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House Committee OKs Bill on Restraint and Seclusion

A bill that would regulate the use of restraint and seclusion on students in schools, and require any use of such practices to be reported to parents, cleared a legislative hurdle today.

The House Education and Labor Committee voted 34-10 to approve a law that would establish the first federal safety standards in schools for the use of restraint and seclusion, similar to rules in place in hospitals and non-medical, community-based facilities. Regulations on the practices of restraint and seclusion vary from state to state.

With committee approval, now the full U.S. House of Representatives can take up the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act.

"This bill makes clear that there is no place in our schools for abuse and torture," said U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. "The egregious abuse of a child should not be considered less criminal because it happens in a classroom -- it should be the opposite. I'm proud that this bill has bipartisan support and I hope the full House will vote on it soon."

A Government Accountability Office report in May found allegations that children had been abused, or even died, because of misuse of restraint and seclusion in schools. Many of the children on whom these practices are used are students with disabilities. The practices are meant to be used in emergencies when students are a danger to themselves or others.

Mr. Miller and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., proposed the bill in the House, and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., proposed a similar law in the Senate.

The law would ban the use of mechanical restraints, such as strapping students to chairs, and prohibit restraints that restrict breathing. It would prohibit the use of medications to control behavior that were not administered consistent with prescriptions from a doctor. It would ban staff members from denying students water, food, clothing, or access to toilet facilities to control behavior. States would be required to report the use of restraint and seclusion to the U.S. Secretary of Education, according to the House Education and Labor Committee.

States would have two years to develop policies, procedures, and monitoring and enforcement systems to meet the minimum federal safety standards. Federal funds could be withheld from states that do not meet the requirements.

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