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Monday, October 11, 2010

Seclusion and Restraint in Florida

The Palm Beach Post reports:

Port Orange Republican Dorothy Hukill's legislation restricting seclusion and restraint of Florida schoolchildren earned the state representative national notice.

"Florida was going to be the model for other states to follow," said Lori Mcllwain, a spokeswoman for the 10,000-member American Autism Association.

By the time it got to the governor's desk, though, Hukill's bill was stripped of its toughest provision: Instead of banning prone restraint, the bill was altered to bar restraint that can restrict a child's breathing.

"They took a good bill that had protective language for children with disabilities and gutted the bill, took out all the safety precautions," said Phyllis Musumeci, a mother whose son was forcibly held in a prone restraint more than 20 times at a Palm Beach County school. The Autism Association agreed: In a 180-degree turn, the group urged a letter writing campaign to persuade Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the bill.

"Was it as strong as I would have liked it to be? No," said Hukill of the new law, which took effect this year. "Am I delighted that we are finally addressing the problem? Absolutely."