Seclusion & Restraint
In 2009, an investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found hundreds of allegations where children have been abused, and some even died, as a result of misuses of seclusion and restraint in schools. Unlike in hospitals and other medical and community-based facilities that receive federal health funding, there are currently no federal laws addressing seclusion and restraint in schools.
Seclusion means involuntarily isolating a student in an area by himself – not including a timeout. This includes putting children in dark, small rooms as punishment. Restraint means restricting a student’s freedom of movement. Restraint can become fatal when it prevents a child’s ability to breathe. In some of the cases examined in the GAO report, ropes, duct tape, chairs with straps and bungee cords were used to restrain or isolate young children.
According to a recent report state laws on seclusion and restraint vary widely:
- Only 19 States have any meaningful protections for the use of seclusion or restraint in schools.
- Only 20 States prohibit restraints that restrict breathing.
- Only 13 States limit the use of restraint to emergencies involving immediate risk of harm.
- Only 15 States ban the use of mechanical restraints.
- Only 14 States prohibit chemical restraints.
- Only 30 States have any requirement that parents be notified if their child was restrained or secluded at school.
The Keeping All Students Safe Act would for the first time, put in place minimum safety standards to prevent abusive seclusion and restraint in schools across the country. The bipartisan legislation would protect schoolchildren from inappropriate uses of seclusion and restraint. The bill would provide school personnel with the necessary tools, training, and support to ensure the safety of all students and school personnel.
Read more about the Keeping All Students Safe Act.
Letter from Rep. George Miller (D-CA) to Rep. John Kline (R-MN), calling for a markup of the Keeping All Students Safe Act. (May 2012)
Letter from Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) to Committee Chairman John Kline (R-VA), calling for action on the Keping All Students Safe Act (July 2014)
'School is Not Supposed to Hurt' -- Report from National Disability Rights Network on Seclusion and Restraint.
'How Safe Is The Schoolhouse?: An Analysis of State and Seclusion and Restraint Laws and Policies' -- from the Autism National Committee.
Rep. Miller on the floor discussing seclusion and restraint and the Keeping All Students Safe Act: