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Senate To Revisit School Restraint, Seclusion

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(Updated: June 26, 2012 at 10:46 AM CT)

Lawmakers are set to consider the use of restraint and seclusion in the nation’s classrooms in the coming weeks, rekindling efforts to establish first-ever federal rules governing the practices.

The topic is expected to be front and center at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee originally scheduled for Thursday that is now planned for July 12. A much anticipated ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on the legality of health care reform is expected Thursday morning when the hearing was initially scheduled and is believed to be the reason for the postponement.

The use of restraint and seclusion in schools has been a hotbed for disability advocates since 2009 when an advocacy group report uncovered widespread abuse and even deadly instances, problems which were later confirmed in a government report as well.

Students with disabilities were most often subject to the questionable practices, the reports found.

In response, legislation sharply restricting restraint and seclusion was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, but when Senate talks fell apart later that year, action on the issue largely fizzled.

Currently, a patchwork of state and local rules exist. Disability advocates say that federal requirements are needed to ensure student safety.

However, at least one group representing educators — the American Association of School Administrators — opposes such regulation arguing that it is unnecessary and would put school staff at risk.

The hearing planned for July marks the first time this year that Congress will consider the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Currently bills are on the table in both houses of Congress that call for the practices to be restricted, though support for the legislation is scant.

On the Senate side, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is the lone sponsor of a bill he introduced last December. The measure would bar any type of restraint from being used outside of an emergency situation and prohibit the tactics from being included in a student’s individualized education program, or IEP, among other limitations. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion »)

Meanwhile, there are 44 backers of a House version of the bill and the top Democrat on the body’s education committee is urging leaders to take up the issue. However, the committee’s Republican chair, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., remains reluctant.

“State and local leaders are taking steps to ensure school practices are safe for students, and have made great progress in achieving this shared goal,” said Kline spokeswoman Alexandra Haynes Sollberger. “Chairman Kline remains concerned that federal intervention could obstruct these efforts, ultimately doing more harm than good to students and educators. For this reason, the committee has not scheduled any action on restraint and seclusion legislation at this time.”

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Comments (5 Responses)

  1. Jennifer says:

    My son will not be attending his “home school” and will be put in a charter school. After having a MET meeting (at the home school), I was told 30 days later that I couldn’t have a copy of my child’s IEP. Come to find out… It doesn’t exist. The school has broken laws and is scrambling to hide their “mistakes”. They do not care about my child’s abilities and are concerning themselves with the state testing. They have many barriers to “hide” disabled children. The school wants to put my son in a “self contained classroom”. A bucket to throw him into in which he doesn’t belong. I will not stand by and let the school put him in a “suicide class”. Sadly, that is the result of some of these children. I know this personally. Shame on on the Republican chairman John Kline for not investing in these children, who will someday be running The United States of America.

  2. GQ says:

    Students must be met where they are at when they enter the door of the classroom. Some students enter without the ability for safe emotional regulation and use aggressive behaviors to communicate negation and or a want/need. This may result in the use of practiced restraint and or seclusion to keep the student safe. This does not give teachers license to lay hands upon students as discipline or behavior modification but only to respond to a student who is in crisis with communication. I support any legislation that strengthens the way monitoring is conducted in training and practice of restraint or seclusion. As an educator of students who experience autism, I urge all people with a stake in this community to become involved and discuss restraint in the school environment openly until a federal guideline, checks and balances is in place.

  3. David says:

    At least its a start. Lets hope there is some regluations to help people with disabilities.

  4. Ronda McDonald says:

    Our school has welcomed students who have been expelled from other schools. Sometimes these children have an entrenched habit of misbehaving vehemently and consistently in order to trigger, again, the expulsion process. At the parents’ request we used a passive form of restraint in the worst times in order to keep the child in school, to break the cycle of their expectation to have their poor behavior rewarded with the liberty of going home for an extended period, and ultimately be able to keep the student until graduation.
    I have heard these kids refer to our restraint in their graduation speeches with gratitude at our willingness to persist where others had not. However, the use of restraint is extremely limited and only done by a senior staff member who has a solid trust-based relationship with the student. To allow widespread use of restraint would be begging for poor outcomes.

  5. Carmen Allen says:

    Why do we promote ONE specific Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) rooted therapy (i.e. Positive Behavior Intervention Supports = PBIS) for ALL children? It is codified in IDEA and kids with disabilities have the lowest graduation rate of all subgroups. Doesn’t harm data matter to anyone supporting this one therapy? We have spent millions if not billions on PBIS for students with disabilities and they are the ones who get restrained and secluded the most, because sometimes kids are traumatized by the Functional Analysis (FA) process in PBIS, no matter how much training is done in a school district.ABA rooted therapies have been used on individuals with autism since the late 1960′s and they have one of the highest unemployment rates of all disability groups. Does that not matter to any of the organizations and individuals supporting this?

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