A plan to rewrite the nation’s primary education law is set to go before the U.S. Senate and it now includes a provision related to restraint and seclusion in schools.

The Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee unanimously approved a bill Thursday to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The bill now heads to the full Senate where it is expected to be considered this spring.

Tucked in the bill is an amendment requiring states to put policies in place to prevent “any physical restraint or seclusion imposed solely for purposes of discipline or convenience.” While many states already have policies on the issue, not all do, and federal efforts to regulate the practices — which research shows disproportionately affect students with disabilities — have stagnated. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion »)

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“The facts tell us that locking kids up in padded rooms and limiting their movement with tape or rope hurts our children instead of helping them,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who proposed the amendment. “Instead of using these ineffective methods to change a child’s behavior, we should be developing support services for schools and educators that care for kids in a compassionate way, and I’m relieved that my colleagues agree. This is a big step forward towards improvement and accountability in our schools, and will ensure that all students receive the positive support they need to reach their full potential.”

Beyond restraint and seclusion, the legislation headed to the full Senate retains limits on the number of students with disabilities taking alternate assessments, a move widely supported by disability advocacy groups.

Under the rule, students with severe cognitive disabilities can take alternate assessments instead of the grade-level exams mandated for most children. However, only 1 percent of all students — or about 10 percent of those with disabilities — may be counted as proficient by schools for taking alternate exams.

Separately, the measure would also continue to require that annual data collection tracking student progress include figures specific to students with disabilities.

The bipartisan bill under consideration in the Senate would replace the law currently known as No Child Left Behind, which expired in 2007.

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