What congressman wouldn’t vote for a bill called the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act (HR 4247)? No one of course, right? But handful of Republicans not only voted “nay” but stood up on the House floor and provided predictable reasons as to why:
- State’s Rights – advocating the anti-federalist stance that the states be left to govern themselves with minimal/no federal intrusion, and the assertion that any federal encroachment on states rights is big government arrogance;
- 31 states already have legislation regarding restraint and seclusion;
- Insufficient data on restraint and seclusion of children in schools
If the states were doing their job – not just 31 of them, but all 50 – this bill wouldn’t have made it to the floor. And, what kind of data would be sufficient? One case? Two cases? One thousand?
HR 4247 is a pretty short bill, as bills go. In its few sections it outlines what is common sense:
From Section 5:
Secretary of Education (Secretary) to establish minimum standards that:
- prohibit elementary and secondary school personnel from managing any student by using any mechanical or chemical restraint, physical restraint or escort that restricts breathing, or aversive behavioral intervention that compromises student health and safety;
- prohibit such personnel from using physical restraint or seclusion, unless such measures are required to eliminate an imminent danger of physical injury to the student or others…;
- require…sufficient number of school personnel receive state-approved crisis intervention training and certification in first aid and certain safe and effective student management techniques;
- prohibit physical restraint or seclusion from being written into a student’s education plan, individual safety plan, behavioral plan…
The bill goes on to layout a blue print for oversight, parameters for government funding of special teacher training and allocation of responsibility for oversight of implementation and compliance.
I caught the CSPAN coverage of debate on the House floor. (I tuned in just as lunatic Iowa Representative, Republican Steve King, was on a weird rant about NAMBLA in a bigoted alignment to Kevin Jennings, Obama’s openly gay Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug Free Schools. But, that is a whole other story.)
What hooked me was when Indiana Rep. Mark Souder and Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert began arguing state’s rights, and that states were already doing a good job policing themselves with regard to child abuse, as a reason to vote “no” on this bill.
I support state’s rights in many instances. In theory, if legislating is left to the states it allows for greater direct involvement of the people and, hopefully, more can get done locally. The federal government can be a lumbering, wasteful beast as we all know. However, I do not believe states can legislate to restrict civil rights, and if they repeatedly fail to protect their citizens in any way, the Federal Government must step in.
Each of the following clips begin with a standard Republican Representative caveat on what they are about to say: ‘We all want children to be safe. What person wouldn’t vote for this bill? Everything must be done to protect America’s children…” you get the drift. If that is truly the case, I would call on the following states and their local and federal elected officials to start policing their own back yard.
Here is Mark Souder speaking against HR 4247:
In this video, Souder says it is arrogant that the federal government believes that it can do a better job than the states to guard against child abuse in schools. Here is one example of how Indiana is doing it better:
Typically a girl would be told that she was being punished for some so-called offense or another. Often there was no explanation given, other than that there had been general attitude problems throughout the day. That seemed to be a very popular reason for which girls received beatings. During one of these beatings, a girl was forced down to the ground. She was to lie face down on the ground. Her arms would be pulled out to the side, or be held up over her head. Several staff members were always involved because of the level of physical restraint that was used. Often times a chair or other object was placed over the head of the girl to prevent her from getting up. There were staff members who would hold, sit on, or stand on the girls’ arms and legs. - Hephzibah Girls Survivor Website
Granted this school cannot receive federal funding as it is a private, fundamentalist Christian establishment. However, isn’t child abuse child abuse? The First Amendment allows for freedom to practice religion and freedom from establishment of religion. It doesn’t allow for protection of criminals because their God believes in beating children.
Mr. Souder, if you are staunchly against the abuse of children as this clip shows, then do something about it, or you run the risk of advocating with your apathy.
