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Bill aims to protect students from abuse in schools

December 9th, 2009

2009.12.09_restraintsFrom the Hartford Courant, Contra Costa [CA] Times, NPR, Muskegon [MI] Chronicle, press release from the House Education and Labor Committee:

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers has introduced legislation aimed at protecting students in the nation’s schools from harmful uses of restraint and seclusion.

The legislation follows congressional hearings and a report by the Government Accountability Office last spring that documented hundreds of cases of schoolchildren being subjected to inappropriate uses of restraint and seclusion in schools, often by untrained school staff. A disproportionate number of those cases involved students with disabilities; some students died.

Lack of oversight has led to a “serious, systemwide failure” that in some cases has subjected students to “nothing short of torture,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who co-sponsored the House bill with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) A comparable measure was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT).

The bill would establish minimum safety standards in schools, prohibiting  physical restraint or locked seclusion except in cases where there is imminent danger of injury, and where the restriction is imposed by a trained staff member.

It would also: prohibit mechanical restraints, including strapping children to chairs or duct-taping parts of their bodies; prohibit any restraint that restricts breathing, and require schools to notify parents immediately after incidents when restraint or seclusion was used.

In addition, the bill would require states to collect detailed data on restraint and seclusion, make it publicly available, and report it to the federal government.

Speaking at a press conference to launch the bill, Nicole Holden of Muskegon, MI, (above) told of going to a holiday party in her son’s preschool classroom and finding 3-year-old Ethan tied to a chair. Holden subsequently learned that her son, who has autism and language delays, had been tied to a chair in class for three hours a day for six weeks. “Strapping him in a chair was literally torture to my son,” Holden said. “He could not speak. He could not tell us as parents what was happening.”

(Photo from House press conference video; L-R: McMorris Rodgers, Nicole and Alan Holden, Miller)

See also:

Op-ed on CNN: Outlaw child abuse in schools, by Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)

Video of the press conference introducing HR 4247

HR 4247 Fact Sheet

H.R. 4247 Bill Text

4 Responses to “Bill aims to protect students from abuse in schools”

  1. Danielle Says:

    Im a mother to a six year old who has had her child put in this padded room for excessive loud crying. When she continued they put her into a restraint for three minutes. She was left in the room for an hour and forty five minutes. No one in the state of MN will represent me because I’m considered low income therefore I have no up front money to provide. Its rather frustrating trying to advocate for my child and have no help from an attorney. Its equally as hard being a college student and trying to stay on top of the actions taking place within the school.

  2. Shanna Nichols Says:

    I have high hopes for this legislation as I think schools should be environments that model-especially for youth-how people should be treated in the outside world. By allowing staff to disregard the disabled in this way it not only perpetuates the negative stigma all too often attached to disability, but it does this to an audience of young, impressionable children. The most effective way to have people thinking progressively about disability is by seriously considering how they are being taught at an early age. This bill is not only important for the students whose lives have been compromised by careless school staff, but it is important for school communities to care out the inherent goals of schools generally, the goal to teach students what is right.

  3. Nicole Says:

    Ethan was in the early on program.

  4. Stan Says:

    Do you know what school or teacher was involved in restraining Ethan, and whether it was the preschool or daycare program, which are separate in Mona Shores? I have a 5-year-old daughter with developmental delays who’s in her third year of preschool in Mona Shores; we believe — and have evidence from surprise visits — that she’s being treated exceptionally well there, but news of Ethan’s abuse has us wondering if there’s something we don’t know.

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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