More than 200 disability organizations are urging Congress to reignite efforts to regulate the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

In a letter sent last week to key legislators, a who’s who of disability advocacy organizations including the Autism Society, The Arc and the National Disability Rights Network said action is needed in order to ensure student safety.

“It is time for a national policy addressing restraint and seclusion in our schools for all children,” reads the letter sent to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives education committees. “America needs more than the current patchwork of state laws to ensure that every child is afforded protection.”

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Since 2009, disability advocates have pressed Congress to establish federal regulations to govern the use of restraint and seclusion in schools after a series of government and advocacy group reports found widespread abuse and even deadly instances of the practices.

In response, the House of Representatives passed legislation in 2010 to establish national standards, but the Senate declined to act. As a result, a variety of state and local rules currently exist. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion ยป)

Thus far, the recent correspondence has garnered no reply. However, Jessica Butler of the Autism National Committee, who organized the effort, says she plans to send the letter again after hearing from additional groups who wanted their support included.

“As you know, our 200-plus organizations are concerned because of the lack of national protection for all children,” Butler wrote in an email to Disability Scoop. “The (Government Accountability Office) documented 20 stories of deaths in school from restraint and seclusion, and the news stories keep coming. It is important for Congress to act and pass legislation and extend these kinds of protections to all of our nation’s school children.”

At present, there are proposals in both chambers of Congress that would address restraint and seclusion in schools, but lawmakers have indicated no plans to take up the issue.

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