The Autism Society is excited to announce the introduction on December 9, 2009 of the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, HR 4247 by Chairman George Miller (D-CA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). A companion bill was also introduced in the Senate by Senator Chris Dodd and is numbered S 2860.
The legislation draws on a Government Accountability Office report on restraints and seclusions released last spring, which found “hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death related to the use of these methods on school children during the past two decades,” with a majority involving students with disabilities. Still, investigators could not ascertain the full extent of this problem – cases often go unreported, with some states not even keeping track of incidents.
The bills seek to establish the first federal standards to protect students from misuse of restraint and seclusion and ensure the safety of everyone in the classroom. It would apply to public schools, private schools and preschools receiving federal education support. Specifically the legislation would:
• Establish important minimum federal safety standards in schools, similar to the protections already in place in hospitals and other non-medical community based facilities;
• 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;
• Call on states, within two years of enactment, to establish their own policies, procedures, monitoring and enforcement systems to meet these minimum standards;
• 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.
Please take the time to advocate for people affected by autism and ask your Representative and Senators to cosponsor this important legislation.
VP, Advocacy & Public Policy