Federal Legislation Aims to Reduce Use of Restraints in Schools

After the Government Accountability Office found numerous instances of abuse and neglect when schools employed restraints and seclusion to "control" children with special needs, legislation was introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate aimed at reducing the use of these practices in schools.

The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act attempts to deal with the troubling use of restraints and seclusion by teachers who are unable to manage the behavior of their students with special needs. The GAO report that drew attention to this issue documented many shocking examples of the use of restraints in classrooms, including cases where teachers tied children to chairs for hours, smothered children, and locked them in rooms in order to segregate them from other students.

While the Act does not completely bar the use of restraints and seclusion in schools, as some advocates have called for, the Act does seek to significantly curtail the practices. The legislation would only allow the use of restraint and seclusion in cases where there is imminent danger of injury, and it would prohibit the use of mechanical restraints entirely. Under the proposed law, restraint and seclusion could be administered only by trained, qualified staff members, and the use of the practices could not be dictated in an Individualized Education Program designed for children who require special education. The Act also imposes reporting requirements on schools and targets money towards programs that train teachers in alternatives to restraint and seclusion.

To read the text of the House bill, click here.

To read the text of the Senate bill, click here.

To read a recent NPR article discussing the new legislation, click here.

Article Last Modified: 01/05/2010