At least one disability advocacy group is now opposing a bill in Congress that they once championed after changes would allow restraint and seclusion to be included in students’ individualized education plans, or IEPs.

In an e-mail to members on Monday, the head of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, or COPAA  — a 1,200 member organization of special education attorneys, advocates and parents — said the group opposes the legislation in its current form because of the IEP provision and would like members of Congress to reconsider.

“COPAA cannot support the current legislation because S.3895 permits restraint and locked seclusion as planned interventions in students’ education plans, including behavior plans and individualized education programs,” wrote the group’s executive director Denise Marshall. “By allowing restraint and locked seclusion as planned interventions, S.3895 weakens protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and legitimizes practices that the bill seeks to prevent.”

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COPAA is one of a number of disability organizations that banded together in recent years to push for federal regulations governing the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Collectively they lobbied successfully to get legislation approved by the House of Representatives in March that would limit the techniques to situations where there is imminent danger, while barring them from being included in students’ IEPs. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion >>)

But earlier this month a companion bill was reintroduced in the Senate with a controversial change, allowing restraint and seclusion to be included in IEPs for students if they have a two-year history of behaviors that create an “imminent danger of serious bodily injury in school.” The change was made in part to help garner bipartisan support for the measure while alleviating pushback from lobbyists working on behalf of the nation’s school administrators.

In the past, disability advocates have been staunchly opposed to including restraint and seclusion in IEPs, arguing that doing so makes the practices acceptable. However, representatives of The Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion, or APRAIS — a coalition of 20 disability organizations, which COPAA is a part of  — have said little since the new Senate bill was introduced. The group is expected to take a firm position soon.

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