A bill which would establish federal oversight of seclusion and restraint tactics used in schools is one step closer to becoming law.

The House Education and Labor Committee voted Thursday to pass the bill known as the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act by a vote of 34 to 10. Now, the measure must be considered by the full House and it must be taken up in the Senate before it can become law.

The legislation would prohibit any use of mechanical restraints and any method that restricts a student’s breathing. Furthermore, use of any type of restraint or seclusion would only be allowed in schools when there is imminent danger and when administered by a trained staff member. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion >>)

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What’s more, under the legislation, restraint and seclusion could not be included as a planned behavior management method in a student’s individualized education plan, or IEP. And schools would be required to notify parents of any form of restraint or seclusion used.

“This bill makes clear that there is no place in our schools for abuse and torture,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who introduced the measure and is the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “The egregious abuse of a child should not be considered less criminal because it happens in a classroom — it should be the opposite.”

Miller said he hopes the bill will be taken up by the full House soon. Similar legislation was proposed in the Senate late last year, but there is no indication yet as to when that body may consider the bill.

Legislators were prompted to take action on use of seclusion and restraint in schools after a Government Accountability Office report released last May found widespread incidents of abusive and even deadly uses of the practices. Most incidents involved students with disabilities.

Even today, 39 percent of states lack laws or policies governing the use of seclusion and restraint in schools. Under pressure from Disability Scoop, the Department of Education recently announced that it will publish an accounting of laws, regulations, policies and guidelines currently in place in each state on the department’s Web site by Feb. 12.

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