Restraint and seclusion bill reintroduced

This is a photograph of an angled view of the Capitol Building in Washington DC under a clear blue sky.
Capitol Building in Washington DC

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) reintroduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives on April 6 mandating the first federal limits on methods that school administrators can use to prevent students with disabilities from endangering school safety.

The Keeping All Students Safe Act would prohibit methods of restraint and seclusion in most cases, require schools to notify parents when these practices are used and disallow the inclusion of these methods in the student’s Individualized Education Program, which is required for students in special education programs, according to an article in Disability Scoop.

The bill has 17 cosponsors. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MI) is the lead Republican on the bill, though the measure currently does not have the support of House Education Committee chairman Rep. John Kline (R-Minn).

“A year has gone by since Congress failed to pass this needed legislation and more children have been abused through restraint and seclusion,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, in a news release. “Our member agencies have investigated instances in which kids as young as 5 years old have been confined, tied up, pinned down, and battered through the use of restraint and seclusion.”

Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives in March 2010 by a vote of 262-153, but did not come up for a vote in the Senate. Along with concerns about school safety and state’s rights in education, the bill was marred by disagreements among disability advocacy groups when the accompanying Senate bill was introduced in October 2010.

The Senate version of the bill would have allowed these restraint and seclusion methods to be part of the student’s IEP if the students had a two-year history of behaviors that create an “imminent danger of serious bodily injury in school.” Multiple disability advocacy groups saw this language as too compromising.

In 2009, the National Disability Rights Network released a report, titled School is Not Supposed to Hurt, documenting hundreds of restraint and seclusion cases in schools nationwide, sparking an investigation by the Government Accountability Office.

Also on April 6, the disability advocacy group TASH released a report detailing a variety of restraint and seclusion cases during the past year.