(Updated: August 4, 2009 at 3:59 PM CT)

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is asking state school chiefs across the country to formally submit their policies on seclusion and restraint in schools.

The request came in a letter Duncan sent to all the state education heads late last week.

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The move comes after a government report released in May which documented hundreds of cases of allegedly abusive or deadly uses of restraint and seclusion tactics in schools. It included cases of teachers holding students face down for hours, gagging them, leaving them in dark, closet-like spaces for hours at a time and preventing students from using the bathroom, among other allegations. Nearly all of the allegedly abusive cases involve children with disabilities.

Soon after the report was released, Duncan told members of Congress that the report included “very disturbing, troubling information.” He said he would encourage all states to have policies in place for handling seclusion and restraint in schools before the new school year begins.

“Secretary Duncan is committed to ensuring all children, in every single school in this country, is safe and protected,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who is now working to develop legislation to address seclusion and restraint in schools. “We need to do everything we can to protect schoolchildren from abusive, torturous, and — in some cases — deadly uses of seclusion and restraint and to stop these horrific abuses from going unchecked.”