Federal Legislation to End Abusive Restraint and Seclusion in Schools
Author: National Autism Association
Synopsis and Key Points:
Guidelines that allow physical restraint or locked seclusion only when there is imminent danger of injury..
Main DigestNational Autism Association Applauds Congress for Passing Federal Legislation to End Abusive Restraint and Seclusion in Schools...
Today the National Autism Association celebrated the passing of H.R. 4247, the Keeping All Students Safe Act, on Wednesday and those responsible for spearheading the bill. Congressman George Miller (D-CA) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced the federal legislation as a much-anticipated solution to the issues of unregulated restraint and seclusion in schools.
The bill, which passed 262-153, sets guidelines that allow physical restraint or locked seclusion only when there is imminent danger of injury. It bans restraint that restricts airflow, mechanical restraints such as strapping children to chairs or duct-taping body parts, mandates notification to parents, and prohibits behavior-controlling medications that aren't prescribed by doctors.
In January of 2009, a report from the Disability Rights Network spurred the May 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report that investigated hundreds of cases, including deaths from "mechanical compression to the chest," or "smothering." One schoolchild died from restraint following a seizure, another died from hanging himself in a seclusion room. Other cases included a four-year-old girl who was tied to a chair and abused, five children who were duct-taped to their desks, and a ten-year-old boy who was put in a seclusion room "75 times over a 6-month period for hours at a time for offenses such as whistling, slouching and hand-waving."
The report also revealed no federal laws regulating restraint and seclusion in schools, no laws in 19 states, and "widely divergent" laws in remaining states.
Although state laws have been nonexistent or inconsistent, many Republican lawmakers were not in favor of the bill. "One of our parents received a letter from their Republican Congressman that stated, 'The responsibility for ensuring that students are properly treated lies with state and local governments, as well as school boards. Therefore, I encourage you to contact your state and local officials regarding this matter.' But relying on States isn't keeping our children safe," explained National Autism Association Board member Leslie Phillips. "Our children are being abused and killed. This legislation is so necessary and actually provides resources to States. We're grateful for Congressman Miller's efforts and all who support this bill."
In addition to the legislation, NAA feels surveillance cameras in special education classrooms are imperative. "Many of our children are nonverbal and cannot communicate acts of abuse. Surveillance cameras will protect both schoolchildren and staff," stated NAA Executive Director Rita Shreffler.
To support the Senate companion bill, please visit NAA's Autism Action Center at naa.kintera.org/actioncenter
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