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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Youth Issues & Education

Bullying of Students with Disabilities Addressed in Guidance to America’s Schools

Source: U.S. Department of Education

As part of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued guidance to schools (PDF) reminding them that bullying is wrong and must not be tolerated—including against America’s 6.5 million students with disabilities.

The Department issued guidance in the form of a letter to educators detailing public schools’ responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of Americans with Disabilities Act regarding the bullying of students with disabilities. If a student with a disability is being bullied, federal law requires schools to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the issue and, as necessary, take steps to stop the bullying and prevent it from recurring.

“While there is broad consensus that bullying cannot be tolerated, the sad reality is that bullying persists in our schools today, especially for students with disabilities,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. “Basic decency and respect demand that our schools ensure that all their students learn in a safe environment. I look forward to continuing our work with schools to address and reduce incidents of bullying so that no student is limited in his or her ability to participate in and benefit from all that our educational programs have to offer.”

Since 2009, OCR has received more than 2,000 complaints regarding the bullying of students with disabilities in the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools. Read more at the Department of Education’s website.

Action Alert: Ask Congress to Support Legislation to Prevent Dangerous Restraint & Seclusion This Week!

NCIL encourages advocates to participate in efforts to expand the number of cosponsors for the Keeping All Students Safe Act.

On June 12 and 13, 2014, please call your Representative and both your Senators and ask them to cosponsor the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2036 and H.R. 1893).

First, find your Senators and Representatives. You can reach them through the Capitol Switchboard by dialing 202-224-3121 and asking for them by name. Once you are connected, ask for their education aide or disability aide. Leave a voicemail if you do not reach them. Calls are more effective, but you can also email them by using the links above. Please personalize your message, even with a single sentence.

You can also call next week, if necessary. The most important thing is for Congress to hear from many parents, people with disabilities, students, advocates, professionals, friends, families, and neighbors.

Be sure to say you are a constituent and include your City and State. Personalize this if you can. For example, describe your connection to disability. If you have a story about restraint or seclusion or worry that it could happen to your child or friends, please say so. Explain how you, your family members, friends, and the people with disabilities for whom you advocate have the right to be protected.

Please spread this message far and wide, so that our message reaches those with the power to end restraint and seclusion! Ask your colleagues, supporters, friends, and family to do the same. The more we reach out to Congress directly, the more successful we will be! Every call or email sent to Congress is very valuable and very important.

The Message: Sample Talking Points

[Be sure to say you are a constituent and include your City and State]

Please cosponsor the Keeping All Students Safe Act, S. 2036 and H.R. 1893, and protect all American students nationwide from restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools. Over 110,000 students were subjected to restraint and seclusion from 2011 to 2012. These procedures have killed, injured, and traumatized students, according to Congressional reports. They include a child suffocated in restraint after he tried to get lunch; a 7 year old who died in restraint after blowing bubbles in her milk, and a young teen who hanged himself while his teacher sat outside the seclusion room. These dangerous procedures are often used when no one is at risk of harm. Parents often are not notified or find out much later; prompt notification is necessary to detect concussions and seek medical help. The Keeping All Students Safe Act, S. 2036 and H.R. 1893, will forbid the use of restraint except in emergencies threatening physical safety. Both will prevent non-emergency seclusion. Both require schools to notify parents on the same day. The bills will promote a necessary shift towards positive behavioral interventions that evidence shows will keep students safe.  [Read more…]

Cultivating Disability Studies: A Divergent Approach to Disability Rights

Ashton Rosin

Equality Now America for All 2010 protest signThis week the New York Times directed the spotlight to the field of Disability Studies, the academic lens used to understand the complexities of disability, by publishing “Disability Studies: A New Normal”. The title alone suggests not only a shift in societal attitudes regarding the disability community, but the increasingly common field of study found in course catalogs at universities across the nation.

The article sheds light on the experiences of students who have delved into the academic field of disability studies, illustrating their interest in the field, the history of the academic movement, and the tangible implications of studying disability in the classroom. In doing so, the New York Times has successfully garnered attention for the growing field of study and has illuminated opportunities for the growth of the disability rights movement.

The drive towards disability studies is founded in many different avenues; the personal connection to disability, the infatuation with social issues, and ultimately the recognition of the inevitability of disability, as “disability is a porous state; anyone can enter or leave at any time. Live long enough and you will almost certainly enter it”. Embracing the notion that the body evolves, that the able body is truly a temporarily able body makes the study of disability relevant for all people regardless of class, race, ethnicity, or religion. This recognition, coupled with the aging of the baby boomers, has prompted greater awareness of disability and the consequential growth of the field of disability studies.  [Read more…]

Action Alert: Contact Congress to Help Stop Restraint & Seclusion

A young girl holds a protest sign that says "I am not a puzzle - I am a person"Every student deserves to learn and grow in a safe, supportive environment, yet each day students across the U.S. continue to be subjected to restraint and seclusion abuse. We can do more to protect students with disabilities, and we can start by advocating for federal policy that puts an end to restraint and seclusion abuse.

As a partner organization of the Stop Hurting Kids campaign, The National Council on Independent Living is asking you to contact your congressperson in the U.S. House of Representatives with a simple message: stop hurting students. It takes just minutes to make a difference, and you can do it right from the Stop Hurting Kids campaign website at stophurtingkids.com.

We’re reaching out to members of the House because H.R. 1893, known as the Keeping All Students Safe Act, has already been introduced, and has a chance of being included as an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. All it takes is for Congress to vote “yes” to include this amendment, and the provisions outlined in the bill will be included in the House’s version of ESEA.  [Read more…]

Stop Hurting Kids: A National Campaign to End Restraint and Seclusion Abuse in Schools

Stop Hurting Kids Campaign LogoStop Hurting Kids, the national campaign to end restraint and seclusion abuse in schools, kicks off today, May 30, 2013 with a special film screening. You can participate in this event either in person or virtually over the Internet.

