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Posts tagged "Disability Rights"

Civil rights organizations and legal ethics experts filed a judicial misconduct complaint on Tuesday against a senior federal judge, alleging that she made inappropriate statements against minority groups and people with mental disabilities, the New York Times reported.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, the complaint alleged that Judge Edith H. Jones, of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said in a speech in February at the University of Pennsylvania Law School that African-Americans and Hispanics are “predisposed to crime” and that defendants facing capital punishment who claim “mental retardation” disgust her.

Jones was a potential Supreme Court nominee during the Bush Administration. Until October, she was the chief judge on the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The current chief judge on that circuit, Carl E. Stewart — the first African-American to fill that post — will decide whether to dismiss the complaint, speak privately with Jones or order an investigation into the allegations.


Yesterday’s 13-hour filibuster got Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) the spotlight on CNN, a #filibuster twitter feed, and lots of buzz. Unlike other GOP-led filibusters in recent years, Paul’s supposedly had a purpose other than blocking routine legislation and presidential appointments. In delaying John O. Brennan’s confirmation as head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Paul claimed that he wanted to spark discussion about the president’s policy for using drones on American soil, against American citizens. Now, even more people want him to run for president.

Paul received gushing admiration from progressives and conservatives alike. Atlantic Wire reporter Elspeth Reeve raves, “This Is What a Filibuster Should Be,” Slate magazine’s John Vorhees compares him to the protagonist in the iconic , feel-good political drama, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and Cenk Uygur from The Young Turks tweets, “The Young Turks is literally trying to deliver a pizza to Rand Paul on the Senate floor. #filibuster going for 9 hours now, must be hungry.” Given the reason Paul ended his filibuster after 13 hours on the floor, perhaps Paul’s admirers should have delivered a porta-potty instead.

Paul appeals to some liberals due to their mutual mistrust of drones, support for loosening federal marijuana laws, and some of his stances on civil liberties. Many of us were also struck by the part of his unofficial Tea Party State of the Union response which declared that the U.S. “military spending is not immune to waste and fraud.” We all appreciate a politician who seems to stand by their principles — even when we disagree with them.

But …. WAIT! We progressives need to take a giant step back and remember who Rand Paul really is: An obstructionist, narrow minded teabagger who wants to destroy the government. Because when that warm, fuzzy Mr. -Smith-Goes-To-Washington glow subsides, be afraid, VERY afraid:

1. He’s got a “thing” for Strom Thurmond: Paul concluded his speech with an admiring allusion to the pro-segregation bigot and late Senator Strom Thurmond (D-SC), who once stood on the Senate floor and filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for a record 24 hours and 18 minutes:

“And I would go on for another 12 hours to try to break Strom Thurmond’s record, but I’ve discovered that there are some limits to filibustering, and I’m gonna have to take care of one of those in a few minutes here.”

So why did Paul fall 11 hours and 42 minutes short of beating Thurmond’s record? According to Julie Weiner’s piece in Vanity Fair, Thurmond did take one bathroom break “just once, during a few-minute break to update the Congressional Record.” In addition, he brought provisions, dehydrated himself in a steam room so he wouldn’t need to pee, and read state statutes and other government texts aloud. Back then, men were men, racists were “Racists” with a capital “R,” and farm animals were skeered sh*tless.

2. He opposes the Civil Rights Act: Speaking of the Civil Rights Act (which evolved into the one signed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964), Rand Paul opposes that, too. In an April 17th, 2010 interview with the Courier-Journal’s editorial board in Louisville, KY, Paul responded as follows to a question about whether he would have supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m, um, all in favor of that … [trails off, editor prompts, “But?” and Paul laughs] I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners … I abhor racism, I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anyone from a restaurant … BUT, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I think that absolutely there should be no discrimination in anything that gets public funding.

The part about how “there should be no discrimination in anything that gets public funding” sounds reasonable, until you consider that Paul doesn’t think ANYthing should get public funding. Paul also reduces the Jim Crow era’s myriad injustices to “a bad business decision,” because “in a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior.”

