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Lawmakers Unveil Restraint And Seclusion Bill To End ‘Nightmare Of Abuse’


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Certain types of restraint and seclusion would be banned and any use of the practices would be reported to parents and the public under legislation introduced in Congress Wednesday.

While administered under the guise of discipline, a government report earlier this year found that in hundreds of cases restraint and seclusion tactics used in schools amounted to abuse and even became deadly in some instances. Most students subjected to the allegedly abusive tactics were students with disabilities.

The proposed legislation would create the first ever federal oversight of seclusion and restraint tactics in schools. Under the bill, future use of restraint and seclusion would be limited to situations in which there is imminent danger and when it is administered by a trained staff member. Any restraint that restricts breathing and the use of mechanical restraints — such as strapping a student to a chair — would be banned. School staff also could not use medication to control behaviors unless it is in accordance with a doctor’s prescription.

Also under the new bill, schools would be prohibited from including restraint and seclusion as a planned behavior management method in a student’s individualized education plan (IEP) and schools would be required to tell parents if any form of restraint or seclusion is used.

Meanwhile, the bill calls on states to beef up training and improve data collection on restraint and seclusion. Such data would be made public. States would also be required to develop their own policies to come into compliance with the new federal rules.

“We’ve set the minimum. What we would like is that the states and the schools come up with a policy that’s equal to or better,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who introduced the measure in the House of Representatives along with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. Similar legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.

Swift passage of the bill is a top priority to parents like Nicole and Alan Holden whose son Ethan spent three hours each day strapped into a chair in his Muskegon, Mich. preschool classroom last year. Ethan, 4, has autism and a speech delay and was unable to tell his parents what was going on. Nicole Holden only found out when she attended a class holiday party where her son sat tied to a chair.

“It was literally torture,” she says.

Miller said that he hopes to have hearings on the proposed bill at the beginning of 2010 and said quick passage is crucial to end what he calls a “nightmare of abuse.”

“I think we owe it to the children to consider effectiveness and speed at this point,” he said.

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Comments (5 Responses)

  1. twinkie1cat says:

    This policy takes away valid methods of controlling violent and abusive behavior and endangers both students and teachers. Some people used these methods inappropriately and now those who would benefit from them will not have access. More teachers will be injured, more classrooms destroyed, more classmates bruised and bloodied when a violent student throws a device and hits someone. So next time a 6 foot tall teenager with autism throws a desk and kills a multihandicapped classmate or a psychotic adult student goes down on the arm of an emaciated one with muscular dystrophy (as once happened in my class in the 1970s) I guess we will just have to let him get bit!

    All special education teachers MUST be certified and educated in the techniques and methods of their profession, both educational and behavioral and special education must be left to special educators. I have come home bruised and scratched shoulder to hand and bitten and scratched, but I got the kids under control and they learned appropriate behavior because I worked with them. I was a professional and know what to do and I did it.

    This whininess is from politicians and regular education administrators who don’t know the field and a knee jerk reaction to the few instances of non-professionalism that do occur. All the laws and programs in the world cannot substitute for the judgment and intuition of a professional special educator.

  2. luvmycoffee says:

    All of the research shows that the use of seclusion and restraint increases the risk of injury to both the students as well as the staff who work with them. Institutions that have moved away from the use of seclusion and restraint as behavior management techniques, and have implemented the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, have seen the number of employee injuries and student/resident injuries decline.

    Knowledgeable, professional special educators rarely, if ever, need to resort to seclusion and restraint. They are well-trained in the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and have learned how to support students and help them to get their needs met without escalating behaviors.

    Perhaps in the 1970’s there wasn’t as much knowledge about the functions of behavior and how to effectively use TEACHING strategies to help students better manage their behavior. Maybe in those days the best tools you had were brute force to control your students. These days there are much better and PROVEN techniques. We don’t have to abuse students any more to have safer, more effective classrooms.

  3. dlmgraham says:

    I don’t know what went on in the 1970’s, but I teach special education now and have a special needs son. There is absolutely no reason to physically restrain a child/teen to the point of “restraint that restricts breathing” or the use of “mechanical restraints” in a public education setting.

    My son’s classroom has 4 adults for 12 students. One is the special education teacher and the other 3 are assistants. They are all trained in the use of appropriate behavior management and use it on a daily if not hourly basis. This is what all severely impaired special education classes should look like. I shouldn’t feel blessed that is where he is placed, but KNOW that is what all placements should be.

    I work in a less severe placement that involves teenage students. I am trained in the use of appropriate behavior management and use it everyday. My students can be physically “violent and abusive”, but I am ready. I have great regular education staff and administration that supports OUR students.

  4. mrs.tsanders says:

    as a special education advocate i have seen first hand the horrors of restraint and seclusion. it is a crime, it is abuse. we do not do such things with our children at home and no one should be allowed to do it to them anywhere else, especially not in the place that we should feel that our children are safe, the public school. i have never seen a positive result of seclusion or restraint on any child let alone a special needs child. our kids need patience, understanding, and most of all, LOVE. to read comments defending such criminal acts makes me sick. we all know that teachers are “trained” and “bound by law to do this and that” and there are many that would never restrain or seclude a child, the sad fact is that there are few teachers that are truly in special education for the right reasons. some are thrown into special education because the school has no place to put them or they cant find or afford highly qualified teachers and use whoever they have on hand. in the news i have read and watched horrible stories of abuse and seclusion, just recently a special education teacher was charged with abuse and neglect that lasted over a 20 yr span, force feeding, beating, restraining, not allowing the children to go to restroom, this went on for years. parents complained, fellow school staff including teachers complained, school board looked the other way until one family stood their ground. hopefully this “teacher” will never see the light of day again. do not ever assume that a child needs restrained or secluded when the odds are they just need you to understand them in the way that they communicate or they are being exposed to something that is causing issues with sensories and cant get away. our schools must accomodate our children, our children do not have to accomodate our schools, never forget that!

  5. akim0208 says:

    To dlmgraham: What state/city are you in?

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