Our December appeal letter.
Dear Friend of DRO:
Carlos, the 6 year-old son of non-English speaking parents in rural Oregon, has autism. After a promising start in public school, he began to cry and resist when it was time to leave for school in the morning. When his parents noted facial bruising and a large increase in the frequency and intensity of Carlos’ self-biting behaviors, they contacted his school. The school did not respond.
A friend referred them to DRO. Our first step was to review Carlos’ school records. We discovered that Carlos’ fear of school began after the school adopted a “zero-tolerance” behavior approach. From that point forward, whenever Carlos was considered to be acting inappropriately, he was immediately removed from class, often physically.
His file revealed that during the past month, Carlos had been locked in a room for at least 70 minutes and had been repeatedly restrained for up to 30 minutes per day. Five incident reports had been sent to his parents, all in English, which they could not understand. Nothing else was being done to prevent the behavior.
DRO entered into negotiations on behalf of Carlos and his parents. Their school district agreed to create a behavior plan for Carlos and provide school staff with extensive training by a skilled psychologist. The zero-tolerance policy was altered so that only unsafe touching triggered class removal, and then only for a 2-3 minute timeout.
The number and duration of Carlos’ seclusions were cut in half within two months. The frequency and intensity of his self-biting were greatly reduced and restraints were no longer necessary. Carlos is now progressing with his education.
Because DRO had seen many cases like Carlos’, we worked with the Oregon Department of Education to create administrative rules to regulate the use of seclusion and restraint of school students. But complaints from parents continued to pour in. We then conducted a survey of Oregon public schools and found that the rules were being regularly ignored. Our findings were included in a publication, Keep Schools Safe for Everyone that is available on our web site.
DRO then drafted a bill for the 2011 legislative session to regulate the use of seclusion and restraint to prevent violence before it happened, require parental notification of incidents and provide a mechanism for complaint resolution. The bill was sponsored by Representative Gelser, Senator Edwards and six other legislators. On August 2, 2011, Governor Kitzhaber signed House Bill 2939 into law.
This story is just one example of the broad-based advocacy that DRO provides for Oregonians with disabilities. We help thousands of people every year with our information, referral, training and publications. Hundreds more receive direct legal representation and the investigations that are necessary to develop their cases. DRO conducts outreach and monitoring at institutions such as Oregon State Hospital, state correctional facilities and sheltered workshops. And, with your help, we advocate for safety, rights and improved services in state and local agencies and the legislature.
In this weak economy, however, DRO is struggling for resources. We rely primarily upon federal funding that is presently under attack. DRO receives no state general funds. Our modest support from local foundations has been cut drastically. This year, in response, we have closed our two small rural offices and are moving to smaller space in Portland. Our staff took an average of five furlough days and salaries are frozen. Since 2006, we have gone from 28.75 staff positions to 25.5 while demand for our services increased.
This is why we need your help. When you contribute to DRO, you help:
- Keep children with disabilities in school and safe
- Keep adults with disabilities employed and in housing
- Keep supports and services for families and caregivers
- Avoid unnecessary institutionalization
- Enforce voting rights
- Assure access to health care and assistive equipment
- Make buildings, streets, housing, services and transportation usable by everyone
- Fight discrimination and victimization
We at DRO believe that disability rights benefit everyone in our society. Clearing away barriers that prevent a person from being independent, productive and engaged with her or his family and community prevents dependency, isolation and hopelessness. It’s not just Carlos and his family who benefit by education, vocational training and by avoiding trauma. Greater skills and independence translate into greater productivity and less need for public intervention.
Please join us in our quest for an Oregon that promoted independence, safety and dignity for all citizens. Your donation in these difficult fiscal times will make a tremendous difference in our ability to make a difference. Thank you.
DRO is a 501(c)(3) corporation. All donations are tax deductible. You can donate here on our web site or send donations to:
Disability Rights Oregon
620 SW Fifth Ave., Ste 500
Portland, OR 97204