About two years ago, Wisconsin’s legislature joined 18 states which have a meaningful law protecting its children from inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint in school. Known as Act 125, this law went into effect on September 1, 2012, and although it has not eliminated the inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint in Wisconsin schools, anecdotally, its use has dropped, and parents are generally notified when it happens so better planning for the child’s safety and needs can take place. From my vantage point, I note that this law continues to draw great interest, as my post describing its features back in November, 2012, is my second most popular post, receiving views on a regular basis to this day.
However, as the National Autism Committee reports, the need for federal legislation is great, as most states continue to have little or no meaningful regulation of this traumatizing, dangerous, and sometimes deadly practice.
Fortunately, Sen. Tom Harkin, has introduced S. 2036, known as the Keeping All Students Safe Act, to remedy this problem. The key features of this important bill are that it:
- Requires each state educational agency and local educational agency (LEA) that receives federal funds to prohibit school personnel, contractors, and resource officers from subjecting students to: (1) seclusion, (2) mechanical or chemical restraint, (3) aversive behavioral intervention that compromises student health and safety, or (4) physical restraint that is life-threatening or contraindicated based on the student’s health or disability status.
- Excludes from the definition of “seclusion” time outs that involve the separation of a student from the group, in a non-locked setting, for the purpose of calming.
- Allows physical restraint only when: (1) the student’s behavior poses an immediate danger of serious physical harm to the student or others; (2) the restraint does not interfere with the student’s ability to communicate; and (3) the restraint occurs after less restrictive interventions have proven ineffective in stopping the danger, except in certain emergencies when immediate restraint is necessary.
- Requires school personnel imposing physical restraint to: (1) be trained and certified by a state-approved crisis intervention training program, though others may impose such restraint in certain instances when trained personnel are not immediately available; and (2) engage in continuous face-to-face monitoring of the restrained student.
- Requires: (1) the parents of a physically restrained student to be notified on the day such restraint occurs; (2) a debriefing session to be held as soon as practicable in which the person who imposed the restraint, the immediate adult witnesses, a school administrator, a school mental health professional, and at least one of the student’s family members participate; (3) the affected student to be given an opportunity to discuss the event with a trusted adult who will communicate the student’s perspective to the debriefing session group; and (4) the state educational agency, the LEA, local law enforcement, and any protection and advocacy system serving an affected student to be notified within 24 hours of any death or bodily injury that occurs in conjunction with efforts to control a student’s behavior.
- Authorizes a student to file a civil action seeking relief from the use of seclusion or restraint on the student in violation of this Act; and
- Authorizes the Secretary of Education to award grants to states and, through them, competitive subgrants to LEAs to: (1) establish, implement, and enforce policies and procedures to meet this Act’s requirements; (2) improve their capacity to collect and analyze data related to physical restraint; and (3) implement school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports.
As this current Congress is well known for its dysfunctional inability to pass meaningful legislation of any kind, the only way this bill stands a chance of passing is with a groundswell of grassroots support. To that end, a Stop Hurting Kids Campaign has been established to make it easy to contact your members of Congress urging passage of this important bill. You can do so on-line by going to this link. There is also a Facebook page you can like to get regular updates on the progress of the bill.
Currently, S. 2036 only has 4 co-sponsors (Sens. Murphy (CT); Hirono (HI); Baldwin (WI); and Shaheen (NH). Contact your Senators TODAY to broaden this group of co-sponsors which will enhance the possibility that the bill will pass the Senate and move on to the House of Representatives.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.