Calley helps end ‘barbaric’ school restraint practices

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Troy — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed legislation Thursday that will end what he describes as “inhumane and barbaric” non-emergency restraint and seclusion practices in Michigan schools.

The signing took place during an “inclusion rally” at the Troy Community Center. During the historic, bipartisan moment, Calley was joined by state Rep Frank Liberati, D-Allen Park, and nearly 300 statewide special education advocates, including many members from the audience who crowded around the table while he signed the document.

Special needs children no longer should be subjected to restraints and seclusion if they are are not a threat to themselves or others, Calley said.

“People with disabilities should be seen for what they are: people,” he said.

It is more than simply signing historic legislation for Calley. He told The Detroit News his daughter Regan, 10 and in the fourth grade, was diagnosed with autism — a mental condition reflected by difficulty in communicating, forming relationships and in using abstract concepts.

“In so many ways she is doing great,” Calley said. “She has had evidence-based therapy for many years. When I first started advocating for kids with autism and development disabilities, it was because I didn’t want the experience she has had to be uncommon.

“Your dad shouldn’t have to be lieutenant governor to have the services she’s had. I would like to see a world where everyone can have access to them.”

David Plude of Harrisville, said he drove three and a half hours to attend the signing with his son Brandon, 15, and in the ninth grade.

“I wanted my son to witness this historic signing of a bill,” Plude said. “We have had a long battle with this situation.”

Specifically, he detailed the injustices his son has experienced, including being locked inside rooms in school, restrained and kicked out of school every other day, among others.

“And when they would lock me in a room, they would use a rope to tie the doors to make sure I couldn’t get out,” Brandon Plude said.

David Plude said he was told numerous times not to expect much of his son, who was diagnosed with autism at age 7 after many years of incorrect diagnoses.

House Bills 5409-5417 resulted from recommendations of Gov. Rick Snyder’s Special Education Reform Task Force that was chaired by Calley. The nine-bill bipartisan package was sponsored by state Democratic Reps. Liberati and Christine Greig of Farmington Hills and Republicans Reps. Amanda Price of Park Township, Hank Vaupel of Fowlerville, Jim Tedder of Clarkston and Kurt Heise of Plymouth.

Under the legislation, restraint and seclusion practices may only be used if a child is a danger to themselves or others. The bills also require any use of restraint and seclusion to be reported to the parents and the Michigan Department of Education, as well as mandate additional training for school personnel on how to handle behavioral situations.

The legislation now makes the current State Board of Education policy regarding appropriate usage of restraint and seclusion practices no longer just voluntary.

Before the legislation was signed, Calley explained that schools adhered to a voluntary set of guidelines about restraining students. “Now it will be the law,” he said.

Michigan legislators gave final approval of the nine-bill package to end seclusion and restraint practices in K-12 schools on Dec. 13. It requires the Michigan Department of Education to create a statewide policy prohibiting the use of seclusion and restraint except in emergencies.

Before signing the bills, Calley treated the audience to his keyboard prowess by playing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” while accompanied by students from Aim High School in Farmington Hills. The audience loved it.

Laurie Rosen secretary of the board of directors of the Aim school, said most of the about 65 students are diagnosed with anxiety disorder and high-functioning autism.

The bill package also will:

■Require districts and intermediate school districts to develop policies that follow the state plan.

■Define the conditions under which seclusion and restraint could be used during emergencies and require that such incidents be reported.

■Establish a “positive behavioral support system and intervention plan” to be adopted by all schools.

■Create best practices for data collection on incidents and school training requirements for emergencies.

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