On Monday afternoon, I waited on Zoom for 2 hours for my opportunity to provide testimony on Washington House Bill 1479. Unfortunately, I was never given the opportunity to provide my testimony. So I decided I would share my verbal testimony below.
Chair Santos and members of the committee,
Good afternoon, My name is Guy Stephens. I am the founder and executive director of the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint. The Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint is an international organization I started four years ago after my son was inappropriately restrained, isolated, and traumatized in a public school in Maryland. Today we have a community of over 20,000 parents, self-advocates, teachers, school administrators, paraprofessionals, and others. Our mission is to influence changes in policy and practice to reduce and eliminate the use of punitive discipline and outdated behavioral management approaches and end the school-to-prison pipeline. I am here today in support of House Bill 1479.
Over the last several months, I have worked with many parents, educators, and advocates across Washington State who have committed to reducing and eliminating restraint and isolation. The bill before you is a strong piece of legislation that resulted from the collaboration of a diverse group of stakeholders. This bill is a step forward to creating safer schools for students, teachers, and staff. The bill also provides needed protection for children with disabilities, Black and brown children, and children with a trauma history who are disproportionately restrained and isolated in our schools.
It is past time to prohibit isolation in Washington schools. Isolation is never an appropriate intervention for a child. While some might suggest that isolation is required and safe, it is not. Nothing is therapeutic about putting a young, disabled child in a room alone and holding the door shut. It is terrifying. Children forced into isolation rooms often bang on the door and walls to get out. They panic. In 20 or 30 minutes, they might slide down against the wall and hold their heads down. They are not reflecting on what they did. They are not calm. The child’s brain enters into a protective shutdown state due to the hopelessness and stress of the situation. Some children even go into dissociative states. The trauma inflicted on the child changes their brain. Trauma increases the likelihood that they will become hypervigilant, which is likely to increase stress behaviors.
When we can do better, we must do better. We can reduce and eliminate restraint and seclusion and create safer classrooms for students, teachers, and staff. Thank you for your time today. Please support this critical bill.
Founder and Executive Director
Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint