Bill would require Massachusetts to release restraint, abuse data from schools

Photo by Flickr user Emmanuel Huybrechts

A bill recently filed in the Massachusetts state house would provide more information to the public about physical restraints and incidents of assault and neglect at public and private schools across the commonwealth.

Jim Major, executive director of an association of private special education schools, said this week that the legislation would improve “transparency and accountability” at its member schools as well as other organizations that serve children, including other private and public schools.

“We’ve seen an increased interest and an increased need on part of the public and the media for transparency concerning our member schools and other schools and child serving organizations,’’ Major said. “We agree.”

Major, who heads the Massachusetts Association of 766 Approved Private Schools, first proposed plans to improve public information at special education and other schools amidst questions about allegations of abuse and neglect at the Chamberlain International School in Middleborough. The investigation by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting led to stories in the Huffington Post and WBUR public radio as well as legislative hearings last fall about government oversight of taxpayer funded private schools that serve children with special needs.

Major said he worked with Rep. Colleen Garry, a Democrat from Dracut, who in June filed the bill, “An act relative to enhancing public transparency to support quality care outcomes in all child serving organizations.” The bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities last week. Garry could not be reached for comment.

The legislation, among other things, would require the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and other state agencies to make available on departments’ websites data related to physical restraints and any injuries that resulted as well as reports of abuse and neglect. It does not require agencies to release redacted narratives of incidents on their websites, although the reports are available by a public records request.