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Restraint And Seclusion Bill Hits Bumpy Road On Path To Senate


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A bill that would limit restraint and seclusion in the nation’s schools is on shaky ground amid concerns in the Senate over a provision barring the practices from being included in a student’s individualized education plan, or IEP.

The qualms are largely due to pushback from the American Association of School Administrators, which opposes the bill. The group, which represents 13,000 superintendents and other school leaders, says the IEP is the best place for parents and school officials to discuss restraint and seclusion preemptively in cases where students have known behavior issues.

“We see it as a discussion to be had in advance with the expectation that you never have to use it,” says Noelle Ellerson, assistant director of policy analysis and advocacy for the organization. “We would hopefully only be using it in emergency situations, but instead of being reactive you would be proactive.”

However, disability advocates, who have been pressing for the legislation, argue that including restraint and seclusion in an IEP encourages its use.

“To put it in an IEP elevates it to acceptable practice, which it’s not,” says Barb Trader, executive director of TASH who’s taken the lead in advocating for the bill. “If you plan to rely on these interventions then staff rely on them more and use goes up.”

Under the proposed bill, restraint and seclusion could not be included in a child’s IEP. In addition, the tactics would only be allowed in situations where there is imminent danger and when administered by a trained staff member. Mechanical restraints and any method that restricts a student’s breathing would also be barred. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion >>)

The current impasse comes with the clock ticking. The legislation was approved by the House of Representatives in March, but if it does not receive Senate approval before the end of this year the process will have to start over again.

Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who is sponsoring the legislation, is not seeking reelection and will leave the Senate when his term expires at the end of the session.

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Comments (9 Responses)

  1. says:

    Parents and advocates need to stand up and support legislation to help prevent the abuse of seclusion and restraint. Really, the is bill is being held up by the school administrator lobby? Maybe it is because so many schools are not willing to spend money on training to implement positive behavior support. I am sure it is cheaper to just build a seclusion room and restrain students. Of course they do not want to be held accountable for abusing seclusion restraint. The fact that they are against this bill says a lot about what they think of the disabled community…it speaks volumes. Sad that they are the ones who are in charge of education.

  2. denisecopaa says:

    The parent, self-advocate, and advocacy community is resolute that neither restraint nor seclusion belong in an IEP as a planned intervention. The goal of this legislation is to prevent and reduce use of these deadly and dangerous techniques. Planning to use them is counter to that goal.

    The Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to develop an individualized education program (IEP) that provides a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The IEP refers both to the educational program to be provided to a child with a disability and to the written document that describes that educational program. According to IDEA-04 an IEP must identify services which are designed to confer “meaningful education benefit.” The statute states also that the IEP should include “a statement of special education services and supplementary aids and services based on peer reviewed research.” Restraint and seclusion do not meet the standard of providing “meaningful educational benefit” nor is there a peer-reviewed evidence-base for their use. Neither restraint nor seclusion are a program, treatment, therapy, or services. They are emergency responses to a crisis situation. IEPs can be supplemented with behavioral intervention plans that rely on trained staff to de-escalate crisis situations without relying on R/S.

    Denise Marshall
    Executive Director,
    The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc.

  3. Cathyb58 says:

    We just haven’t come that far in how we work/educate our loved ones with disabilities. My son is very damaged from constantly being put in a “time-out” room. The school he was in used it for every infraction. It was their way of handling any issue that occurred. All the children in that school that are not completely compliant are placed, pulled, dragged, into the isolation room. One report we received home stated he spent close to 1 hour in that room.

    The principal once told me that there is “no” excuse for any behaviors. I explained that “Behavior is Communication”. She did not agree at all!!!!!!!!! Talk about Draconian attitude!!!

  4. ccampboyle says:

    Frankly, as a parent I am extremely happy this amendment is being considered. I have a 19 year old son with a long history of aggressive and self-injurious behavior. He goes to a great school that implements positive behavioral supports … and restraint when necessary. His aggressions have gone from a rate of 40 per day to 1 every 6 to 8 weeks. But when that aggression occurs, if it is not handled properly he can send someone to the hospital. He has a 5 page behavior plan, the first 3 pages of which are positive supports (including sensory diet) and de-escalation techniques. The other 2 pages spell out who can restrain him (i.e. what their training is), when and how, and how everyone will get out of it safely. Without this amendment, his plan would be illegal. And that would endanger both him and the staff.

  5. swissvale72 says:

    So let me get this straight. If we don’t include any mention of physical intervention in the IEP, don’t talk about it, dont’ mention it, then epsiode in which students are physically out-of-control requiring physical intervention will cease to exist? Is that right?

    Taking this to it logical conclusion, if one refuses to legitimize the use of physical intervention through inclusion in the IEP, then is there really a necessity to properly train staff in its application?

    This seems to be a slipperly slope, considering that the majority of deaths resulting from physical intervention are the result of “pile-ons” or come at the hands of staff who are otherwise untrained.

    Kudos co ccampboyle for his reasonable and prudent comments on the need to carefully plan for emergency use of this intervention.

  6. dave says:

    This is kind of nutty, do people really believe that if it is not in the IEP that it is less likely to happen? Restraints in most cases are to protect the child from self injury, or in some cases to create the time to remove other children who may be injured. The IEP is designed to provide a means for a professional team of people (including the parents” to decide what is the best course of action to further a child’s education. Anything that furthers a childs ability to recieve a FAPE (free and appropriate education) must not be excluded. It ties the educator’s hands. So to speak.

  7. momtillythehon says:

    I can’t wait for teachers to have to open their minds to change! My son has been in one of the wonderful “resource rooms” for too long !! Come on parents we need a grassroots movement to demand the end of segration, seclusion, restraints, disrespect and all other abuses our children have suffered ! The teachers are going to have to step up to the plate and co teach and incourage peer buddy assistance. Team work and respect of others what more is there ? Our children will take some time to recover from the abuse and seclusion they have suffered. Teachers try to be patient while this revolution happens. As our children are included more from preschool and up we will see much less behavior. I will be taking my son in for another dianosis next week. I’m pretty sure he isn’t autistic but the expert that saw him in our town want us to get the city specialist opinion. My son is just imitating what he sees and hears all day long.

  8. rodrange says:

    Dave & Swiss have it the proper and balanced perspective. The IEP is your best legal tool that ensures the safety of all. IEPs and the related documents (Behavior Intervention Plans) are vital. I am a parent of a specila child and a school principal. I am convinced that a carefully developed documents with input from all stakeholders is my best resource. Staff training is a must. All staff at my school receive a 3 day training as well as “refreshers” every year. We also have over 30 cameras around the school. Florida takes restraints and timeouts very seriously. Everything must be documented. Positive behavior support systems are also a must. Restraints and time-outs should never be first interventions but ignoring student behaviors, regardless of consequences is detrimental and dangerous. We are raising children that must function in society and learn to “communicae” properly, not with physical agression. Please read the literature. Behavior can and should be taught. The ocassional and appropriate use of restraints and time-outs are interventions that work. And yes, we must carefully watch tto ensurre abuses do happen.

  9. Ms.Apple says:

    With all due respect to Ms. Marshall, indicating that there should be no plan to deal with out of control behavior strikes me as the most frightening concept of all. Please consider that when a child is combative, action must be taken immediately for their own safety as well as that of others. I would maintain that the lack of a plan will almost certainly result in the immediate staff making snap decisions in the heat of the moment – not a pretty thought. As an EC teacher and parent, I would welcome the opportunity to have input and receive input from parents.

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