U.S. senator proposes end to restraint and seclusion of students with disabilities
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, has introduced legislation seeking to end the practice of restraining or secluding students with disabilities who become out of control. If adopted, it would do something that Florida state lawmakers have hesitated to do.
Harkin unveiled his bill this week along with a report detailing thousands of students who have been hurt, or worse, by restraint and seclusion. Examples he offered included:
o Pennsylvania: 7 students with disabilities (ages 5-11) were strapped to chairs with duct tape, had their hair pulled, and were even hit by teacher.
o Tennessee: Students with disabilities were strapped to toilets and even force-fed until they vomited.
o Georgia: A student with depression and ADHD was repeatedly confined and eventually committed suicide.
Florida lawmakers have proposed ending the practice several times in recent years, only to have their bills killed in committee. The use of restraint and seclusion in Florida, meanwhile, has shrunk in some counties but increased in others.
Data from 2012-13 shows that 1,145 Florida children were secluded in school 2,913 times, and 4,000 students were restrained 9,218 times.
Harkin's bill, which has a companion in the U.S. House, aims to severely curtail their use, which he called dangerous and abusive. It would prohibit seclusion in locked, unattended rooms, ban the use of mechanical restraints such as belts and duct tape, as well as physical restraint of a child by an adult and chemical/medical restraint.
“The ‘Keeping All Students Safe Act’ would permit the use of restraints only in emergency situations and eliminate the use of seclusion. It can help schools to implement interventions that promote positive learning environments, promote better academic outcomes, and prevent behaviors that put children and personnel in danger,” Harkin said in a release.
See the bill summary for more details.