January 10, 2017
WASHINGTON, DC – The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) joins with other disability and civil rights organizations in opposing the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States. Based on our review of Senator Sessions’ record throughout his career, we have serious reservations about his commitment to adequately and fairly protect the rights of all Americans, including people with disabilities.
AAPD has signed-on to the following letters of opposition:
- Open Letter to the United States Senate – Civil and Human Rights Organizations Oppose Confirmation of Jeff Sessions
Rights of People with Disabilities: Senator Sessions opposed efforts to implement Alabama’s obligation to provide community-based services to individuals with disabilities who were needlessly institutionalized. In addition, he called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s requirements to include children with disabilities in mainstream education “the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today” and “a big factor in accelerating the decline in civility and discipline in classrooms all over America.” This opposition to integration and inclusion is extremely concerning given the active role that the Justice Department plays in enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act to enable people with disabilities to live independent lives, be full participants in their communities, and to be educated in neighborhood schools and regular classrooms. Senator Sessions also opposed ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- Letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee – National Disability Advocacy Organizations
Before his election to the Senate, during his two years as Alabama’s Attorney General, Senator Sessions fought to eliminate two historic consent decrees protecting people with disabilities. These decrees, entered by Alabama following litigation challenging the state’s child welfare system and its system of services for people with mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities, each reformed a major service delivery system for people with disabilities. One reformed the state’s child welfare system, which too often removed children with mental disabilities from their parents and placed them in institutional settings instead of providing effective services enabling them to stay in their homes and communities. The other reformed state’s mental health and developmental disabilities services agency, which needlessly placed thousands of individuals with mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities in institutions rather than in community settings. In addition, Sessions challenged a court order finding that the state’s school funding system violated the state constitution in part because it deprived students with disabilities who lived in poor districts of the services and supports they needed to succeed in school, such as ramps allowing physical access to school buildings and sufficient numbers of qualified special education teachers.
As a Senator, Sessions has made statements suggesting a lack of commitment to protecting the rights of children with disabilities. Senator Sessions said that implementation of the IDEA, which requires schools to provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities, is “hurting public education,” is “the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today,” and is “a big factor in accelerating the decline in civility and discipline in classrooms all over America.” He has also endorsed the segregation of students with disabilities, stating that many of these children should be “put in an alternative setting where the disability could be dealt with.”5 And he has promoted troubling and unfounded stereotypes about people with disabilities, stating that students with mental disabilities “may often be the most dangerous ones, the ones most likely to come back in, say, six months from now and kill some innocent child in a classroom or shoot their teacher.”