The Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education released the Civil Rights Data Collection which includes district-level and school-level data that it collected for the 2009-10 school year from nearly 7,000 school districts. The data comes from almost half of the total number of school districts and represents 85% of all students. The report includes data about school discipline and, for the first time, data about restraint and seclusion. The Department released a national-level summary of some of the data. Students with disabilities (served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504) comprise 12% of students in the sample and are more than twice as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions (6% of all students compared to 13% of students covered by IDEA). Of all students who are physically restrained in schools, 70% of them are students with disabilities. The Department will post national data to its website in the future.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced S. 2020, the Keeping All Students Safe Act, a bill to protect students from ineffective and dangerous seclusion and restraint practices in schools. The bill would prohibit locked and unattended seclusion, mechanical and chemical restraints, and physical restraints that restrict breathing. Physical restraints could only be used in emergency situations and could not be included in a student’s individual education program (IEP) or any other behavioral plan. Schools would have to conduct a debriefing with parents and the staff after restraint is used and states would be required to collect and report data on the occurrence of restraint and seclusion. The House passed a similar bill in 2010 that did not get any traction in the Senate. The Arc joined several other advocacy organizations in support of the bill.
The Keeping all Students Safe Act (H.R. 1381) was introduced by Representative George Miller (D-CA). This bill would prohibit mechanical or chemical restraint or physical restraints that restrict breathing or aversive behavioral intervention that compromises student health and safety. It would allow the use of physical restraint only if a student’s behavior were a threat to self or others. It would prohibit including the use of seclusion or restraint into a student’s individual education plan (IEP). Finally, it would require schools to train staff, set minimum standards and collect data about the use of restraint or seclusion in schools. This bill is very similar to the bill Representative Miller introduced during the last Congress. That bill passed the House but was not considered by the Senate. To read more about the bill, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:h.r.01381:/
DPC staff and representatives of other national disability organizations met with staff of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee and learned that S.3895, The Keeping All Kids Safe Act, will not move forward in this session of Congress. It is possible that new legislation could be introduced in the next session of Congress. Senator Burr (R-NC) indicated his continuing interest in addressing restraint and seclusion in schools. Advocates will be looking for a Democratic sponsor given the retirement of Senator Dodd (D-CT) from the Senate.