Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent Abuse in Schools Clears House Committee


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Melissa Salmanowitz (Miller) 202.226.0853

Todd Weiner (McMorris Rodgers) 202.225.2006

Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent Abuse in Schools Clears House Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Education and Labor Committee today passed bipartisan legislation to make classrooms safer for students and school staff by preventing the misuse of restraint and seclusion. The Committee passed the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act (H.R. 4227) by a vote of 34 to 10.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report released last spring exposed hundreds of cases of schoolchildren being abused as a result of inappropriate uses of restraint and seclusion, often involving untrained staff. In some cases, children died. A disproportionate number of these victims were students with disabilities. In some of the cases GAO investigated, ropes, duct tape, chairs with straps and bungee cords were used to restrain or isolate young children.

“This bill makes clear that there is no place in our schools for abuse and torture,” said U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “The egregious abuse of a child should not be considered less criminal because it happens in a classroom -- it should be the opposite. I’m proud that this bill has bipartisan support and I hope the full House will vote on it soon.”

“I’m pleased that H.R. 4247, the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, was reported out of Committee today. This is a victory for students, parents, families, educators, and advocates who have worked tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of children in schools,” said U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), a member of the House Education and Labor Committee and vice chair of the House Republican Conference.

“When I send my son Cole to school, I send him with the expectation that he is safe from danger. Yet, there have been hundreds of cases in which schoolchildren were harmed as a result of inappropriate uses of restraint and seclusion. Our bill is a long stride forward in ensuring that our tax dollars are not used to abuse children. I look forward to working with Chairman Miller and my colleagues to pass this bill through Congress this year, and have it signed into law.”

Unlike in hospitals and other medical and community-based facilities that receive federal health funding, there are currently no federal laws addressing restraint and seclusion in schools. While the Children’s Health Act of 2000 regulates how and when restraint and seclusion can be used on children in these other settings, this bill would cover schools for the first time. State regulation and oversight varies greatly; many states provide no guidance or assistance regarding these behavioral interventions.

The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act will, for the first time, put in place minimum safety standards to prevent abusive restraint and seclusion in schools across the country, similar to protections already in place in medical and community based facilities. After two years, states will need to have their own policies in place to meet these minimum standards. It would apply to public schools, private schools and preschools receiving federal education support.

Specifically the legislation would:

· 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;

· 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.

The legislation embodies principles outlined by the Obama administration in December. It has the support of nearly 100 organizations, including the National School Boards Association, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers. See a full list of supporters here:

Miller first requested the GAO investigation in January 2009, after the National Disability Rights Network released a report highlighting these abuses.

For more information about the bill, click here.

To learn more about definitions in the bill, click here.

To learn more about the myths/facts in regards to this bill, click here.

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