Rich La Belle, Executive Director
Family Network on Disabilities
I’m feeling hopeful. I really am. We’re making progress. This last Wednesday, the Governor’s Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force both endorsed our call for an immediate moratorium on corporal punishment against students with disabilities and supported HB 81 on restraint and seclusion. These are very, very positive developments.
Recently, the Autism Society of Florida has endorsed the moratorium, as has the National Autism Association - Florida, the ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network), and the State Action Team of the Knowledge Information Network. Other groups are actively considering endorsing the call and I expect that a number of them will be doing so in the near future. Momentum is growing.
We’re not alone, either. Efforts are being undertaken in other states, as well. The pressure is growing to stop these practices and stop them now.
We need to keep moving forward on both fronts – to ban corporal punishment for purposes of discipline and to severely restrict and control the times when restraint may be used, under what conditions, and by who.
We also need to keep pushing the positive – everybody knows this works! The U.S. Department of Education has great resources available for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Here’s a link to the homepage for OSEP’s Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports: http://www.pbis.org/default.aspx. Spend some time here. There are wonderful and abundant resources available for free.
Florida also has great resources available – for free. Look at the information available from the state Department of Education’s Positive Behavior Support project, funded through USF: http://flpbs.fmhi.usf.edu/.
I have heard concerns lately that we may not have enough money to do the necessary training in PBS. Please, don’t say this. First, don’t equate the physical and mental safety and well-being of our children with money.
Second, there is a cost to preserving the status quo – to not doing anything. Parents whose children have been subjected to this treatment are suing and winning against school districts. There is a price that is being paid. Don’t think that doing nothing and letting this kind of behavior continue is the cheapest way to go. Spend the money wisely – not on lawyers and paying judgments – but on effective training of personnel so that our kids can achieve the best educational outcomes possible. Isn’t this what we all want in the first place?
So, where do we go from here? Please keep writing the Governor, the Commissioner of Education, and your local school boards and superintendents.
Here are the links:
The Honorable Charlie Crist, Governor
State of Florida
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
The Honorable Dr. Eric J. Smith, Commissioner
Florida Department of Education
Turlington Building, Suite 1514
325 W. Gaines Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Please also keep spreading the word and building the Cause (over 800 members as of this
Keep up to date here: www.fndfl.org/blog
We’re making progress. We can take comfort in that, but we can’t get comfortable. Keep it up and we’ll reach our goal. Our kids are counting on it.