On December 9th, the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, HR 4247 was introduced to legislation. A companion bill was also introduced in the Senate (S 2860).
It's sad to know that such an act doesn't already exist and that one is needed. But it is. Disabled children are being mistreated every day in schools.
This act is the product of a Government Accountability Office report on restraints and seclusions released last spring. The report found hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death related to the use of three methods on school children during the past two decades. The majority of these cases involved students with disabilities. Still, this report surely doesn't cover the full extent of the problem. Many cases often go unreported and some states don't even keep track of such incidents.
The proposed legislation includes:
• Establish important minimum federal safety standards in schools, similar to the protections already in place in hospitals and other non-medical community based facilities;
• Limit physical restraint and locked seclusion, allowing these interventions only when there is imminent danger of injury, and only when imposed by trained staff;
• Outlaw mechanical restraints, such as strapping kids to chairs, and prohibit restraints that restrict breathing;
• Require schools to notify parents after incidents when restraint or seclusion was used;
• Call on states, within two years of enactment, to establish their own policies, procedures, monitoring and enforcement systems to meet these minimum standards;
• Encourage states to provide support and training to better protect students and prevent the need for emergency behavioral interventions; and
• Increase transparency, oversight and enforcement tools to prevent future abuse.
Please take just a few minutes of your day to ask your elected officials to cosponsor this bill! So many families and children will thank you!