed State regulations about behavioral interventions at newsday.com
TO BE BANNED:
placing a student unsupervised or unobserved in a room from which the student cannot exit without assistance
application of ice
deep muscle squeezes
use of automated aversive device (such as mild electric shock units worn backpack-style)
withholding of sleep, shelter, bedding or bathroom facilities
denial or unreasonable delays in providing regular meals
A GRACE PERIOD (PRIMARILY FOR MILD SHOCK):
Exceptions made for specific children based on the judgment of new review panels will be made for the next three school years (through 2008-09).
IMPACT ON MILD SHOCK THERAPIES:
A new oversight layer has been added. New three-member independent panels of experts will be set up to review school districts' applications for exceptions to the new restrictions. Technically, the panels could allow the use of mild shock, in particular if the panel judges that the student is displaying self-injurious or aggressive behavior that threatens the student or others.
IMPACT ON "TIMEOUT ROOMS":
Schools can't put children in timeout rooms that cannot be "continuously observed and supervised." |
Time limits must be established.
Timeout room's door must be unlocked.
Data must be collected to monitor the effectiveness of the timeout room.
Schools must have procedures that allow the rooms only as part of a "behavioral intervention plan" or for unanticipated situations "that impose an immediate concern for the physical safety of a student or others."
Parents must be notified before a discipline plan is set that includes the use of timeout rooms.
HAVE AN OPINION?
The state must receive public comments on the proposals by Dec. 15 at the following address: Rebecca H. Cort, Deputy Commissioner, VESID, State Education Department, Room 1606, One Commerce Plaza, Albany, NY 12234
JULY 2005 William and Janet Schafer of Hicksville file notice of claim against Nassau BOCES and the Rosemary Kennedy Center in Wantagh, charging the institutions with wrongful imprisonment and educational deprivation after their son Billy was placed in a 5-by-6-foot "timeout" cubicle.
DECEMBER More parents come forward to complain about "timeout" rooms, and Assemb. Steve Sanders (D-Manhattan) calls for tighter rules on confinement.
DEC. 16 State tells school districts that timeout rooms must comply with agency guidelines.
MARCH 2006 The family of Antwone Nicholson, 17, sues Freeport School District for sending him to a Massachusetts facility that uses electric shock.
MARCH 20 Staff report to the Board of Regents expresses concern about use of "aversion therapy" at Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts.
MAY 22 State Education Department recommends prohibiting most uses of aversive therapies to control troubled students.
JUNE 20 Board of Regents prohibits facilities, including those out of state, from treating New York students with more than one type of aversive therapy at the same time.
SEPT. 8 Federal judge reinstates electric skin-shock treatments for 45 New York students whose parents sought to allow their children to receive the therapy.
NOV. 3 Nicholson's mother sues state Comptroller Alan Hevesi and state Education Department, saying state illegally spent estimated $150 million to send New York students to Rotenberg Center.
NOV. 15 State posts proposed regulations, for the purpose of soliciting public comment, that would dramatically restrict use of "aversive" therapies.
Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.
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