Which brings us to this writer’s essential issue with Libertarianism: If the exercise of one person’s freedom violates the freedom of another, then the bigger, stronger, and richer will always win, and that isn’t a government, that’s a nasty, brutish and Hobbesian existence.

3. … AND he opposes the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA): When NPR’s Robert Siegel interviewed Paul a month later on “All Things Considered,” Paul stuck his foot in his mouth yet AGAIN to reveal that he believes businesses should be allowed to discriminate against disabled folks as well. Though I suppose it technically doesn’t qualify as a “gaffe” when you speak correctly and just happen to have views that are utterly vile:

Right. I think a lot of things could be handled locally. For example, I think that we should try to do everything we can to allow for people with disabilities and handicaps. You know, we do it in our office with wheelchair ramps and things like that. I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who’s handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator. And I think when you get to the solutions like that, the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions.

Yes, it’s expensive to install an elevator or do major remodelling to help customers and employees with special needs, and it can be hard for smaller companies. But it’s a lot harder to live with disabilities day in and day out, and the least we can do is to modify our buildings so everyone can fully participate in our society with a measure of dignity. Plus, it’s strange how conservatives always mention how hard regulations are on “small businesses,” but they never suggest providing seed money to bring these mom and pops into compliance?

4. He opposes Obamacare: Despite the recent ruling from the United States’ conservative-leaning Supreme Court, Paul insists that the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act is unconstitutional. According to Scott Wong from Politico, “Obamacare is wrong for Americans. It will destroy our healthcare system.” Um … as if the current healthcare system hasn’t already destroyed our healthcare system? Paul also apparently thinks that he and his fellow teabagger extremists in the Republican Party are above the laws of our land and can declare things unconstitutional, even after our Supreme Court has had what is supposed to be the final say:

“Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional,” Paul said. “While the court may have erroneously come to the conclusion that the law is allowable, it certainly does nothing to make this mandate or government takeover of our health care right.”

Oh, and Paul’s also one of those conspiracy theory nut-jobs who thinks that Obamacare will “deputize” doctors to spy on patients and snitch on gun owners, so the U.S. government can record names in massive database. Never mind that this theory has been debunked numerous times

5. He opposes gun safety laws: And speaking of guns, guess where Paul stands on gun safety laws? Hint: Back in January, Mollie Reilly from the Huffington Post reported that the Kentucky Senator shared the outline of his pro-gun strategy for challenging President Obama’s executive orders on gun safety with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.:

“Our founding fathers were very concerned about us having separation of powers. They didn’t want to let the president become a king. In this bill, [that he introduced] We will nullify anything the president does that smacks of legislation.”

Because, you know how Paul’s fellow party members clamped down when Obama’s predecessor overstepped his bounds, started an illegal war, imprisoned suspected terrorists without due process or trials, and instituted invasive search procedures in all of our airports … oh wait … they never did that.

On Thursday — sounding all bright, chipper, well-rested, and (presumably) empty-bladdered the morning after his 13-hour screed, Paul appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio show and confided that — although he doesn’t want Obama to have access to lethal weapons that could kill American citizens — he’s carrying around some mysterious lethal weapon himself:

“I’m not talking about people who are carrying a rifle around — that would be half of the South, myself included, and half of my staff,”

Yeah, we don’t need no stinkin’ gun safety laws. And in case you have ANY doubt about how Paul feels about guns and our president, here’s the “STOP Obama’s Gun Ban” email he endorsed with the image of a gun pointed at Barack Obama’s head.

6. He supports international tax dodgers: Rand Paul doesn’t just support privacy rights for potential terrorists, he also wants to help tax dodgers.

7. He opposes labor rights: Ian Milheiser from Think Progress observed on Thursday that “Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) took several minutes out of his lengthy talking filibuster” to praise a 1905 Supreme Court decision for Lochner vs. New York, which rejected a New York state law limiting bakers’ work weeks to 60 hours per week.

This case is almost universally regarded as among THE WORST decisions that ever came from the bench. Even the hardcore conservative Robert Bork — a failed Reagan era Supreme Court nominee – called the decision an “abomination” that “lives in the law as the symbol, indeed the quintessence of judicial usurpation of power.”

