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.”

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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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