The Department of Education’s top special education official told a federal autism panel Friday that the department has no official position on whether or not restraint and seclusion should be included in students’ individualized education plans, or IEPs.

Legislation now under consideration in Congress would establish federal guidelines over the use of restraint and seclusion in the nation’s schools. A version of the bill approved by the House of Representatives in March would prohibit the practices from being included in students’ IEPs. But amid pushback from school administrators, a companion bill recently reintroduced in the Senate would permit restraint and seclusion within IEPs under certain circumstances.

Alexa Posny, assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, said she and her colleagues at the Department of Education understand arguments for and against inclusion of the practices in IEPs, but are not taking an official position on the issue. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion >>)

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“Every once in a while we have to stop a child,” Posny said, citing her background as a teacher working with students classified as emotionally disturbed. “The major thing is no harm should ever happen to any child.”

Posny made the comments in response to a question she received after a presentation Friday morning to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, or IACC, a federal advisory committee that helps guide the course of federal autism research.

Posny said she expects that if the IEP issue can be sorted out, there will be little trouble passing the restraint and seclusion bill.