Stop Hurting Kids seeks to spark a public dialogue about the dangers of restraint and seclusion practices, and gain support for the adoption of practices and policies that maintain a learning environment free from the threat of these abuses. The campaign promotes resources for safe and effective alternatives, and calls upon parents, educators, policy makers and advocates to take action.

The film screening will feature Restraint and Seclusion: Hear Our Stories, the latest documentary from filmmaker Dan Habib (Including Samual, Who Cares About Kelsey?). It will also include special guests Michael Yudin of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and Larke Huang or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

At stophurtingkids.com, you can sign up to join the campaign and help spread the word. You can find the campaign on Twitter at twitter.com/End_RS, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stophurtingkids.

Action Alert: Ask Your Representatives to Co-Sponsor and Support Newly Introduced Restraint / Seclusion Legislation in the House of Representatives!

Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied 2012 Protest SignCongressman George Miller (D-CA; ranking member of the House Education & Workforce Committee) and Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS) recently introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act, HR 1893, a bill to protect all students nationwide from restraint and seclusion.

NCIL strongly supports legislation to end restraint and seclusion and we know our members do, too. Please take this opportunity to contact your Representative and ask them to co-sponsor and support the Keeping All Students Safe Act, HR 1893.

When you call, ask for the staff person who handles education issues. Contacting your Representative by phone is the most effective way to communicate your message. If you are unable to use the telephone to contact your Representative, you can contact them by email.

Talking Points / Reasons to Support the Keeping Students Safe Act, HR 1893  [Read more…]

An Update from the NCIL Education Subcommittee: Sequestration, DOE’s Equitable Service Plan, Common Core Testing, Restraint & Seclusion, and Safe Schools

NCIL Members Solicited to Serve on the Education Subcommittee

The Education Subcommittee monitors and participates in the development and implementation of education-related federal legislation and policy. The Subcommittee encourages grassroots efforts to advocate for strong education policy and implementation at the federal, state and local level. If you are interested in joining the Subcommittee, please contact Maureen Hollowell at mhollowell@endependence.org, 757-351-1584 (voice), or 757-461-7527 (TDD).

Budget Sequestration and Education

School districts have received federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding for the current school year. Sequestration, as it stands now, will result in a reduction of funds to schools in the coming school year. Funds for public education will be significantly reduced. School districts will need to make difficult decisions about services. It will be important that advocates remind students, parents and educators that Part B of IDEA must still be implemented. Part B includes the provision of IEP services, accommodations, and other related provisions. Student rights and school responsibility for Part B implementation is not tied to federal funding. Student rights and school responsibility for Part B implementation must be upheld regardless of sequestration. Read more about the impact of sequestration on education.
[Read more…]

Restraint and Seclusion in the 113th Congress

Force Is Not Recovery 2012 protest signNCIL remains committed to advocating for federal legislation that will regulate the use of restraint and seclusion in school settings. We continue to work with several coalitions and with Congressional leaders in both the House and Senate to achieve this goal in the 113th Congress. Soon, we will need you to contact your legislators in order to garner their support for the bills.

In the 112th Congress, bills were introduced in the Senate by Tom Harkin (D-IA and Chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee) and in the House by George Miller (D-CA and Ranking Member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee). Both leaders have returned for the 113th Congress and remain dedicated to the work to end this horrible practice and institute safe processes, such as positive behavioral and intervention supports (PBIS).

The advocacy work around ending restraint and seclusion has created a “buzz” in the press.

Last year, Senator Harkin introduced us to Sheila Foster when he called her as a witness in a full hearing of the Senate HELP Committee. Foster lost her son, Corey Foster, on April 18, 2012 at a New York state-funded school. Corey was restrained by 4-5 school employees who “piled on his back and held him down”. He suffocated and died. Sheila Foster has vowed to end this barbaric treatment. She has started a petition to stop restraint and seclusion and has appeared on the national news to publicize her goal. The petition currently has 2,198 signatories and a goal to collect 10,000.  [Read more…]

2013 Through the Looking Glass Scholarship: Application Now Available

Update: Through the Looking Glass and its National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families have expanded the eligibility requirement for its 2013 Scholarships for Students who have Parents with Disabilities.  In addition to students enrolled in a two- or four-year college, students who attend an accredited technical or vocational school are also eligible to apply for these scholarships.   

Through the Looking Glass and its National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families have announced new scholarships specifically for high school seniors or college students who have parents with disabilities. A total of fifteen $1000 scholarships will be given out Fall 2013. These scholarships are part of Through the Looking Glass’ National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families. There are separate eligibility requirements for high school seniors and for college students:

  1. High School Seniors. To be eligible, a student must be a high school graduate (or graduating senior) by Summer 2013, planning to attend a two-year or four-year college in Fall 2013 in pursuit of an AA, AS, BA or BS degree, and have at least one parent with a disability.
  2. College Students. To be eligible, a student must be currently enrolled in a two-year or four-year college in Fall 2013 in pursuit of an AA, AS, BA or BS degree, be 21 years of age or younger as of March 11, 2013, and have at least one parent with a disability.  [Read more…]

Breaking: NFB to Lead to Protest Against Amazon’s Push to Put Kindle E-books in Schools

Always Demand Accessibility 2012 signOn December 12, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. PST, over a hundred members and supporters of the National Federation of the Blind will participate in a protest outside of Amazon.com’s headquarters in Seattle. David A. Paterson, the fifty-fifth governor of the state of New York, will also be participating. The informational picket will raise awareness of a recent push by Amazon to put Kindle e-books, which are inaccessible to blind students, into K-12 classrooms across the country. [Read more…]