The U.S. Department Of Education plans to offer school districts guidance on restraint and seclusion before the next school year begins, officials said Thursday, even as Congressional efforts on the issue continue to appear stalled.

Alexa Posny, the Education Department’s top special education official, told a federal autism advisory committee Thursday morning that her agency will issue guidance to schools this fall around the same time it releases the first ever national data on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

The guidance, Posny said, will be an effort to advise schools on how to handle an issue which is currently loosely regulated through a patchwork of inconsistent state and local rules.

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“There are no federal regulations that exist, so it makes it very hard for us at the Department of Education to go out and say you can and can’t do this,” Posny told the safety subcommittee of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. “We have no role in enforcement at this point.” (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion >>)

However, through the forthcoming guidance, Posny said the Education Department will stress that every effort should be made to avoid restraint and seclusion by using positive behavior supports and other techniques. And, schools will be encouraged to have clear policies surrounding the dignified and appropriate use of restraint and seclusion in truly dangerous situations.

Education Department efforts to address restraint and seclusion date back to a 2009 advocacy group report documenting abusive and even deadly uses of the practices.

Last year, the House of Representatives passed legislation to regulate restraint and seclusion in schools, but the bill never came up for consideration in the Senate. Similar legislation was introduced again in the House in April, but has not yet been considered.

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