Despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act nearly 20 years ago, people with disabilities continue to face discrimination in employment, education, and housing. The ACLU continues to support affirmative policies promoting employment for people with disabilities, as well as inclusive and appropriate education for students with disabilities.
What's Happening in Ohio
For years, Ohio children have been brought into juvenile courts wearing shackles, leg irons, or handcuffs.
Children as young as nine years old appear in court with restraints before they have even seen a judge and without any determination as to whether the restraint is needed.
Restraint practices vary throughout Ohio. No uniform rules exist to guide juvenile courts. No uniform requirement for hearings exists either.
In 2008 and 2011, the ACLU of Ohio issued a Juvenile Justice Report Card and gave Ohio a grade of F for its juvenile shackling practices.
Courts around the country have ruled that the use of restraints in adult judicial proceedings violates a defendant’s due process rights, and restraints can only be used for those who pose a safety risk or have a documented history of escape. Courts should also make a record to support their reason for using restraints. While adults who appear in Ohio courts have all of these rights, children do not.
Many states have come to realize that indiscriminately shackling or restraining children is barbaric and undermines the constitutional rights of children. Many states have ended the practice of indiscriminate or routine shackling without sacrificing court safety.
As a result of legislation, regulation, or Supreme Court rulings, children in the following states do not routinely appear in court with restraints: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Washington D.C., and Washington.
In 2011, at the request of the ACLU of Ohio, Miami-Dade Public Defender Carlos J. Martinez released a policy report, “Unchain the Children: Five Years Later in Florida.” The report provides a detailed account of Florida’s successful and safe court management following their ban on indiscriminate shackling.
In 2010, Massachusetts enacted a court policy that presumes against the use of restraints and provides guidelines if it is determined that restraints are needed. In 2012, Associate Clinical Professor of Law of Suffolk University, Kim M. McLaurin released “Children in Chains: Indiscriminate Shackling of Juveniles,” which examines shackling practices, harms, and reforms.
In a report, “HEALING INVISIBLE WOUNDS: Why Investing in Trauma-Informed Care for Children Makes Sense,” the Justice Policy Institute indicates that the use of restraints can “exacerbate the symptoms of mental disorders, including PTSD” in justice-involved children.
Mental health professionals have weighed in by highlighting the negative impact restraints can have on children. Dr. Marty Beyer, a nationally recognized clinical psychologist with expertise in juvenile justice and child welfare, provided a sworn affidavit detailing these effects.
Ohio is considered a national model in reducing its juvenile detention population without sacrificing safety.
Twelve states have managed to maintain court order and safety without violating the due process and constitutional rights of children appearing in juvenile court.
Ohio can do the same.
Update: As a result of vocal opposition from the ACLU of Ohio, our coalition partners, and disability rights advocates from across the state, H.B. 333 has been improved. The amended bill makes voluntary a notification process that would have been required in the original bill.
Though the notification process is now voluntary, it still introduces the possibility of increased barriers for Ohioans with disabilities. For this reason, the ACLU of Ohio maintains opposition to H.B. 333.
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state law require that buildings, sidewalks and other public areas be accessible to Ohioans with disabilities.
But H.B. 333, which has a hearing in the Ohio House Judiciary Committee the week of January 20, 2014, would make it harder for individuals with disabilities to challenge barriers to access in court.
H.B. 333 radically undercuts current law to favor big businesses with deep pockets over Ohioans with disabilities who struggle for accessibility.
It also violates the spirit of the ADA, which seeks to enable all people to participate in and contribute to our society by removing barriers that unfairly exclude some of us.
UPDATED: On December 17, 2014, an important loophole was closed. Regulations holding charter schools accountable for the use of seclusion and restraints were amended to HB 178 and passed unanimously out of the Ohio House. The passage of this legislation extends seclusion and/or restraint provisions of rule 3301-35-15 to public charter schools. Now, all of Ohio’s public school children will now have the same protections.
For years, Ohio schoolchildren — many of them with disabilities — have been routinely isolated in cell-like seclusion rooms or physically restrained by educators with little or no oversight from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).
On April 9, 2013 the State Board of Education finally passed rule 3301-35-15, governing the use of seclusion and restraints practices in Ohio schools. This rule is an important step for the many Ohio schools that secluded and restrained children without guidelines for years and adds extra protections like parental notification and oversight when a child is secluded or restrained.
Currently, the new rule only applies to traditional public schools and not public charter schools, leaving over 115,000 Ohio school children unprotected. However, Ohio Senate Bill 266 has been just been introduced that would require public charter schools to comply with the ODE’s policies and standards for limiting the use of physical restraint and seclusion on students.
The ACLU of Ohio will continue working to ensure that all of Ohio’s public school children are given the same opportunities and protections.
We will keep you posted on opportunities to take action.
On June 29, 2011, the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 194, which makes a variety of misguided changes to Ohio’s voting system. The bill includes a provision that poll workers are no longer required to assist voters. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act still requires poll workers to assist voters with disabilities if they need help completing their ballot.