There are renewed efforts in Congress this week to impose federal limits on the use of restraint and seclusion in special education, but it’s unclear how or when the issue might move forward.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., reintroduced legislation Wednesday that would prohibit restraint or seclusion in most school situations. The bill would also mandate that parents be notified if the practices are used on their child and it would disallow restraint or seclusion from being included in a student’s individualized education program, or IEP.

As chairman of the House education committee last year, Miller championed the same bill and it won approval from the full House. But the issue never came before the Senate and ultimately died after a coalition of disability advocacy groups that was working to support the measure split over disagreements stemming from proposed changes to the legislation.

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The introduction of the new bill Wednesday came the same day the disability advocacy group TASH issued a report detailing media coverage of over 50 incidents of restraint and seclusion that have occurred since last spring.

The fate of the legislation this year remains unclear, however, under the Republican controlled House. The issue has been contentious from the start, with some education groups saying the federal proposal could jeopardize school safety. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion >>)

Miller comes to the table with a bipartisan group of 17 co-sponsors. But the current education committee chair, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., is not on board, making it unlikely that the bill will be considered soon.

“We all share the goal of protecting students,” wrote Alexandra Haynes Sollberger, Kline’s communication director for the House Committee on Education & the Workforce, in an e-mail. “However, Chairman Kline has long standing concerns with imposing a federal solution that fails to take into account the proactive initiatives being undertaken at the state and local level.”

Meanwhile, no companion bill exists in the Senate, but a spokeswoman for Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who chairs the Senate education committee, says the senator is “working on a Senate strategy to address this very important issue.”

In the past, Harkin has indicated that he would like to see restraint and seclusion addressed within an upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

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