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Eye on the Prize: Keeping All Students Safe

by Tricia and Calvin Luker

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Parents, parent advocates and self-advocates, attorneys, educators and medical/mental health professionals throughout the United States have been working for years to create federal legislation that would prohibit the use of seclusion and restraints throughout America’s schools.  We have expended this effort because we have seen the effects of thousands of instances where children who expect us to protect them have been hurt or killed by being secluded or restrained.  We are acting to protect the children.

On December 9, 2009 we achieved our first hint of success when the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act was introduced in the US House of Representatives by Congressman George Miller of California and in the US Senate by Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.  The House bill, now renamed, “The Keeping All Students Safe Act” has passed the House and been sent to the Senate.  The Senate bill remains pending before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions [HELP]. 

Why Do We Need This Bill? 

The primary reason we need a federal law prohibiting the use of seclusion and restraint is because many states currently have no prohibition against the use of seclusion and restraints, while other states have individual legislation regulating the use of seclusion and restraint without uniform enforcement provisions or federal reporting requirements.  Without federal legislation ALL American children are at risk of injury and death from the use of restraint/seclusion.

Provisions Passed by the House

Here are the provisions as passed by the House in The Keeping All Students Safe Act.  

Mechanical Restraints:  Prohibits. 

Chemical Restraints:  Prohibits.  

Restraints that Interfere with Breathing:  Prohibits.

Restraint/Seclusion in IEP:  Prohibits as a “planned intervention.” 

Allow seclusion/restraint use only if there is an emergency AND if less restrictive measures would not work (a 2-part requirement): Sets this two-step standard. First, there must be an emergency presenting imminent danger of physical injury to self or others.  Second, if less restrictive measures would resolve the problem, R/S cannot be used.

Monitoring children in seclusion/restraints: Requires face-to-face monitoring unless unsafe for staff and then direct, continuous visual monitoring required. 

Terminating the use of seclusion/restraint: The restraining or seclusion must end when the emergency ends.  

Use of aversives: Prohibits  aversives that compromise health or safety.  

Parental notification if child is restrained/secluded: Requires same day verbal/electronic notification of parents and written notification within 24 hours of each incident.

The bills as passed by the House and as introduced in the Senate permit the Secretary of the Department of Education to withhold funding for those districts that violate the provisions of the bills.  They also extend the power of the state Protection and Advocacy systems to investigate instances of unlawful use of seclusion or restraint.

What is the Status of the Senate Bill?

The Senate HELP Committee has not held any formal hearings on its bill.  There has been significant informal discussion with Senate staffers concerning whether to include the provision prohibiting restraint/seclusion in IEPs, as well as other proposed modifications.  These informal discussions are continuing.  There may be a push to have the bill considered before the late summer Senate recess. 

It is vital that you know that these discussions are going on within the Senate and that there is a possibility that the Senate might pass a bill that would not prohibit the use of restraint/seclusion as a planned intervention in a student’s IEP.  Now is the time to educate ourselves about this issue so that we all can be ready to advocate for our children’s safety at the national level once the Senate bill has taken its final form and is presented for debate. 

Here are the links to the bills as passed in the House of Representatives and as introduced in the Senate.

H.R.4247.RFS – Keeping All Students Safe Act – as passed the House.

S.2860 – Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act – as introduced in Senate.

Here is the link to the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates’ position statement.

Here is the link to the Government Accountability Office report on restraint and seclusion:

Here is the link to the National Disability Rights Network report on restraint and seclusion.

Here is the link to the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates report on restraint and seclusion.

Finally, here is the link to the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions, and Seclusion paper, “Myth of Fact: Restraints and Seclusion More Torture than Learning Experience”.

The Importance of Federal Legislation

These links will help you see the scope of the problem of restraint and seclusion for yourself and to evaluate the bills so that you can express your opinion effectively.

We invite you to join us in our concerted effort to tell our federal legislators - particularly our Senators - why the bills are so important to all of our children.
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We cannot understate the importance of the fact that federal legislation has been introduced to prohibit restraint and seclusion.  We have been working for this for many years.  Now that the bills are in Congress, let us unite to improve them and to pass them as quickly as possible.

They must pass this session of Congress [which ends in December, 2010] or we go right back to square one in 2011.  We can and must do this to protect our children from seclusion and restraint once and for all.  We cannot do it without your help.

Tricia and Calvin Luker

Copyright 2010 by Tricia and Calvin Luker.  Permission to forward, copy and post this article is granted so long as it is attributed to the authors and

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Last revised:
Created: 08/03/10

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