Congress considers ban on restraint and seclusion in schools
The U.S. House Education and Labor Committee will take up a bill to prevent restraint and seclusion of students in schools. Committee member Rep. Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat, wrote the following column for the committee's blog, which the committee has offered to let us reprint. Read it over and let us know what you think about the bill and its chances.
Florida has considered similar legislation over the years but has yet to adopt a ban on restraint and seclusion.
"In 1998, the Hartford Courant earned a Pulitzer Prize for a series of stories on the use of restraint and seclusion tactics on students with disabilities in treatment facilities. The tales of children who were injured, or in some cases, died, shocked parents and educators across the country. As a parent of two, I was among those who were horrified. While previous Congresses passed legislation to reduce this abuse in treatment facilities, no federal laws were ever created to protect children from dangerous physical restraint in schools.
"In 2009, the House Committee on Education and Labor, of which I am a member, held hearings on the use of seclusion and restraint. The testimony we heard from various experts was disturbing and signaled that Congress must act expeditiously to end once and for all seclusion and restraint. The most powerful testimony came from parents whose children were killed or severely injured as a result of dangerous restraint techniques.
"In response to those stories, and the countless cases in which children have been injured or died, Education and Labor Chairman George Miller introduced the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act. I am a proud cosponsor of this bipartisan bill, which I believe will accomplish a number of important goals.
"The proposal wisely bans the use of chemical or mechanical restraint and will prohibit the use of physical restraint or seclusion as a disciplinary measure. As experts throughout the medical and educational field have testified, the use of these harsh methods of controlling a child must never be utilized unless an imminent danger to a child or staff exists. Furthermore, this legislation ensures accountability and transparency, requiring that parents and school officials be notified immediately when an incident occurs. The bill requires data collection when restraint techniques are used to ensure that incidents are recorded and later used to establish best practices. We must continue to promote training for staff, and this valuable information will increase awareness to avoid future tragedies.
"Tomorrow, the Committee will consider the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act. I look forward to working with Chairman Miller and my colleagues on the Committee to pass this legislation and to ensure that our schools are safe havens for children and staff."