On March 3rd, by a vote of 262-153, the House passed the Keeping All Students Safe Act (H.R. 4247). This bipartisan bill, introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), establishes federal minimum safety standards in schools, preventing harmful restraint and seclusion, similar to federal protections already in place in hospitals and other community-based facilities.
Every child should be safe and protected while in school. But a recent investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found hundreds of allegations that children have been abused, and some even died, as a result of misuses of restraint and seclusion in public and private schools, often at the hands of untrained staff. Many of these interventions were used disproportionately on some of our most vulnerable students -- children with disabilities. Unlike in hospitals and other facilities that receive federal funding, there are no federal laws that address how and when restraint or seclusion can be used in schools. State regulations and oversight vary greatly and have often failed to protect children. It is also impossible to determine the full extent to which these interventions are used because there is currently no consistent reporting of data.
The Keeping All Students Safe Act is the first national effort to address this problem and ensure the safety of everyone involved - both students and school staff. Specifically the legislation would:
Prevent and reduce inappropriate restraint and seclusion by establishing minimum safety standards in schools, similar to protections already in place in hospitals and non-medical community-based facilities
- Allow physical restraint or locked seclusion only when there is imminent danger of injury, and only when imposed by trained staff;Prohibit the use of any mechanical restraint, such as strapping children to chairs, misusing therapeutic equipment to punish students, or duct-taping parts of their bodies;
- Prohibit chemical restraint, meaning medications used to control behavior that are not administered consistent with a physician's prescription;
- Prohibit any restraint that restricts breathing;
- Prohibit aversive behavioral interventions that compromise health and safety, such as denying students water, food, or clothing, denying access to toilet facilities, or using noxious stimuli such as pepper spray in order to control behavior;
- Prohibit schools from including restraint or seclusion as planned interventions in student's education plans, including Individualized Education Programs (IEPs); and
- Require schools to notify parents after incidents when restraint or seclusion was used.
Require states to do their part to keep children and staff safe in school
- Within two years of the establishment of federal standards, each state must have its own policies, procedures, monitoring and enforcement systems in place to meet the minimum standards.
Ask states to provide support and training to better protect students and staff and prevent the need for emergency behavioral interventions
- Improve the culture and climate of the schools by providing grants to states to help provide professional development, training and positive behavior support programs;
- Encourage schools to have procedures established in school safety plans to keep both students and personnel safe when student behavior poses an imminent danger; and
- Ask states to ensure that enough school staff are trained to keep students and staff safe, but gives states and local districts the flexibility to determine the training needs at each school.
Increase transparency, oversight and enforcement to prevent future abuse
- Require states to collect and report data annually to the Secretary of Education;
- Make data about restraint and seclusion publicly available, including data on the number of incidents, injuries, cases of death, and cases involving untrained staff; and
- Provide the Secretary of Education the authority to withhold federal funds from states who do not establish policies and procedures consistent with the minimum standards.
Learn more from the Committee on Education and Labor: