New legislation titled the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in the Schools Act, H.R. 4247, S. 2860, was introduced in Congress this week. The bill come in response to report released last spring by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) which detailed hundreds of cases of the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in schools, with a disproportionate number of the victims being students with disabilities. If it is successfully passed, this legislation would provide the first federal standards regarding the use of restraint and seclusion and schools; standards which would apply to all public schools, private schools, and preschools receiving federal funds.
- Restricting the use of physical restraint and locked seclusion to instances where there is imminent danger of injury, and requiring that these interventions be imposed only by trained staff;
- Completely outlawing the use of mechanical restraints;
- Requiring that schools inform parents after seclusion or restraint interventions have been used; and
- Requiring states to develop policies, procedures, and monitoring and enforcement systems necessary to comply with the standards of the law.
The “persistently dangerous” schools component of No Child Left Behind allows parents to transfer their child out of a school that a state designates as persistently dangerous. States have rather wide discretion in how they will define “persistently dangerous”. The Virginia Department of Education has decided that persistently dangerous schools will be “identified based on school safety data such as the types and occurrences of violent criminal acts in public elementary schools or secondary schools.” The Georgia Department of Education has a pretty specific formula for determining which schools will be designated as such (for Georgia’s policy, see www.gdoe.net/gepb/policy/GEPBPolicy_400/GEPB_471.pdf). In North Carolina, the State Board of Education has defined persistently dangerous to mean, “A public school in which the conditions during the past two school years continually exposed its students to injury from violent criminal offenses and it is an elementary, middle or secondary public school in which a total of five or more violent criminal offenses were committed per 1000 students (0.5 or more per 100 students) in two consecutive school years.”