A bill to prevent the use of harmful restraints and seclusions in schools is moving through Congress. The bill, H.R. 4247, introduced in the House of Representative on December 9, 2009, was approved by the House Education and Labor Committee on February 4, 2010, clearing the way for consideration of the bill by the full House. A related bill, S.2860, was introduced in the Senate.
The bill is largely in response to a report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in May 2009. The GAO report identified alarming incidents of death and abuse in the use of restraints and seclusions in public and private schools. The GAO found hundreds of cases where restraints and seclusions were used by school personnel for discipline, forced compliance or as a substitute for appropriate educational support.
The GAO reviewed 10 documented cases in which it was determined that boys and girls between the ages of four and fifteen where physically and/or mentally harmed by the use of restraints and seclusions at school. Four of the children died from these methods. The GAO report identified ten additional cases of allegations of harm to children due to the use of restraints and seclusions and, in four of those cases, the children died. In most of the cases, the children had disabilities. The full GAO report is available at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09719t.pdf.
H.R. 4247, the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, makes findings that “behavioral interventions for children must promote the right of all children to be treated with dignity” and that “safe, effective, evidence-based strategies are available to support children who display challenging behaviors in school settings.” The bill also finds that the effective implementation of “school-wide positive behavior supports is linked to greater academic achievement, significantly fewer disciplinary problems, increased instruction time, and staff perception of a safer teaching environment.”
Within 180 days after the enactment of H.R. 4247, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education would be required to promulgate regulations establishing minimum standards for the use of restraints and seclusion in schools. The standards must prohibit school personnel from imposing on any student mechanical restraints, chemical restraints, physical restraints and aversive behavioral interventions except under circumstances specifically described in the bill.
The text of H.R. 4247 can be accessed at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.4247:.