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No reason to oppose HR 911
By: Matt  |  February 21, 2011

While I've always been something of a libertarian, being skeptical of federal laws and what not, I put my skepticism aside to support H.R. 911 Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act.

For the uninitiated, the bill seeks to attach federal residential facilities, wilderness camps, boot camps, etc. that typically market themselves to parents as solutions for whatever problems their kids might have (drug use, low grades, crime, mental illness).

Now if you're wondering why the Feds are getting involved here, it's because the state and local governments have failed so hard at keeping these schools from torturing/killing kids, that there exists no word, in any language, that could possibly quantify the failure. These "schools" tend to operate in states with very lax child abuse regulations, or at least lax enforcement of them (I wonder why). They pick towns where they are the only large employer so the authorities don't have the motivation to do any actual investigating (again I wonder why).

This general lack of regulation, coupled with the fact that a large number of people running these "schools" are nowhere near qualified to work with any kids, least of all troubled ones (at least 2 high ranking members of the most well-known network of residential programs, WWASPS are college dropouts), has led to, among other things, multiple deaths (by starvation, medical neglect and botched restraints), suicides, and allegations of torture, many of which have been confirmed, some of which have yet to be properly investigated due to the general lack of oversight. Those that have been confirmed...... Well in short they aren't good reading if you have a weak stomach. To make matters worse, even when one of the people running these schools DOES get caught, they often get a slap on the wrist, thanks to weak laws, and there's very little stopping them from opening a school in another state unless their laws prevent past child abusers from working with kids. This bill seeks to change all that but like with every good law, there's opposition. Some from people who are misguided and some from people who should be in jail.

The biggest complaint I've gotten is "what in the Constitution gives the Feds the right to do this?" Same reason the Feds have the right to ban a herb, the Interstate Commerce Clause. Most of the people in those facilities are shipped from other states. If it works for the drug warriors it can work here.

Then there are the deficit hawks. They think we should drop this law because it will cost money. News flash. We're already paying for it. When these kids get out of these "schools" and they have PTSD to such a degree that they can barely function in the real world, we pay for it. When they find out they don't have adequate education because they've been locked in an isolation room for long periods of time or the school puts the Bible, or rather their insane version of it, as top educational priority, we pay. When they have to get extensive psychological help, we're paying for it. When they get physically crippled by a restraint or over the top punishment and can't work, we pay. When the survivors who can't afford shrinks turn to drugs and booze, we pay. If they kill their parents in retribution, we pay. No matter what happens, we're paying anyway. It makes more sense, financially speaking, to pay prevent the practices that cause these problems than it does to pay for the results. Plus, there are a number of kids in these kind of facilities on the taxpayer dime. As such, it makes sense to have government oversight to make sure these people are getting actual help and we're not just paying to have a couple hicks who think they're preachers use kids as involuntary farm hands.

The last group of objections comes from, no surprise, the industry. Basically their objection boils down to the regulations might be too arduous. I really wonder why they're given a say at all since last I checked we don't give convicted felons a say in their punishment but I digress. Let's go through the MINIMUM standards the bill sets just for fun.

* The prohibition of child abuse and neglect;

* The prohibition of disciplinary techniques involving the withholding of food, water, clothing, shelter or necessary medical care;

* The protection of children from physical restraints and seclusion;

* The prohibition of abuse designed to humiliate or degrade a child;

* Reasonable access to outside communications;

* Each staff member, including volunteers, is required to become familiar with what constitutes child abuse and neglect according to State law;

* Full disclosure, in writing, of staff qualifications and their roles and responsibilities;

* Each staff member must submit to a criminal history check, including a name-based search of the National Sex Offender Registry;

* Policies and procedures for the provision of emergency medical care; and

* Procedures for notifying parents or legal guardians of any investigation of child abuse and neglect, or violation of health and safety standards.

You mean you have to not abuse kids, hire staff who know what they're doing, make sure they aren't pervs, not lie to parents, and not kill people? This actually sounds like the laws every other industry that involves working with kids has to follow. Do you know why? BECAUSE THEY ARE THE SAME! Yet for some reason, various industry people none of whom will be named, most of whom probably should have a taser applied to their genitals, said these would "decimate" their industry.

I cannot nor will I be kind here. If you're running a school, camp, whatever, and you claim that it would be "decimated" by regulations against torture, then you should not be running a school. The only thing you should be running is laps in a prison rec yard.

No matter what political persuasion you are, there is no good reason to oppose this bill.

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