8. He’s Anti-Choice: Paul constantly talks about “liberty” and “freedom.” Yet, here’s another @sshole in the GOP who rejects the ultimate freedom for women: The freedom to make reproductive choices, reach their full personal and economic potential, and decide when (if ever) to have children … as men do. And (yawn) his casual dismissal of the formidable, charismatic, and well-qualified Ashley Judd’s potential run against his colleague and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as “articulate” smacks of sexism.

9. He opposes marital equality: So much for the “liberty” Paul’s always going on and on about.

10. He opposes automatic birthright citizenship: So much for Paul’s supposed reverence for the U.S. Constitution and our slave-owning founding fathers. If Paul has his way, babies born on American soil won’t grow up to be U.S. citizens


The Department of Education on Friday said in a statement that students with disabilities must be given an equal opportunity to participate on traditional athletic teams or in their own leagues, the Associated Press reported.

h/t: TPM LiveWire

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(via Lawrence O’Donnell: ‘Senate Day of Shame’)

Because of wingnuts like Rick Santorum, the Senate behaved in a shameful manner Tuesday. It was painful to watch Lawrence O’Donnell’s pain in this segment. Clearly he is proud of his work in the Senate and regards it as a distinguished body, which is why it was so difficult for him to do this segment.

His pain stems from the idiotic vote in Tuesday’s Senate proceedings to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This should have been a simple ratification, because there is nothing in it that is in any way pre-emptive of United States law. In fact, it was modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Yet because of the teaBirchers’ paranoia and petty nonsense, they couldn’t get 67 Senators to ratify it, even after they brought Bob Dole in his wheelchair to try and shame some of those old-timers into doing the right thing. What a joke today’s teaBirchers are.

Yes, that’s right. Signing onto a convention that would actually expand the rights of the disabled around the world is definitely a movement to attack the sovereignty of the United States. Because people having access to health care and buildings is somehow evil?

The Senate rejected a United Nations treaty aimed at banning discrimination against individuals with disabilities Tuesday, falling five votes short of the two-thirds needed in a 61-38 vote.

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities calls on participating countries to work to attain equality in access to education, healthcare and more, and was based largely on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. It was negotiated by President George W. Bush’s administration in 2006 and has since been signed byPresident Obama. So far,  126 countries have ratified the treaty.

The treaty, which passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before an attempt to ratify it through a voice vote fell flat in August, had a broad base of support, with Sens. John Kerry (R-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) standing next to each other Monday to implore senators to join their cause.

Former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), backed by his wife, fellow former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) attended Tuesday’s vote to urge the treaty’s ratification. The former Senate majority leader looked on from his wheelchair as senators voted from their desks instead of approaching the room’s podium.

But many Republicans, who accounted for the 38 opposing votes, have been vocal in their opposition to the treaty, which they say infringes on U.S. sovereignty.

h/t: LA Times

On Tuesday afternoon, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) read a letter from former Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) imploring Senate Republicans to ratify a United Nations treaty affirming equal rights for disabled individuals. Dole, who was hospitalized on Tuesday, was a World War II veteran who suffered lasting disabilities after his service.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced Monday that he plans to bring the treaty up for a vote in the Senate — but, despite widespread support for the measure, Republicans seem bent on killing it again this time around after blocking Democrats’ last attempt to ratify the treaty in August.

Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is leading the charge against the treaty. Santorum, whose daughter was born with a rare genetic disorder, takes issue with protectionsthat allow the state to separate a child from a parent if “such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child,” such as in cases of emotional or physical abuse. At a press conference with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Santorum called this “a direct assault on us and our family.” 

The treaty, which bans discrimination against people with disabilities, was originally signed in 2006 under George W. Bush’s administration and re-signed in 2009 by President Obama. More than 150 nations have signed it and 126 have already ratified it, and it is backed by a range of disabilities and veterans groups as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

In fact, as Dana Milbank points out, the treaty requires other nations to model their laws on the Americans With Disabilities Act, which already forbids discrimination based on disability.

The ADA ensures that Santorum’s daughter, Bella, cannot be blocked from going to school or from receiving the medical treatment and accommodations she needs. In opposing the treaty, Santorum is actually opposing those same protections for other disabled people all around the world.

