A bill imposing first-ever federal oversight on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools cleared the House of Representatives Wednesday, paving the way for Senate consideration.
The bill now called the Keeping All Students Safe Act passed by a vote of 262 to 153, despite objections from numerous Republicans who said the measure was premature and would infringe on states’ rights to oversee education. The vote came down largely along party lines even though the measure was sponsored by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
In debate on the House floor, bill sponsor Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., called the laws that currently exist in just 31 states “incomplete” and “spotty.”
“We cannot have children being taped to their chairs, children having duct tape put around their mouths, children being locked into dark closets or even smaller spaces for multiple hours of the day,” Miller said. “None of us would stand for this with our children or grandchildren. Who the hell is going to step in and protect these children?”
The vote of approval in the House comes amid lingering concerns from private schools and school administrators. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion >>)
In debate, some Republicans argued that there is not enough data yet on the use of restraint and seclusion to warrant federal intervention.
“The bill sets a one-size fits all standard to a problem which there is not yet a full understanding of,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who argued that states and localities can handle the issue on their own.
Under the bill, schools could only use restraint and seclusion when there is imminent danger and when administered by a trained staff member. Techniques relying on mechanical restraints and any method that restricts a student’s breathing would not be allowed. Further, restraint and seclusion could not be included in a student’s individualized education plan, or IEP, and parents would be notified if either method is used.
Similar legislation was proposed in the Senate last year, but it’s unclear when that body may consider it.