On April 21, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report showing major issues with the quality of data from school districts regarding restraint and seclusion. For example, 70% of school districts reported zero incidents of restraint and seclusion, but the Education Department’s quality check applies to only the largest 30 of 17,000 school districts. Nearly 600 schools reported more students subject to restraint or seclusion than incidents. Interviews revealed that state and school district officials do not have a consistent understanding of reporting rules.
On June 18, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing the underreporting of restraint and seclusion in public schools. According to the report, 70 percent of the nation’s school districts reported zero incidents of restraint or seclusion during the 2015-2016 school year. However, closer analysis found many school districts are recording zero when data is not collected or is collected improperly. The report concludes with recommendations for the Department of Education to improve accuracy in data collection and reporting.
On February 27, the House Committee on Education and Labor Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing titled “Classrooms in Crisis: Examining the Inappropriate Use of Seclusion and Restraint Practices.” Witnesses were Dr. George Sugai, Professor, University of Connecticut; Mrs. Renee Smith of Rhode Island, the parent of a young child with autism spectrum disorder who experienced frequent restraint and seclusion; Ms. Allison Sutton, Special Education Teacher, Wichita Public Schools; and Ms. Jacqueline Nowicki, Director of Education Workforce and Income Security, Government Accountability Office (GAO). The Arc worked with its state office in Rhode Island to recruit the parent witness and support her testimony.
Visit the Committee website for more information and to access archived video of the hearing. This hearing took place in anticipation of the reintroduction of the Keeping All Students Safe Act in the coming weeks. The Arc greatly appreciates the Subcommittee’s effort to bring needed attention to the harmful and unnecessary practices of restraint and seclusion, which are disproportionately used on students with disabilities. The Arc also appreciates Mrs. Smith’s willingness to tell her family’s story about their difficult, but ultimately successful, experience in obtaining the proper supports in school.
On February 27, the House Committee on Education and the Labor Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education will hold a hearing titled “Classrooms in Crisis: Examining the Inappropriate Use of Seclusion and Restraint Practices.” Witnesses will be Dr. George Sugai, Professor, University of Connecticut; Mrs. Renee Smith of Rhode Island, the parent of a young child with autism spectrum disorder who experienced frequent restraint and seclusion; Ms. Allison Sutton, Special Education Teacher, Wichita Public Schools; and Ms. Jacqueline Nowicki, Director of Education Workforce and Income Security, Government Accountability Office (GAO). Visit the Committee website for more information and to access live video on the day of the hearing. The live stream will begin at 10:00 a.m. EST.
This hearing is taking place in anticipation of the reintroduction of the Keeping All Students Safe Act in the coming weeks. The Arc greatly appreciates the Subcommittee’s effort to bring needed attention to the harmful and unnecessary practices of restraint and seclusion, which are disproportionately used on students with disabilities.
On January 17, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced a new initiative to address the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion on students with disabilities. The initiative will include compliance reviews, data collection improvements, and technical assistance. The Arc welcomes this new initiative and hopes for meaningful progress in reducing the use of restraint and seclusion, including passage of the Keeping All Students Safe Act. Read The Arc’s statement.
On November 14, Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), Robert Scott (D-VA), and 34 other co-sponsors introduced the Keeping All Student Safe Act (H.R. 7124). A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Patty Murray (D-WA). These bills would prohibit physical restraint that is life-threatening or restricts breathing, mechanical restraint, chemical restraint, and seclusion in schools that receive federal funding. Physical restraint would only be allowed when a student’s behavior poses an imminent danger to self or others and less restrictive interventions would be ineffective. The bills require states to ensure schools have personnel trained to safely restrain students in those circumstances. Additionally, they prohibit individualized education programs or behavior intervention plans from including provisions allowing the use of restraint or seclusion. The Arc strongly supports this legislation and looks forward to working with sponsors in further refining the bill in the 116th Congress.
The Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions, and Seclusion (APRAIS) sponsored a Congressional Briefing to mark the introduction of the bills. Speakers included Representative Don Beyer (D-VA); Annie Acosta, Director of Fiscal and Family Support Policy, The Arc; Denise Marshall, Executive Director, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates; Amanda Lowe, Senior Policy Analyst, National Disability Rights Network; Dr. Joe Ryan, Stanzione Distinguished Professor of special education, Clemson University; Kimberly Sanders, President, Ukeru Systems; and Alex Campbell, a student and self-advocate who was subjected to restraint and seclusion. Learn more at stophurtingkids.com.
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.
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/.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org no later than April 8. See the application at http://www.thearc.org/document.doc?id=5101.
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.