H/T: Aviva Shen at Think Progress

There’s a danger looming in schools today that’s putting our nation’s most vulnerable children at risk. Around the country, teachers and administrators are struggling to meet the needs of a growing population of disabled students, who are entering school environments ill-prepared to educate them responsibly, thanks to a lack of both adequate training and resources. This lack of preparation for handling students’ special needs is, in turn, sparking a disturbing and dangerous trend: the use of harmful “zero tolerance” policies that end in seclusion, restraint, expulsion and – too often – law enforcement intervention for the disabled children involved.

From coast to coast, the incidents are as heartbreaking as they are shocking:

  • In Brooklyn, NY, G.R., a 5-year-old autistic student, was traumatized when police were called to his school because he was having a temper tantrum. He was physically removed from the school by police, strapped to a stretcher, and when his family members tried to advocate for him, they were allegedly handcuffed. His grandmother’s ribs were broken in the altercation.
  • In Albuquerque, a 7-year-old with autism was handcuffed by police officers called to restrain him. His “offenses” included calling other children names, knocking over chairs, spitting, and shooting rubber bands at a police officer.  
  • Tony Smith, a disabled student suing the Atlanta Police Department and his former school district, claims he washandcuffed to a filing cabinet for seven hourswhen the school investigated a crime that had taken place on campus. The officers involved, his suit argues, violated department policy and his civil rights.
  • In 2010, autistic student Evelyn Towry made national headlines when she was arrested after becoming agitated because her teacher wouldn’t let her wear her favorite cow hoodie. Her Individualized Education Plan (IEP) detailing her needs and how they should be met specifically included a clause allowing the school to contact law enforcement in the event of disruptive behavior, though her parents claimed they neither saw nor approved the document.

Cases like these, of students trapped by school policies rarely designed to deal with the nuances of their diagnoses, are growing – and the situation is further clouded by race, class and social factors. These factors can determine what kinds of evaluations, interventions and treatments are provided to students with disabilities or suspected disabilities, and ultimately decide whether children are able to successfully complete their educations, or fall by the wayside.

Such situations are growing extremely common across the United States, with school districts calling on police to handle routine disciplinary infractions rather than dealing with them on their own. Many have adopted harsh zero-tolerance policies, where infractions are handled with a one-size-fits-all model, regardless of age, ability or the larger context in which they took place. These policies can effectively set some students on the path of what the Florida ACLU calls a school to prison pipeline — and, notably, many of the victims of this system, like Salecia, are minorities.

Racial disparities when it comes to school discipline are well-established in the United States; students of color are twice as likely as their white peers to be subject to out-of-school suspensions, according to the Department of Education’s 2012 Civil Rights Data Collection. Yet often, there’s more to these cases than meets the eye, because many of the minority students who find themselves harshly penalized also happen to be students with disabilities, many of them undiagnosed. 

Even without counting the many children with undiagnosed disabilities in schools today, we know that the overall number of disabled students in our public school system is on the rise. Increasingly, school districts are tasked with educating students with a wide range of intellectual, cognitive and emotional disabilities, rather than physical disabilities, as in prior decades. In theory, our ability to identify these disorders earlier than we could in the past should ensure that students get the support and access they need to succeed in school, with individualized education as appropriate. But in practice, the rise in disabled students is crunching school districts terribly, as funding for these students has not at all kept pace with the rise in diagnoses. As a result, many schools are now hard pressed to serve their students’ educational needs and deal with disciplinary issues.

As funding for special education drops and available staff members dwindle – and as disabled students with behavioral problems are increasingly mainstreamed in response to changing thinking on disability education – discipline is becoming a large problem in a growing number of mainstream classrooms. In response, some districts have decided to bring out the heavy guns for handling disruptions associated with disabled students; from outbursts in class to tantrums in the hall, the new go-to solution in many districts is to call the police.

In addition to calling on law enforcement, Disability Rights Oregon notes that there has been an uptick in the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, as well. The organization points out that these practices appear to disproportionately target disabled students, and can be fatal in some cases.

H/T: S.E. Smith at AlterNet