As a parent, you expect your child to be safe at school. Schools should protect students at all times.
A week or so ago I received an email from the National Autism Association asking for my help. I am not a parent of a child with autism, but always strive to share important issues with my readers. Shortly before Christmas, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act also known as S.2020. This act will protect students nationwide from dangerous restraint and seclusion.
The National Autism Association went on to say that the GAO (U.S. Government Accountability Office) has found, restraint/seclusion are dangerous, resulting in deaths, injuries, and trauma to children nationwide. The National Autism Association needs letters in support of the bill from parents. The association also wants to hear stories of children who were restrained or secluded or who might have been helped if the bill was already a law. Any letters will be shared with Senator Harkin’s staff and other Senate staff.
Letters of support or stories of children who were restrained of secluded may be emailed to:
- Jessica Butler, Congressional Affairs Coordinator, Autism National Committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Please forward this article to any people you know who may be interested in participating with the National Autism Association’s project.
The list below was provided by the National Autism Association. For your information, here are highlights of what the bill will do once it is passed:
- The bill bans all seclusion of children. This means that schools cannot lock children in rooms or closets or put them in other rooms or spaces they cannot leave (such as when furniture or a staff member blocks a door). Seclusion is dangerous; children have died or been injured.
- The bill prohibits physical restraint except in emergencies when there is an immediate threat of serious bodily injury. Far too often, children have been restrained or secluded for misbehaving, not doing their assignments, being noisy, behavioral control, discipline, punishment, threats of minor injury (like pinching), tearing up books or other minor destruction of property. Restraint can injure and kill students.
- The bill requires schools to use less restrictive measures before attempting restraint. In many cases, the school used restraint/seclusion first rather than trying less restrictive measures that would have worked. Sometimes, parents provided the school with behavioral analyses or information or information about positive supports or other things that would work and the school ignored it.
- The bill requires restraint to end when the emergency ends. There are reports that schools have continued seclusion and restraint long after any emergency ended, or required a child to perform a task or sit still for a particular period before they could get out. For some children with autism and other disabilities, this is almost impossible.
- The bill bans mechanical restraints, such as putting children in Rifton Chairs, or taping or tying them to chairs or furniture, or locking them into devices. It also bans chemical restraints, restraints that impair breathing or otherwise threaten life; restraints which are medically and psychologically contraindicated. Since prone restraint impairs breathing, it would be forbidden under the bill.
- The bill also bans restraints that prevent children from communicating. So, if a child needs assistive technology, PECS, or sign language to communicate that they are suffering or in medical distress, they cannot be restrained in a way that stops them from doing so. The bill bans aversives that compromise health and safety. All of these are dangerous.
- The bill requires schools to notify parents in writing within 24 hours of restraint and verbally the same day. Parents need quick notification because of the danger of concussions and other injuries that require quick medical treatment. In some cases, parents have not been told that their children were being restrained or secluded and only found out about it weeks, months, or years later.
- The bill prohibits putting physical restraint as a planned intervention in IEPs, 504 plans, behavioral intervention plans, student safety plans, or other educational planning documents for individual students. There are reports that restraint and seclusion have been put into children’s IEPs and then schools use them as the first intervention.
- If a child is physically restrained, there will be a debriefing with parents and staff to plan to prevent further restraint and consider additional services and supports for the child. A Functional Behavioral Assessment must be performed.
- The bill applies to all children in public school. It also applies to children with disabilities who have been placed in a private school at school district expense.
- The bill forbids retaliating against any parent, teacher, staffer, or person who reports that a child was restrained, secluded, or that the statute was otherwise violated.
Remember, if you have a story of a child who was restrained or secluded, please email email@example.com at the National Autism Association.