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Restraint Bill Bears Victim's Name
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 15, 2004

LANSING, MICHIGAN--Family members of Michael Renner Lewis III hope that a law introduced into the Michigan Legislature bearing his name will prevent any more restraint-related deaths of students with disabilities.

State Representative Alexander Lipsey, a Democrat from Kalamazoo, was scheduled to propose "Michael Renner Lewis III Law" on Tuesday.

The measure would change state education codes to allow students to be restrained only "in an emergency to control unpredictable, spontaneous behavior . . . that poses a clear and present danger of serious physical harm to that pupil or others," according to a story from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

The law would require all restraints to be performed by teachers, staff members and administrators that have received in-depth training on physical restraint techniques.

Certain techniques, such as restraining students face-down on the floor or ground, and using drugs as sedatives, would be outlawed entirely.

Parents would also have to consent to restraints that would be used on their children.

"The goal here is to provide not only some rationale on proper restraint practices, but to allow teachers and others in public schools to feel confident how to respond to certain circumstances," Lipsey said at a Monday news conference.

Lipsey added that the law would cover general education as well as special education settings.

"There's a great deal of concern that there has not been legislation put in place before," he said.

Fifteen-year-old Michael, who had autism, died on August 25, 2003 -- the first day of school at Parchment High.

The 6-foot, 165-pound teen stopped breathing after he was restrained on his stomach. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital a short time later.

School officials said he had a seizure early in the day. He recovered from the seizure, but soon became "agitated". Four staff members "tried to quiet Michael". Each grabbed one of his limbs and sat down on the floor next to him in a room behind the school auditorium, police said.

A family caregiver arrived to take Michael home, but found him unconscious on the floor. She started giving Michael CPR, but was too late to revive him.

An initial autopsy report showed "no obvious anatomical causes" of death. The latest autopsy results ruled his death an accident, but indicated that restraint played a role, as well as an underlying heart problem.

The family is suing the Parchment School District, Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency and their employees for assault and battery, false arrest and imprisonment, gross negligence and violation of Lewis' constitutional rights. A trial date of April 5, 2005 has been set in U.S. District Court for the suit, which seeks $25 million.

Lipsey said he hopes the measure will become law before the beginning of he upcoming school year.

"Bill aimed at stopping restraint injuries" (Kalamazoo Gazette)
"The Death of Michael Renner-Lewis III" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)


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