Network faithful are well aware of our ongoing conversation about the Keeping All Students Safe Act, with frequent contributions on the topic from Bill Lichtenstein, Peabody Award-winning investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker whose work over the past four decades has included the investigation of the care and safety of children in state child welfare systems.
Now it is your turn to take action. The Children's Mental Health Network is excited about participating in the efforts of a group of parents and advocates who are building a multi-media campaign and community to broaden awareness of the Keeping All Students Safe Act. Last September an op-ed by filmmaker Bill Lichtenstein appeared in the New York Times. After four years of a court sanctioned gag order, Bill was finally able to speak out about the seclusion punishment a Lexington, Massachusetts school used to punish his daughter Rose, then a kindergartener, at first for behavioral issues but later for not following directions.
ABC News and other media also told the story of Corey Foster, a 16-year old with special needs who died after being restrained face down on the floor of the school basketball court by staff members. They used such force that he died of asphyxiation. Corey's mom, Sheila Foster, has been tireless in calling attention to the way Corey died in her effort to make sure no other children lose their lives at the hands of school staff.
These stories led to a flood of reports from parents around the nation about abuse and torture in schools. Every school child is vulnerable given the current situation. We wondered whose child would be next. We are creating a community around this issue through a website, a video, a listserv, experts in the field, and the participation of parents, students, educators, advocates and people from every perspective.
Restraint and seclusion are generally used on students with special needs, often by aides who lack the knowledge and training to implement them properly. These practices are also disproportionately used with children of color and parents who speak up are often intimidated or retaliated against in their communities. The harm that results from these techniques could be eliminated with the passage of this federal legislation. Federal guidelines would provide training, support, and protocol for de-escalation techniques and evidence-based behavioral interventions to help keep all students and school staff safe.
We need you to take three concrete actions:
- Support: we're gathering financial support for our multi-media efforts now. Join us for as little as $1.00 – every bit counts. For individuals who give $25 or more, you'll receive credit on the website and in other media as Charter Sponsor of this campaign. All supporters will receive our weekly newsletter and access to conference calls, podcasts and other inside-track information as this initiative unfolds.
- Advocate: contact your congressional representatives to let them know how important this issue is to you. Ask your representative to speak to their associates in the Committee on Education and the Workforce to ensure that this time the bill comes to the House floor. Everyone's voice must be heard.
- Share: Invite your friends, parents you know, and others who care about the safety of all our children to join this community effort.
Join our growing community and learn more at http://keepallstudentssafe.com
Thanks Network faithful, and keep up the good work!
President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network