LRS and survivor of school restraint and seclusion receive national advocacy award
The Ohio Legal Rights Service (LRS) and a woman with a disability from Ohio each received the Training and Advocacy Support Center's (TASC) 2012 Advocacy Award at TASC's Annual Conference being held this week in Baltimore, Maryland. The award was presented by Michael Bailey, Chairperson of the Board of Directors for National Disability Rights Network (NDRN). In his remarks, Bailey stated the award was "for demonstrating outstanding bravery and for improving the futures of so many children in Ohio schools." LRS had supported the young woman earlier this year when she testified to the State Board of Education about her years of enduring restraint and seclusion in a public school.
During her acceptance speech, H.S. shared with the audience of nearly 500 that the emotional toll restraint and seclusion takes on children is sometimes far greater than the physical. "My bruises have been gone now for some time but the memories still haunt me," she said. "Don't feel sorry for me though - my abuse ended long ago. Instead fight for the children who still attend school and live that same fear of what might happen day-in and day-out as I did for three years." She also thanked her mom, stating that "Without her bravery to take on my school district, I might not be alive today." She concluded her speech by asking the audience to take a moment to remember those children throughout the nation who have died due to restraint or seclusion. "I won't ever forget what happened to them. They're not here to tell you their stories but hopefully hearing mine helps you to continue to try and ban seclusion and have federal laws for regulating restraint in U.S. schools."
LRS Legal Director Kerstin Sjoberg-Witt accepted the award on behalf of the agency. "Eliminating restraint and seclusion in schools is a goal towards which LRS has been working for many years," said Sjoberg-Witt. She stated that LRS has approached its work in this area holistically and strategically with a combination of individual case representation, policy initiatives, abuse and neglect investigations, collaborations with self-advocates and family groups, and by litigating for access authority when investigating a school practice. "We are hopeful that with the interest and momentum started by H.S.' courageous stand and our combination of multiple strategies, we can keep the pressure on until restraint and seclusion is no longer a part of school for children with disabilities in Ohio," Sjoberg-Witt concluded.
TASC is a division of NDRN, a nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated P&As and Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the P&A/CAP network is the largest provider of advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States. LRS is Ohio's P&A.
Each year TASC chooses P&A clients or other individuals with disabilities within the community who have stood up for their rights and brought about significant changes for themselves and other individuals living with a disability. TASC also honors the P&As who have worked with these individuals to protect and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities or those P&As who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and effectiveness.