Entries in Autism (2)


Which Congressman Is Blocking Bill That Would Protect Kids with Autism?

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Legislation aimed at protecting children with autism and other disabilities from being injured in school has stalled in the House of Representatives at the hands of a single member who objects to federal intervention.

Minnesota Republican Rep. John Kline, who chairs the House's education committee, has frozen action in the House on a proposal to institute national standards for how teachers and school staff can safely restrain students.

"Chairman Kline believes state officials and school leaders are best equipped to determine appropriate policies that should be in place to protect students and to hold those who violate those policies accountable," said Alexandra Haynes Sollberger, the communications director for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. "For this reason, the committee has not scheduled any action on seclusion and restraint legislation at this time."

Legislation was first submitted three years ago in response to rising concerns about the methods some teachers were using to restrain students who were misbehaving or out of control. Thousands of children have been injured and dozens killed in recent years after being restrained, an ABC News investigation has found.

The most recent death occurred in New York, when a special needs student suffered cardiac arrest as a group of staff at the Leake & Watts school pinned him face down on the ground, allegedly because he refused to get off of the basketball court.

A spokesperson for the school said that "extensive third-party independent reviews by the police, the District Attorney's office, the medical examiner and state officials support Leake & Watts' own internal investigation and this conclusion: Corey's death was a terrible tragedy." An autopsy ruled Corey's death an accident, saying he suffered "cardiac arrest during an excited state while being subdued."

There have been a range of other techniques employed that have raised objections from parents, ABC News found. An elementary school student in Kentucky was stuffed in a therapy bag the size of a duffle bag when he was acting up. Students in Arizona and Washington state reportedly were being held for long periods of time in so-called "scream rooms," padded closets designed to keep children safe while they calmed down. In Mississippi, the Southern Poverty Law Center intervened with a lawsuit when students reported being handcuffed to a school staircase railing.

"Children have died, suffered broken bones and other injuries, and been traumatized," said James Butler, Legislative Affairs Committee Chair for the Autism National Committee (AutCom). "But fewer than one-third of states limit restraint and seclusion to emergencies involving physical danger."


Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said he first introduced the legislation because states that were instituting any rules at all were providing an inconsistent patchwork of rules that left tens of thousands of schoolchildren unprotected.

"We see in some states where they're starting to come to grips with this," Miller said. "But it's a very mixed bag across the nation."

His legislation initially won passage in the House in 2010 with bipartisan support, but the bill stalled that year in the Senate. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, reintroduced the bill this year. Both the Senate bill and Miller's companion bill in the House have failed to move.

Objections to the measure have come in part from lawmakers like Kline who believe these matters are best left for states to decide.

"States and school districts have a shared responsibility to ensure students attend a safe learning environment," said Sollberger, Kline's spokeswoman.

Miller expressed dismay Wednesday about Kline's decision to stymie the bill.

"There is no excuse for inaction," Miller said. "In the past, this Committee has worked tirelessly on behalf of children's safety. Our investigations made clear that a federal law is necessary to protect all children across the country and ensure that children's safety does not depend on the state in which they live. I hope that we can put aside politics and ideologies, tackle these issues together, and do what we can legislatively to save children from abuse."

From outside Capitol Hill, the primary opposition to the bill has come from school administrators, who would like to see the school officials themselves retain control over discipline in their classrooms. Daniel A. Domenech, who heads the American Association of School Administrators, says the practice of restraining an out-of-control student is an unwelcome but essential part of keeping teachers and other students safe. And the vast majority of the time, he said, school officials are able to subdue a child without harm coming to anyone.

Domenech told ABC News his chief concern with the legislation was that it could put teachers in a bind – if a child poses a threat to others and they step in, would they have to risk violating a federal law to do so?

"What do they do when the child begins to hurt themselves or when they attack another child?" he asked. "Do they just stand there and watch? They don't. They intervene."

Domenech, who once oversaw the schools in Fairfax County, Va., said he agrees that more training is needed to prevent teachers from restraining children in ways that are dangerous. He winced when told of schools that stuffed children in sacks or used duct tape to restrain them.

"Restraint is something that we won't see or don't want to see put in place unless it is absolutely necessary," Domenech said. "But the problem is the training. The problem is the training."

Officials in Miller's office said they have attempted to address Domenech's concerns with language in the bill that makes it clear that teachers can intervene to protect other children from harm. But, they said, school administrators have continued to push against the measure, even as the Obama administration has begun to intervene.

This year, amidst mounting evidence that the improper use of restraint was leading to injuries and deaths, the U.S. Department of Education for the first time released its own guidelines for the use of restraint in American schools. The report concludes that there is "no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective."

"The principles make clear that restraint or seclusion should never be used except in situations where a child's behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others," wrote Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education. "And restraint and seclusion should be avoided to the greatest extent possible without endangering the safety of students and staff."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Scott Brown Donates $35K to Autism Charity for Violating Anti-Super PAC Pledge

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Hours after President Obama officially proclaimed Monday World Autism Awareness Day, Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown hand-delivered a $35,545 check to the Autism Consortium in Boston.

But while the donation was coincidentally timed, Brown did not choose the charity nor did he name the amount -- his Senate election rival Elizabeth Warren did.

After an oil lobbying group ran radio ads on his behalf, Brown was required to donate half the dollar amount spent on the ads to the charity of Warren’s choice under the stipulations of a pledge the two signed banning funding or advertisements from outside groups in their Senate race.

“I am very pleased to donate this money to the Autism Consortium and help support their incredibly important work,” Brown said in a statement. “I am also pleased that we have strengthened and expanded the People’s Pledge to include issue ads.”

The ad in question, which the American Petroleum Institute ran in print and radio ads, asked voters to tell Brown not to vote on a Democratic plan to eliminate subsidies for oil and gas companies. Because it did not specifically ask people to vote for Brown, it was not explicitly covered under the People’s Pledge that Brown and Warren signed in January.

“Closing this loophole is an important step toward keeping outside groups from influencing the Massachusetts election,” Brown said.

This is the second time Brown has paid a fine because of the pledge. In March his campaign donated $1,000 to the same autism charity after the conservative group CAPE PAC ran Google ads supporting him.

Warren has not yet had to pay a fine for violating the People’s Pledge.

The two were the first national candidates to sign a pledge banning out-of-state money following the national controversy over the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which allows businesses and individual donors to give unlimited donations to super PACs, which can support political campaigns but not directly coordinate with them.

Even without the groundbreaking pact, the Massachusetts senate race is expected to be one of the most closely watched races in the country. Brown and Warren are neck-and-neck in the race, one of about a dozen contests that will determine which party takes control of the Senate in 2013.

A Boston Globe survey released Sunday showed Brown, the incumbent senator, in a statistical tie with Warren, a Harvard professor best known for her consumer advocacy work in the Obama administration.

But with more than seven months until the election, the survey found that a quarter of Massachusetts voters are still undecided.

Both candidates have high favorability ratings on their own, but when respondents were asked which candidate was more likable, Brown blew Warren out of the water. Nearly 60 percent of voters said Brown was more likable than Warren, compared to the 27 percent that chose Warren as the most likable.

The Warren campaign blamed this likability deficit on the candidate’s lagging name recognition. According to a December University of Massachusetts Lowell/Boston Herald poll, nearly a quarter of Massachusetts voters said they had never heard of Warren.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio