“I am genuinely pleased by the House’s bipartisan support for H.R. 4247, the Keeping All Students Safe in Schools Act,” said U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), original sponsor of the legislation. “This critical piece of legislation confronts the unimaginable situation in schools across the country whereby some of our nation’s most vulnerable children are treated in an inhumane and degrading manner. The thousands of incidents reported by GAO and others together with the piecemeal approach taken by the states demonstrates the need for federal guidance. I’ve been proud to work with many organizations and this is a victory for them. I thank Chairman Miller for his leadership and my colleagues for their support. Together, we will work to ensure this bill is passed by the Senate.”
Unlike in hospitals and other community-based facilities that receive federal taxpayer dollars, there are currently no federal laws that address how and when restraint and seclusion can be used on children in public and private schools. GAO also found that improperly trained teachers were too often using these practices as frequent discipline.
Seclusion, as the term is used in this context, means the act of involuntarily confining a student in an area by himself. Restraint is used to restrict an individual’s freedom of movement.
According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education, state laws on restraint and seclusion vary widely. Nineteen states have no laws at all. Of the 31 states that do have laws in place, many are not comprehensive enough to protect all students, in every kind of school.
The Keeping All Students Safe Act would establish, for the first time, minimum federal standards to provide equal protections to all students, in every state across the country. It would make clear that physical restraint or locked seclusion should be used only when there is imminent danger of injury and only when imposed by trained staff. It would prohibit mechanical restraints, such as strapping children to chairs, misusing therapeutic equipment to punish students or duct-taping parts of their bodies and any restraint that restricts breathing.
It would also prohibit chemical restraint, which are medications used to control behavior that are not consistent with a doctor’s prescription.
The bill would prohibit school staff from including restraint or seclusion as planned interventions in student’s education plans, known as Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). It would also require schools to notify parents immediately after incidents when restraint or seclusion was used.
In many of the cases GAO examined, parents only learned that their child was being restrained or secluded from a whistle-blowing teacher – or when their child came home bruised.
The legislation would also allow states the flexibility to tailor their individual laws based on their needs: It would ask states to have their own laws in place, within two years, that either meet or exceed these basic federal standards.