International Disability Rights News Service
Your quick, once-a-day look at disability rights, self-determination
and the movement toward full community inclusion around the world.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Year V, Edition 955

Today's front section features 8 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the "Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this section for 36 more news items.

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

--Michigan State Representative Alexander Lipsey, who is introducing a measure to limit the use of physical restraints in Michigan schools. The "Michael Renner Lewis III" bill would be named for a 15-year-old with autism who died last August after being restrained by school staff (Second story)

"I think they're discriminating against me."
--Melissa Sue King, who wants custody of her 14-month old son, Shawn. Connecticut officials removed the boy at birth, citing concerns that her disabilities would make it unsafe for the child to live with her (Fourth story)



Federal Judge Tosses Discrimination Lawsuit Against Airlines

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 15, 2004

MIAMI, FLORIDA--An attorney representing 13 airline passengers with disabilities who sued 10 U.S. airlines is reviewing a judge's recent decision to throw out the case.

The passengers sued the airlines in federal court in February, claiming the carriers continue to discriminate against them in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Rehab Act, which bans discrimination against companies that accept federal funds, would not ordinarily apply to airlines. But the plaintiffs reasoned that the airlines fell under the scope of that law once they accepted $3.2 billion in bailout-out money after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages disagreed, and on June 8 she ruled that the money was given to the airlines to compensate them for the revenue they lost when the federal government ordered all jets grounded in the days following the tragedy.

The suit was a test case, asking the court to force the airlines to make reasonable accommodations in aircraft, facilities and programs, and to pay damages for past violations. Attorneys for the passengers argued that the airlines subject them to harassment and inconveniences because they cannot file individual lawsuits under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

The airlines that were named in the suit included American, America West, Continental, Northwest, Trans States and United airlines, Delta Air Lines, the Alaska and Mesa air groups and US Airways.

Barbara Junge, an attorney with the firm of de la O & Marko, which represented the passengers, said Monday, "We're disappointed, and we're reviewing it to determine whether we'll be filing an appeal."



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)



Deaf Travelers Sue Burbank Airport

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 15, 2004

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA--A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Burbank's Bob Hope Airport, claiming that it discriminates against deaf and hard-of-hearing travelers.

The law firm Disability Rights Advocates filed the suit Monday in federal court in Los Angeles, claiming the airport violates the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by failing to provide basic access in the form of TTY telephones, along with monitors to display departure and arrival times and paging information.

"The 30 million people living in this country who are either deaf or have experienced some degree of hearing loss are tired of waiting for institutions such as airports, which serve the general public, to voluntarily provide the equal access that is required under the law," said DRA attorney Kevin Knestrick.

Knestrick added that he sent a letter to airport officials nearly two weeks ago warning of the potential lawsuit. He filed the suit after he got no response to that letter.

The suit asks for a court order to force the airport to add the accessibility features and to improve training for airport employees.

Sid Wolinsky, another DRA attorney, said that, while many airports do not have adequate services and facilities to assist such travelers, Bob Hope Airport is among the worst. Deaf and hard-of-hearing people often miss flights because changes in takeoff times and gate assignments are only announced verbally over the public address system rather than being displayed on video monitors.

Charles Lombardo, president of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, told the Associated Press that the airport is making the changes the advocates want as quickly as possible.

"I'm sorry if it wasn't as fast as they wanted," he said.

Disability Rights Advocates



Mom Battles For Custody Of Son

June 15, 2004

HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT--A 14-month-old boy is in the middle of a custody battle between his mother, his biological father, and a state agency that wants the boy adopted out to foster parents, according to a story in Monday's Hartford Courant.

Melissa Sue King, 18, gave birth to her son, Shawn, in April of 2003. State Department of Children and Families workers immediately took the child away, however, citing concerns that King's cerebral palsy, borderline mental retardation, and seizure disorder would affect her ability to be a safe and suitable parent for Shawn.

King moved to Maine with her aunt last autumn, but continues to travel 5 1/2 hours to Connecticut for supervised visits with Shawn, and to defend her right to have custody of him.

King gave birth to Shawn after she was raped by her former foster father, Gilbert Chamberland Jr. The girl had been placed at Chamberland's home by DCF -- the same agency that wants to take her son away -- even though state child welfare workers knew there were prior allegations of child sexual abuse against him.

Now Chamberland, who is currently serving a four-year prison term for assaulting King, is also fighting for custody of Shawn.

At the same time, DCF workers are pushing to have King's parental rights terminated and for Shawn to be adopted by the foster parents who have raised him since birth. They have also claimed King has not bonded with her son.

A judge will decide soon who will finally have custody of Shawn.

King said she wants her son to come and live with her in Maine.

"I'm sad that he's still in Connecticut," she said.

"I think they're discriminating against me. I want to raise him myself with my aunt's help."

"Child's Fate In Judge's Hands" (Hartford Courant)



Survey: "ADAPT's Ten Worst States"

June 15, 2004

AUSTIN, TEXAS--The disability rights group ADAPT has published the following survey on its website:

ADAPT will be ranking the 2004 "Ten Worst States" in providing home and community services and supports compared to nursing home and other institutional services. This ranking will be released in mid July, 2004.

This assessment will combine information taken from statistical data released to the public on state spending in various categories as well as the views of advocates in the states who experience "the good, the bad and the ugly" of our states long term care system.

To assist us in this ranking we would appreciate it if you would fill out the attached survey and return it to us by June 30, 2004. You can fax it to us or "cut and paste" into a E-mail message.

Your support will assist us in accurately ranking your state.

All individual responses will be confidential.

For an Institution Free America!

Entire survey:
"ADAPT's Ten Worst States"



Karen Gaffney Foundation

I am the President of the Karen Gaffney Foundation. Our Mission Statement is included in this web site. I hope you will take the time to read it, if you haven't already. We are dedicated to championing the journey to full inclusion in families, schools, communities and the workplace for people with Down syndrome or other learning disabilities.

So how can I help you? Well... I know what it feels like to be considered different from everyone else. I know how hard it is to make friends when you have a disability like mine. I would like to the opportunity to share some of my feelings with students, counselors and teachers. I believe that I can help raise expectations of the capabilities that fellow students with Down syndrome or other disabilities have to contribute to the world around them, and to be a friend to others.


# EXPRESS EXTRA!!! From the Inclusion Daily Express Archives (Three years ago):

Townsend Should Be Released, Prosecutors Say
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 15, 2001

MIAMI, FLORIDA--Last month, DNA evidence cleared Jerry Frank Townsend of several rapes and murders that had taken place more than 20 years ago in Broward County, north of Miami. Townsend, who is considered to have mental retardation, had given police full confessions. He had been convicted of the crimes, even though his defenders pointed out that police had "helped" Townsend remember details and even corrected him when his story was consistent with theirs.

Even though he has been cleared of those crimes, Townsend is still behind bars. That is because in 1979, after his bogus convictions for the Broward County crimes, Townsend agreed to plead guilty to one rape and two murders that happened in Miami-Dade.

Now prosecutors are recommending that Townsend be released and the Miami-Dade convictions be thrown out, in part because there was no physical evidence or witnesses tying Townsend to those cases, and partly because his guilty pleas while he was serving time for crimes he did not commit.

"By law, once the Broward sentences were set aside Mr. Townsend's pleas to concurrent life sentences in the Miami-Dade cases must also be set aside," Katherine Fernandez Rundle, state attorney for Miami-Dade, said in a statement Thursday.

"Jerry Frank Townsend" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)


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