Advocacy is hard work. It takes time, energy, and tremendous dedication, but advocacy can change the world. I began my journey in advocacy by advocating for my son’s needs through the individual education plan (IEP) process at his school. Today the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint advocates for many children worldwide. We advocate for changes in policy and practice. We advocate for reducing and eliminating restraint, seclusion, suspension, expulsion, corporal punishment, and ending the school-to-prison pipeline. Your advocacy work can make a difference for your child and others.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead
When asked how to be an effective advocate, I have several suggestions I typically share. My first suggestion is to do your research. If your child or a child you represent has been restrained or secluded, you need to understand what your state/provincial/local law says about the use of restraint and seclusion. Is there data? Does your state report restraint and seclusion data? If not, and you’re in the United States, you can visit the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Data Collection website to view and download data, although you should be aware there are well-documented issues with the OCR data. I often suggest you consider conducting a literature review and look for news stories and scholarly research, which can help you understand the current body of knowledge on the subject.
Research is essential, but your approach when advocating for change is even more critical. I always suggest that you find your allies. Remember that you are not alone, and you can make a difference. Another important tip is to be persistent. Persistence is key. There will be many twists and turns in your effort to influence change. Finally, it is crucial to work collaboratively and respectfully, even when it is difficult. People are more receptive to your message.
Today I want to share the fantastic advocacy work happening in New Hanover County, North Carolina. I have no doubt that these wonderful advocates will influence change. Let’s look at a few things they are doing so well. Of course, I loved seeing all of them wearing Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint shirts.
It was about 18 months ago that Sandy Eyles began raising the issue of restraint and seclusion in New Hanover County Public Schools to the Board of Education. She has returned meeting after meeting. She has worked behind the scenes to build support and offer solutions.
Peter Rawitsch is an early childhood educator, an educational justice activist, and the co-founder of Love Our Children. He is also a talented singer and songwriter. Peter demonstrates the power of creativity in his recent comments to the New Hanover County Board of Education.
Be Clear with the Ask
I’m a big fan of S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Here Barbara shows a collaborative spirit as she pushes for a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound plan for ending seclusion.
Know the Data
Leslie talks about the relevant data. Research shows that seclusion rooms harm children. Leslie also finishes with a clear ask for members of the board of education.
If we can help you in your advocacy efforts do not hesitate to reach out. Remember you can influence change. While it may seem impossible at times you can make a difference.