Bipartisan ESEA Reauthorization Bill Passed by Senate Committee; Includes Many Improvements for Students with Disabilities

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously passed a reauthorization bill for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) on April 16. The bill, the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) of 2015, was introduced by the Committee Chairman and Ranking Members, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), to overhaul the last ESEA reauthorization (also known as No Child Left Behind).   During the markup, the Committee considered 57 amendments and approved 29 of them.

The ECAA reduces the federal role in school accountability, but allows the Department of Education to put some conditions on the states.   It would prohibit the Education Department from endorsing or prescribing curriculum, including the Common Core State Standards. The ECAA also would allow, but not require, states to use teacher evaluation systems. The Arc is pleased that the ECAA voted out of committee includes a number of provisions that will benefit students with disabilities, including:

  • Allowing only up to 1% of all students – those who have the most significant cognitive disabilities – to take an Alternate Assessment based on Alternate Achievement Standards (AA-AAS).
  • Ensuring that students in every state who take the AA-AAS are not precluded from attempting to complete the requirements for a regular diploma;
  • Maintaining annual assessments of all students in grades 3-8 and once in high school for reading and math;
  • Including all students with disabilities in state and district-level assessments;
  • Strengthening parental involvement in the decision about whether their child will take an alternate assessment;
  • Providing support to states and school districts to ensure that teachers have the skills and knowledge necessary to instruct diverse learners;
  • Including the “parent right to know” provision, requiring that parents be informed that they may request information regarding qualifications of the student’s classroom teacher; and
  • Asking school districts to describe their plans for limiting the use of restraint and seclusion.

The approved bill will now go to the Senate floor for additional debate and amendments before a vote by the full Senate.

Updated Report Released on Restraint and Seclusion Laws

An updated report on state laws and regulations related to the prevention of restraints and seclusion in schools has just been published. Jessica Butler, who coordinates Congressional affairs for the Autism National Committee, has been tracking the issue since 2009.   The report includes a highlighted map showing states that have meaningful protections for children. As of this report, only 22 states have such protections for all students, and only 34 provide such protections for students with disabilities.   In February, Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act (HR 927) to provide minimum federal standards on restraint, seclusion, and aversive interventions.  Get involved in the campaign to prevent restraint and seclusion at http://stophurtingkids.com/.

Grant Available for Preventing Restraint and Seclusion

TASH has a partnership with the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care and Alternatives to Seclusion and Restraint to provide a training program and learning community.   This opportunity is available for school or agency leadership teams interested in working with a cross-disciplinary group of up to five organizations in a pilot hybrid of virtual learning and on-site technical assistance over an 18-month period. Please submit completed applications to btrader@tash.org no later than April 8. See the application at http://www.thearc.org/document.doc?id=5101.

Restraint & Seclusion Briefing

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), TASH, and The Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (APRAIS), in conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus Education & Labor Taskforce, sponsored a congressional briefing on June 24 on the detrimental effects of restraint and seclusion in schools. Filmmaker Dan Habib shared an excerpt from his film, Restraint and Seclusion: Hear Our Stories. Panelists described their personal experiences with restraint and seclusion and voiced their support for the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S.2036 / H.R. 1893), bills introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative George Miller (D-CA) to set minimum federal standards. These bills would ensure that children in all states are given equal protection from dangerous practices and create a cultural shift toward preventive, positive intervention strategies.  This event kicked off a series of meetings with Congressional offices, in which The Arc is participating, in support of the bills. To learn more and view the complete film, please visit Stop Hurting Kids.

Save the Date – June 12 is the National Call-In Day to Prevent Restraint & Seclusion

The Arc urges all advocates to participate in the June 12 national call in day to support the Keeping All Students Safe Act, the restraint and seclusion bills (S. 2036 and HR 1893) introduced by Senator Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Miller (D-CA), respectively.  Restraint and seclusion have resulted in numerous serious injuries and fatalities and are disproportionately used on students with disabilities. The day is being planned in collaboration with the national Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (APRAIS), and other coalitions. Congress must hear from parents, people with disabilities, students, advocates, professionals, friends, families, and neighbors regarding this important legislation! See our Action Alert for more details.

Save the Date – June 12 is the National Call-In Day to Prevent Restraint & Seclusion

The Arc urges all advocates to participate in the June 12 national call-in day to support the Keeping All Students Safe Act legislation to prevent restraint and seclusion (S. 2036 and HR 1893), introduced by Senator Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Miller (D-CA), respectively.  This legislation will prohibit the use of physical restraint unless a student’s behavior poses an imminent danger of physical harm to self or others, while ensuring that personnel receive proper training, that parents are aware of any restraint used with their children, and that the most dangerous types of restraint and seclusion are eliminated. Restraint and Seclusion have resulted in numerous serious injuries and fatalities and are disproportionately used on students with disabilities.

The day is being planned in collaboration with the national Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (APRAIS), and other coalitions. Congress must hear from parents, people with disabilities, students, advocates, professionals, friends, families, and neighbors regarding this important legislation! Stay tuned for the action alert.

Legislation to Ban Seclusion and Restraint Introduced in The Senate

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced the Keeping All Kids Safe Act.  (More information, including a summary of the bill, is available here.)  The bill would ban seclusion and severely restrict the use of restraint on school children.  Senator Harkin also released an investigative report that found families often are not informed about the use of restraint and seclusion on their children.  Those who learn about the practices and whose children are harmed by the use of restraint or seclusion have little or no recourse through school procedures or the courts.  A main focus of the bill is to provide training to school personnel on the use of positive, supportive, and safe techniques when challenging behaviors do occur.  To read The Arc’s statement, visit our blog.

New Campaign to Keep Students Safe in School

The Arc and numerous advocacy organizations have launched a new campaign called “Stop Hurting Kids” with the goal of getting federal legislation passed to ensure that all students are safe in school. The campaign includes a website where people can sign up for email alerts and action items. The website has a link to a video that features first-person accounts from children and families of the physical and emotional harm suffered after being restrained and secluded in school. There is information on the website about H.R. 1893, Keeping all Students Safe Act. And finally, there are tips about how to use social media to support the campaign to keep all students safe in school.

Bill Introduced to Ban Restraint and Seclusion Except in Emergency Situations

Congressman George Miller (D-CA), ranking member of the House Education & Workforce Committee, and Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS) introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act, H.R. 1893.  The bill would ban restraint and seclusion except in emergency situations where there is a threat of imminent physical danger.  It would require schools to inform parents on the same day if their child were restrained or secluded.  Mechanical and chemical restraints would be prohibited as would physical restraints that impede breathing.  The bill would promote positive behavioral alternatives for all children, require schools to collect data about the use of restraint and seclusion, and require training for school staff.  The Arc supports the legislation.

Restraint and seclusion gains national media attention

A news story about abusive restraint and seclusion practices in schools aired on Nightline, an ABC News program. During the story, the narrator pointed out that only a few states have laws that regulate the use of restraint and seclusion. The story is a potent reminder about why The Arc supports S. 2020 and HR.1381, the Keeping All Students Safe Act.