Bill introduced to regulate teen behavior schools

photo of teenage girl with sad expression
Stop abuse of teens

Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) recently reintroduced a bill that would provide the first comprehensive standards and reporting requirements for residential programs for “troubled teens.”“The rights of students, many who have a disability, in boot camps and residential programs are too often compromised due to the lack of oversight of these facilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The ARC, in a news release. “We applaud Senator Murphy and Senator Harkin for standing up for these teens who have suffered abuse and for their parents who in many cases were not aware that their children were being abused.”Ensuring the safety of our children in residential programs should be a top priority.”

The Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act, introduced February 27, would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to create regulations prohibiting child abuse in these programs, including the “withholding of essential food, water, clothing, shelter, or medical care necessary to maintain physical health, mental health, and general safety.” Staff members would be required to undergo criminal background checks.

In addition, the bill would require the programs to improve data collection and share this information with parents when they enter the programs, as well as when the programs are providing their children treatment.

In the event of any serious injuries or deaths, the programs would have to notify that state Protection and Advocacy organizations.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives earlier this year. Similar versions of the bill have been introduced each year since 2008 and have passed the House multiple times, only to stall in the Senate.

In 2007 and 2008, investigations by the Government Accountability Office uncovered dozens of deaths related to abuse at these programs, as well as widespread use of fraudulent marketing practices.

“Congress must act because more and more children continue to be abused in these programs,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, in a news release. “A child should not die as a way to try to provide them needed treatment.”

Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of disAbility Rights Galaxy, is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.