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NYS Schools Should Not Use Noxious Stimuli To Teach Students With Disabilities, NYCLU Testifies

At a public hearing today the NYCLU will argue against proposed regulations that would allow New York State schools to use electric skin shock, strangulation, starvation, and other “aversive” stimuli to control the behaviors of children with disabilities.

At today’s hearing the NYCLU will testify that the Board of Regents should revoke the regulations and prohibit completely the use of aversive behavioral interventions and restraint and seclusion techniques in all New York State public and private schools. The New York Board of Regents originally approved the regulations on an “emergency” basis in June 2006, and in September its members will vote to decide whether to make the regulations permanent.

“The practice of subjecting children with disabilities to ‘aversive interventions’ to control behaviors that are associated with their disabilities is outmoded and ineffective,” said Beth Haroules, NYCLU Staff Attorney, who will testify today. “Inflicting pain on children to try to change their behavior is a violation of their civil and human rights — and an ineffective educational technique.”

The proposed regulations would authorize educators to subject children with disabilities to noxious, painful, or intrusive stimuli or activities intended to induce pain. Personnel would be authorized to apply ice to children’s skin; to hit, kick, or strangle them; to perform deep muscle squeezes; or to subject them to electric skin shock, and painful water sprays or inhalants such as amonia. They could also withhold sleep, shelter, bedding, bathroom facilities, meals, water, or clothing from children whose behavior was inappropriate or inconvenient. Children could also be confined to “time out rooms” from which they could not exit and in which they would stay unsupervised.

“Over thirty years ago the NYCLU successfully sued New York State to end institutional practices that dehumanized children with disabilities who were being ‘educated’ at the infamous Willowbrook State School,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “Aversive behavioral interventions and seclusion and restraint practices dehumanize without serving any therapeutic purpose, and they are poor substitutes for staffing and provision of other resources which are necessary for educating students with disabilities.”

The hearing will take place today, Monday, from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm in the 2nd Floor Art Gallery of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building at 163 West 125th Street.

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