AUTISM SOCIETY OF FLORIDA
We CAN make a difference if we all work together! Contact your legislators today and let them know what you need them to do to protect our community.
RESTRAINT AND SECLUSION
AND CAMERAS IN CLASSROOMS
NEED: Parameters on Restraint and Ban on Seclusion/Cameras in Classrooms #letcamerasbeourvoice
When we send our children to school, we assume that they are going to be treated fairly and that they are going to be safe from abuse and neglect. However, that is not always the case. Far too often, we hear stories from parents whose children with autism or other disabilities have been subjected to dangerous and improper use of restraints and unnecessary and abusive seclusion. In fact, data from the U.S. Department of Education civil rights data collection shows that most students restrained and secluded are students with disabilities. Students with disabilities make up 12 percent of all students but represent 71 percent of those restrained and 66 percent of those secluded.
CAMERAS IN CLASSROOMS
Need: Cameras in classrooms designated as “ESE classrooms”, separate classrooms for children with disabilities. These cameras would not only offer protection of our children, but for teachers as well.
There are cameras everywhere we go! We may not see them, but they are there – on toll roads to capture violators, on street poles to stop red light runners, in stores to catch thieves, and often in front offices and hallways of our schools. Police officers use them to protect our community and themselves, citizens use them to protect their homes and vehicles.... why then not our children? Florida has struggled with being able to guarantee the safety of our students. From the Panhandle to South Florida, evidence has surfaced this year as to just how vulnerable children truly are by reports of abuse at the hands of those entrusted to educate them.
NEED: Public schools to create a School Staff Assistance for Emergencies (SAFE) Team and school elopement plan; membership and responsibilities of the team; requirements for the plan; requiring the team to create student-specific elopement quick reference guides for certain students; requirements for such guides; requiring public schools to annually submit their plans to district school board; authorizing State Board of Education to adopt rules; providing effective date.
Nearly 50% of children with autism elope from safe areas and caregivers. 91% of drowning deaths in children with autism is a result of wandering behavior. Presently, Florida schools are not required to follow any established protocol for when a student has eloped. Administrators can decide to keep looking and looking without having to call 911. Every second counts!
NEED: Funding to provide specialized instruction in water survival to children with autism, training of swim instructors on autism and best practice on how to teach them, outreach and information to parents, swim instructors, first responders, and emergency room staff.
Florida has the highest number of childhood drownings in the United States. In 2018, there were 88 documented drowning deaths of children in Florida; 76% were age 3 and under. Since children are diagnosed with autism on average in the US at the age of 4.5, it is likely that the vast majority of these young children who wandered away from caregivers were children who would have later been diagnosed with ASD. Research tells us that children with ASD are 160 times more likely to drown than their neurotypical peers.
BAKER ACT DILEMMA
NEED: When schools call 911 or the police to address a child’s behavior and that results in a Baker Act they should be required to keep record and file the incident with the Department of Education.
Florida has seen a significant increase in Baker Act incidents in students with disabilities. There is currently no entity that keeps disaggregated data on school-initiated Baker Acts for kids with autism and in fact, Baker Acting students with autism is prohibited under Florida law. Although Senate Bill 7026 requires all public schools to have threat assessment teams that include an officer, schools are not required to keep track of Baker Acts that result from the protocols established in this law. It is believed that Baker Acts are being used as a response to behavior, rather than providing positive behavior supports and intervention to children who need them most.