Wednesday, July 2, 2014

So I Spoke About Restraint and Seclusion to my School District (Again)

[Note: the following statement as written could be taken as supporting the increasing, and disturbing trend of using on-campus police officers to conduct disciplinary measures on students. I do not believe in supporting this system--full stop. The system of using police officers to promote "peace" at schools is a racist, ableist, and otherwise oppressive. Police officers should not be given the opportunity to handle students. I know far too many people--all Disabled students of Color--who have been hurt by this system.
In the event of a school shooting/stabbing--the situation that was vaguely discussed in the statement--police will already be using restraint because it is a police tactic, so there is absolutely no reason to even have a policy regarding restraint and seclusion other than specifically banning the technique. 
I will be providing a written comments to the Bellevue School District amending my statement to include this context and to clarify my spoken commentary.

Anyway, here's the statement I made.]


Sammamish High School Disabled Abled Coalition’s (spoken) Statement on Proposed Changes to the Bellevue School District’s Policy on Restraint and Seclusion:

Hello, my name is Eric Warwick and I am the president of the Sammamish High School Disabled Abled Coalition and a member of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network of Washington State. I have spoken here once before but since the issue has come up again, I would like to make sure student voice is heard.

The position of Disabled Abled Coalition—abbreviated DAC—is such that it is inappropriate and damaging to use restraint and/or seclusion as disciplinary actions for students on neither AIPs, IEPs, nor General Education Students. The only person who should be using these practices is a police officer containing someone who is a truly a danger to students, such as when a weapon is brought to school.
 Restraint and seclusion should not be applied to controlling “distracting” or “self-destructive” behaviors; restraint and seclusion should not be used to stop “aggressive tendencies.” There are a number of reasons for why the policy and practices we have now are ineffective and wrong.
The first deals with the policy about “self-injurious behaviors.”

A self-injurious behavior or “SIB” is generally a thing someone does that is damaging, but may seem beneficial to the person at the time of the behavior. In a classroom setting, most SIBs are not going to seriously damage an individual and can be dealt with using properly applied de-escalation techniques or are not truly damaging to an individual. I refer back to the written material I provided at last month’s meeting.

For Autistics, some stimming is often denoted as self-injurious behaviors. Examples of these include, skin-biting, hair-twisting or pulling, and hitting heads on things, etc. I happen to do all these behaviors. These behaviors make me feel better, safer, calmer, and more in control of myself. They may look odd, but they don't hurt anyone. That includes me. But for some reason, there is impassioned debate on the subject [of SIBs]
A good amount of people on AIPs—including myself at one point—are Autistic. Similar behavior is found in people with other disabilities. Neurotypical—a term for someone without an emotional nor neurological disability—norms insist many of these behaviors should be stopped; to someone who doesn’t know how Autism works, me doing something like this [bite skin] would be considered a behavior to stop with force.
These behaviors are natural for Autistic people and when they are hurt because of SIBs with restraint and/or seclusion, they are being communicated that their brain is abnormal, that they are defective in some way. This causes isolation and would be considered bullying if it were from another student rather than a teacher.
 In addition, we do these behaviors out of great stress, so hurting us while very distressed and trying to calm down is a great recipe for trauma—and there’s not even much science to support the idea that restraining kids will alleviate unwanted behaviors.
Similarly, it is wrong to use these techniques when we are being “aggressive” which is a response to a highly stressful situation. For someone six, seven, and even twelve the stress of unreported harassment; sensory inaccessible spaces, such as our schools; and general stigma associated with having a disability can be too much. If teachers were trained properly in conflict resolution strategy, they would not need to restrain people. In fact, in the case that de-escalation does not work, there are several less traumatic options—for the stressed individual and the people around them—than restraint and seclusion.

Now, all in all, this testimony is a tiny bit unneeded because the Cascade Program—the only people with access to seclusion rooms—DO NOT restrain and seclude people anymore. All that the District is discussing is theoretical policy.

You can ask a Cascade teacher why they have stopped this abusive technique that has given far too many children PTSD—they will tell you. I talked with them recently, in fact. The science is behind not using restraint and seclusion anymore. Special education needs reform. The Bellevue School District has always been a leader in the education world. For this, I implore you to only allow the use of restraint and seclusion in the setting of someone bringing an actual weapon to school. Because I want my safety at school. I want all students in the Bellevue School District to be safe. The only time when restraint and seclusion should be used is the rare—although disturbingly more common—case of teenagers bringing in weapons to school with the intent to hurt others. An eight year old child hitting his head on a desk is not that. Please reconsider the focus of this policy. Thank you. 

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