On December 16, 2011, Senator Thomas Harkins (D-IA) introduced Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2020). This bill would protect all school children against harmful and life-threatening seclusion and restraint practices. The House has a companion bill H.R. 1381 introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA7). A similar bill was introduced in 2009 called Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in the Schools Act.
Why introduce this bill now?
- Physical restraints and seclusion of children in public and private schools have resulted in physical injury, psychological trauma and death.
- Children have the right to be free from mental/physical abuse and aversive behavioral interventions.
- Safe and effective evidence-based strategies exist for working with children with challenging behaviors in the school setting.
- School staff have the right to work in a safe environment with training and support to help prevent injury to themselves or others.
- Standards for safety vary between states and settings such as hospitals, community-based settings and schools.
- Positive behavior supports have shown better outcomes for students in regards to higher achievement, fewer disciplinary problems and safety.
How does this bill relate to child welfare?
A number of the incidents regarding children who received injury from physical restraints and seclusion are children with disabilities who have Individualized Education Programs (IEP). A sizable percentage of youth in foster care and the child welfare system in general have similar service needs. The use of physical restraints and seclusion can be harmful to youth who have not experienced trauma but can be even more detrimental to youth in the child welfare system.