Texas Representative Louie Gohmert was another “nayer” on HR 4247. Similarly, he argued for the state’s rights to regulate their own as well as the assertion there was a lack of data to prove need for the legislation. I don’t think we should listen to any thing a Texas Republican says on the matter of governmental oversight whether it be on the federal or state level. I wrote extensively about Texas and their view on state level oversight of schools and the protection of children in Christian homes on this blog. Specifically, surrounding the legacy of Lester Roloff and the Governor Bush Faith Based Initiatives.
Mr. Gohmert, step back and take a look at Texas’ long history of violence toward children under the cloak of Religion.
Mr. Gohmert, if you are staunchly against the abuse of children as your testimony on the House floor suggests, then do something about it, or you run the risk of advocating with your apathy.
Alabama Representative Robert Aderholt also voted no on HR4247.
From Mr. Aderholt’s congressional website, he describes his position on federal oversight of schools:
“There are many who believe that the federal government should be more involved in determining what happens in our nation’s schools. I disagree. While the federal government can certainly play a role in funding educational opportunities for students and determining national priorities, it shouldn’t be involved in determining a day-to-day classroom curriculum or where a local community spends it educational dollars. I firmly believe that parents and local and state officials are in the best position to determine what is needed in their school system.”
Mr. Aderholt comes from the 4th district of Alabama, which includes the town of Empire in Blount County. Empire is the location of the recently shut down Christian Boarding School Reclamation Ranch. Jack Patterson, founder of the school, was run out-of-town following a charge of aggravated child abuse. Here is a video reminder about the case at Reclamation Ranch:
Representative Aderholt should note that Reclamation Ranch’s sister school Rachel Academy for Girls is still up and running in neighboring Walker County, also a part of his district.
Representative Aderholt, if you are staunchly against the abuse of children as this clip shows, then do something about it, or you run the risk of advocating with your apathy.
Representative Virgina Foxx, the Gentlewoman from North Carolina who openly claimed the Matthew Shepard case was a hoax, said this as a disclaimer before voting no on HR4247:
Ms. FOXX: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for yielding time. No one wants children to be in danger in this country, especially children who are in public institutions designed to serve them. Teachers, principals, and other school personnel have a responsibility to ensure the environment is maintained at all times. In many cases, it is vitally important, though, that teachers and classroom aides use interventions and supports that are both physically and emotionally safe for the child.
Ms. FOXX: This bill is not needed. The States and the localities can handle these situations. They will look after the children. They are the people closest to the children that they are serving. They will do it. If they don’t do it, the community will be up in arms and will require them to do that. I urge my colleagues to vote “no” on this legislation.
Representative Foxx, who provides this heartfelt no one likes child abuse caveat and the assurance that localities will be “up in arms” in responding to child abuse, should urge the NC state legislature to take a good, hard look at Stokes County, part of the 5th district she represents.
A fundamentalist Christian school – Second Chance Ranch - has sprouted up in Danbury, North Carolina. Olen King, the founder of this new school, was charged with child abuse in 1984 at a New Bethany Home in South Carolina. Much like his Alabama counterpart, Jack Patterson, King walked from South Carolina to Ms. Foxx’s North Carolina with a suspended sentence for harassment.
Ms. Foxx, if you are staunchly against the abuse of children as you say, then do something about it, or you run the risk of advocating with your apathy.
Fortunately, this bill passed, 262 – 153 (with 16 no votes). I suppose there was never really any doubt that it would. However, the pounding of the lectern by the Republican opposition continues. The Representatives I have called out here have problems in their home states and districts with violence against children in “school” environments. The argument that these “schools” fall under no governmental oversight because they are “Christian” falls flat. Christianity doesn’t trump child safety state and federal funding or not.
Sources, reading, etc.
- Govtrack summary of H4247
- Sponsor page
- Hephzibah House webpage – note that there are no names attached to any of the testimonies designed to make families feel good about sending their child to this facility
- CSPAN video archive
- New Bethany survivors online forum New Bethany Survivors
- Time Article on Olen King in SC and Olin King didn’t see the need for New Bethany reform
- Find your representative – ask them to push their states to do more locally about this kind of abuse: http://www.house.gov/
- NYTimes article on HR4247