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Advocates Renew Call For Restraint, Seclusion Reform


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More than 200 disability organizations are urging Congress to reignite efforts to regulate the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

In a letter sent last week to key legislators, a who’s who of disability advocacy organizations including the Autism Society, The Arc and the National Disability Rights Network said action is needed in order to ensure student safety.

“It is time for a national policy addressing restraint and seclusion in our schools for all children,” reads the letter sent to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives education committees. “America needs more than the current patchwork of state laws to ensure that every child is afforded protection.”

Since 2009, disability advocates have pressed Congress to establish federal regulations to govern the use of restraint and seclusion in schools after a series of government and advocacy group reports found widespread abuse and even deadly instances of the practices.

In response, the House of Representatives passed legislation in 2010 to establish national standards, but the Senate declined to act. As a result, a variety of state and local rules currently exist. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion »)

Thus far, the recent correspondence has garnered no reply. However, Jessica Butler of the Autism National Committee, who organized the effort, says she plans to send the letter again after hearing from additional groups who wanted their support included.

“As you know, our 200-plus organizations are concerned because of the lack of national protection for all children,” Butler wrote in an email to Disability Scoop. “The (Government Accountability Office) documented 20 stories of deaths in school from restraint and seclusion, and the news stories keep coming. It is important for Congress to act and pass legislation and extend these kinds of protections to all of our nation’s school children.”

At present, there are proposals in both chambers of Congress that would address restraint and seclusion in schools, but lawmakers have indicated no plans to take up the issue.

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Comments (4 Responses)

  1. Leslie says:

    I’m horrified at the deaths mentioned in the article. I wish the article had given more information about restraint and seclusion and why it is used. I worked in an elementary school that had a behavior disorder cluster. Restraint and/or seclusion were used when students became violent and were hurting other students and teachers. I understand the concern with restraint and seclusion, however, it is necessary in some situations.

  2. Carmen Allen says:

    while i understand Ms. Butler’s concerns the previous pushes to address restraint and seclusion have included an intent to further codify ABA therapies like Positive Behavior Supports (PBS) and School-wide Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) which is what is responsible for some of the abuse of Restraint and Seclusion in our schools because of the use of a Functional Analysis (FA). There is no one size fits all, no one therapy like PBIS meets the unique needs of every individual child. I wish Ms. Butler would agree to protect our children without the need to dictate one therapy (PBIS) for all children in our laws. Our children are NOT guinea pigs, they should not be used to by our public schools, so children are used as guinea pigs to validate the PBIS research of behaviorists. We should be teaching de-escalation techniques and allowing choice of therapies to the parents and students as individuals :) I bet most of the organizations have no idea PBIS is a type of therapy and HARM data should not ignored. Why do these organizations want more of the same? I was taught by an attorney to request PBIS in writing in IEP’s and even at the hands of experienced PhD’s most of the children were hurt. PBS is what Autism Speaks has been pushing for years and now we have a bunch of organizations who also want to dictate one therapy for all students. Have we not learned that one size does not fit all and that our children are “individuals”?

  3. alice hudson says:

    I live in a sm. town in Neb. My grandson 12-yrs lives with me and I am his guardian. He has numerous disabilities including Adhd. He is shut up in a seclusion room for days on end at school and is told he can only go to the bathroom before and after lunch. He is not allowed to ask for help when in this room. He and the other students in this behavior class are denied gym,band,art and all other electives unless the teacher thinks they deserve it. One little infraction will get them back in this class and they loose their ability to mainstream. Lunch is denied to them in the general population. They eat only with their teacher. My grandson has not been placed in this room because he is a harm to self or others,but because he cant get his work done as quickly as they like. Superintendent and ne. board of ed. have been notified,but refuse to want to talk about details. I’ve been told “we can do whatever we want” or “listen to your school” without a formal investigation. Please help!

  4. Deidre Hammon says:

    Alice, please please take him out of school, what you describe is torture. Contact the Nebraska protection and Advocacy office called Disability Rights Nebraska. (402) 474-3183. If they won’t help, file a complaint with your regional Office for Civil Rights under the US Department of Education. Contact PTI Nebraska. See if they can help or offer classes to help you understand the process and your rights better, so the district can’t bully you around. What they are doing is wrong. If you can, join COPAA. You are right! They are wrong.

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