Yesterday's D v. R showdown in the House wasn't about healthcare reform or even about the dirty filthy banksters stealing the national wealth. It wasn't about Afghanistan or about taking the ability of corporations to purchase the services of wily politicians. But it was a showdown that went to highlight one of the basic differences in worldview between conservatives and humans. George Miller's H.R. 4247, the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act passed with a wide majority, 262-153, all but 8 conservative Democrats joined by two dozen mainstream Republicans pushing it over the finishing line (where Jim Bunning, Richard Burr and Jim DeMint are likely laying out their strategy to filibuster it to death in the Senate).
If God were to strike down all the obstructionists in the Senate and it were to become law, it would provide the first comprehensive protections for children against abusive disciplinary actions by schools. Cheered on by the American Federation of Teachers and dozens of disability groups, the 145 Republicans and their 8 motley ConservaDem allies -- mostly Blue Dogs like Jim Marshall, Gene Taylor, Kurt Schrader, and Harry Mitchell -- were brushed aside despite wailing and moaning by every single member of the pathetic GOP hierarchy, from John Boehner and Eric Cantor to Roy Blunt, David Dreier, Thaddeus McCotter and Paul Ryan. (Among the co-sponsors were normally very conservative Republicans like Gregg Harper of Mississippi and Cathy McMorris Rogers of Washington.)
The legislation stems in part from a government report last year that found evidence that hundreds of children -- from preschool age to high school -- had been traumatized or physically harmed by being held down or locked alone in rooms, some even tied to chairs. Many had developmental problems or were in special needs programs; many others were in regular classes. Some children have died, apparently because of overly aggressive discipline, according to numerous reports over the last decade.
The bill would prohibit, except in cases of imminent danger, any restraint that restricts breathing; any mechanical restraint, like straps; and chemical restraint, by drugs other than those prescribed by a child's doctor. It allows for "time outs" but not for a child to be locked in a room, away from supervision. It requires states to keep careful records of incidents of restraint and seclusion, and for schools to report incidents promptly to parents.
In testimony reported by WKOW-TV in Madison, Wisconsin, we learned that many of the torturous tactics were used predominantly on special-needs students. Keep in mind that Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who is a huge torture booster in all cases, was one of the Republicans to vote against the bill, which "would implement minimum federal safety standards for public schools, similar to those already in place for hospitals and other community facilities."
The foster mother of Cedric Price testified before Congress.
"The teacher put him face down and sat on him. He struggled, and said repeatedly, 'I can't breathe,'" said Toni Price.
Cedric was a special education student who was smothered to death in 2002 by his eighth-grade teacher.
I wonder how Ryan would feel about Liza, Charlie or Sam being smothered to death in school. Ryan wasn't part of the Republican House leadership when the party's entire upper echelon banded together to protect Mark Foley, even after they were aware he was molesting young male pages under the auspices of Congress. Among Foley's protectors who knew he was having illicit relations with the boy pages were a dozen who voted against prohibiting torture yesterday, like Boehner, Dreier, Blunt, and Shimkus.
Another vicious torture booster (and sex predator), Ken Calvert (R-CA), voted "no," as did every single Republican member of Congress from California. Calvert, who was arrested in the act of receiving fellatio from a young, drug addicted prostitute in his car, and who steals from taxpayers and refuses to pay child support or alimony, has no empathy and no respect for anyone in a position of vulnerability. I was able to contact the Democrat running against him, Bill Hedrick, who is a public school teacher in Corona. He's been a teacher for 35 years and is currently in his 5th term as president of the Corona-Norco Board of Education, which is responsible for over 50,000 children. Bill's wife is also a school teacher. Unlike Calvert, Bill favored this legislation:
"Every child deserves to be treated with dignity. Schools need to use the many research-based, humane behavior techniques available. The prohibited practices read shockingly like a page from the Inquisition.
"I don't know what is worse-- the need to end such abusive practices through federal action, or the fact that 153 members of Congress saw fit to oppose ending medieval methods."
Coincidentally, Bill is the latest challenger to be added to the Blue America list of endorsed candidates. He'll be joining us for a live blogging session this Saturday, March 6, at Crooks & Liars (11am, PT).