Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The GOP: putting states' rights above your child's

Republicans in Congress don' want your child to be safe in school.

That's the impression one might have after a vote last week in the House of Representatives. Most every Republican lawmaker voted against the "Keeping All Students Safe Act," a bill that would ensure uniform standards for schools across the country regarding what actions would be acceptable for disciplining students. None from the GOP voted in its favor.

Practices that are surprisingly common, such as the use of restraints and seclusion of students, would be banned unless absolutely necessary for the safety of others, and only allowed when administered by a trained staff member.

Hundreds of cases of student abuse and even death have occurred over the past two decades because of such incidents. Children as young as kindergartners, sometimes even younger, have been subjected to such tactics. In one gruesome example, a teacher "disciplined" a student by restraining them in a face-down position while sitting on them. The student suffocated and died struggling for air, their pleas ignored by the teacher inflicting the punishment.

I don't personally believe that Republicans advocate such punishment. They don't want students harmed in such a manner, their lives on the line when administrators utilize these "disciplinary" tactics. But one might ask themselves, for what reason would anyone be against such legislation?

The answer: Republican lawmakers are placing states' rights ahead of your children's rights.

"The underlying message [of this bill]," says Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), "is you people back in your states...are a bunch of morons." You can't figure out that sitting on a precious little child and killing them is inappropriate."

Such an argument strikes at the hearts of small government advocates -- who do these Democrats think they are?! They're elitist snobs for thinking we can't figure this out for ourselves!

Except there's one problem for that line of thinking: the states HAVEN'T figured this out. Any parent in any part of the country will tell you this is wrong -- but only 23 states have actual laws in place to protect your children against such "discipline," with another seven states having "weak" legislation that does little to remedy the situation.

So while the GOP portrays the Democrats as being elitists, the fact remains that the states Republicans are defending have done nothing to defend their students from such harm. In other words, GOP lawmakers are more concerned with the rights of states to not take this into their own hands than the students in the classrooms they supposedly represent.

If more states had dome something by now, Republicans could feasibly make the argument that the federal government has no place mandating such protections. But the states haven't acted. It isn't about who is stupid or not, who is elitist or not == it's about the actions we have or haven't taken in order to protect a student's life.

No, not every student is in danger. Most schools don't hire teachers like this, and it's likely that your son or daughter will never see the effects of this legislation implemented. But it COULD happen SOMEWHERE. What Democrats are trying to do is prevent the opportunity for harm to come to your child. With documented evidence available to us, we do know that, though it's rare, it sometimes happens...and it's sometimes fatal.

The major question is this: Is there any reason to oppose this legislation? Are the Republicans genuinely concerned over states' rights rather than their constituents' students' rights? Or is this just another example of attempted obstructionism, of opposing every Democratic bill that comes their way?

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