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Massachusetts Department of Education (DESE) has proposed updates to the regulations on restraint and seclusion in schools. There is a brief public comment period, ending November 3.

This is the first change in 13 years so now is our chance to comment. School lawyers and administrators will be commenting so please comment and ensure that parents give our input.

Updated regulations are here: http://www.doe.mass.edu/boe/docs/2014-09/item6.html

Below is a suggested e-mail you can send. Edit as needed and send to restraintcomment@doe.mass.edu Please add a few sentences explaining why this is important to you (e.g. explain how your family directly affected, you or your children have seen restraint or seclusion in your school, you know someone affected, you know about use of time out rooms, you care about children with special needs, ASD and/or PTSD, etc).

More details and supporting references on each point below are available here: http://specialeducation.wikia.com/wiki/Mass-DESE-Comments

Sample letter:

To the Board of the DESE (restraintcomment@doe.mass.edu),

Thank you for proposing updates to the regulations on restraint and seclusion and opening them up for public comment. The proposed regulations are a big step forward and will have a big impact on the lives of many children and families in Mass.

Here are a few comments on the regulations.

Thank you for including a ban on prone restraints. This is critical for the safety of children as documented in the medical literature. Aside from the added risk of death, the emotional impact on the child and family is devastating and long lasting. I urge you to preserve this restriction.

Please update the definition of restraint to include any contact which restricts a child's movement or uses force, whether the student resists or not by removing the text "against the student's resistance" from section 46.02. Also, exceptions should not include "transport, "redirecting attention" or anything else. They are all restraint if they restrict movement or use force and should only be used as a last resort.

Please update the maximum duration of time-out from thirty minutes to five for elementary age children and ten for all others. Also, please specify that time-out spaces must conform to all building codes for occupied spaces.

To clarify that time-out is only to promote calming, add two sentences to the definition of time-out: "Repeated separation of students, two or more times, which does not have a calming effect is not considered time-out and shall not be used. When the child's treating physician or psychologist confirms in writing that time-out does not have a calming effect, time-out shall not be used".

Use of time-out must be reviewed with parents and reported on for it to be effective. Please add time-out to all regulations on reporting and individual student reviews. All data on restraints and time-outs should be sent to the state at least four times during the school year. Repeated (two or more) restraints should trigger a functional behavioral assessment.

Thank you for your attention to this important subject.

[your name and address]

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