Eliminate Unproven and Harmful Disciplinary Practices
Florida public schools use seclusion and physical restraint for disciplining children with disabilities. According to the US Department of Health, there is no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective in reducing the occurrence of problem behaviors in students with disabilities.
Legislation has again been filed that prohibits the use of seclusion in public schools and limits physical restraints to emergencies involving the safety of the student or others.
The Children’s Campaign strongly recommends improvements whereby districts are required to train instructional personnel and aides in best practices with children with disabilities and provide additional continuing education in safe restraint procedures and de-escalation.
When passed, Florida will join a long list of states that have enacted such restrictions. In the immediate past legislative session, the effort went further than in previous years but didn’t make it over the finish line.
The number of physical restraints in Florida public schools is increasing. For the 2016-17 school year, there were 8,770 documented incidents of restraints, an uptick of more than 1,000 from the prior year. Nearly 50% of the restraints were used on young children (Pre-K – 3rd grade).
Black Students with Disabilities are Especially Vulnerable to Disciplinary Practices
Black students in the South are 45% less likely to receive special education services compared to White students with similar family incomes, academic achievement, and school characteristics. In Florida’s public schools, Black students with disabilities are more likely to be placed in a separate classroom than their peers. They are two times more likely to be disciplined and lead their peers in the rate of in- and out of school suspensions. Black students with disabilities are also two times as likely to be expelled from school.
Children’s Medical Service Network Issues Must Be Addressed
The state is transitioning the administration of Children’s Medical Services (CMS), the state’s collection of programs for children with the most severe medical issues, to a privately run managed care plan starting January 2019. The privatization of the program comes after more than 13,000 special needs children were “transitioned” out of the Children’s Medical Service Network (CMS Network) into Medicaid managed care that was alleged to be “less expensive” for the state. Ultimately, the traditional program was changed to what was known as the CMS managed medical network and legislators were required to allocate an additional $5-million to cover the higher than anticipated health-care costs for children in the program.
The change is supposed to provide the same core benefits, as well as providing families other services such as respite care, financial planning, and parent coaching – but questions remain. Advocates disagree that the level of services remain the same in the managed care system as the traditional CMS, and see issues with physicians willing to accept the reimbursement rate and continuing to provide care.
Early Steps Must Return to Original Intent of Helping “At Risk” Children
Early intervention is crucial for children with developmental concerns. A child’s first three years are the most important time for brain development. Prior to funding cuts, Florida’s Early Steps program served children at-risk of developmental delays by providing necessary services when they would make the largest impact. Today, the program has been weakened and primarily serves children with “significant delays or an established medical condition that will likely result in a delay.”
- Ban seclusion and reduce physical restraint on children with disabilities: Florida schools still use seclusion and physical restraint for disciplining children with disabilities, harmful practices that have no evidence of reducing problem behaviors.
- Ensure that the privatization of Children’s Medical Services does not lead to unintended consequences: Children with the most severe medical issues should not struggle with how to become eligible to receive the care, immediate intervention and assistance they need. Reimbursement rates need to be sufficient to keep the physicians these children rely on willing to participate in the program.
- Support Early Steps: Early intervention is key to reaching children at-risk for developmental delays. Refer young dependent children to early steps. Requiring DCF to conduct an early needs assessment and to refer vulnerable young children (ages 0-3) who have contact with the child welfare system to the Early Steps program will provide children with critical early intervention services.
The Children’s Campaign Priority Bill Highlights
What the Children’s Campaign is Saying
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