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Advocates: Congressional Inaction on Restraints, Seclusion Frustrates

Some advocacy groups are unsatisfied with new U.S. Department of Education guidelines for schools about how and when to restrain and seclude students in danger of hurting themselves or someone else.

TASH, formerly The Association for the Severely Handicapped, recently issued a second edition of "The Cost of Waiting," which reinforces its criticism of Congress for not pushing harder for a legislative solution to reducing the use of restraints and seclusion.

As in other publications on the topic, "The Cost of Waiting" offers some examples of students harmed at school because they were restrained or isolated, based on media reports. One out of California describes how a mother of a 4th grader who is autistic recounting her child being forced to sit in a cardboard box a the back of his classroom. An incident in Florida that has led to a lawsuit involved a student's sweater being pulled over the back of a chair to keep her in place. The student was bruised, the lawsuit said.

Legislation passed the House two years ago, but was never taken up in the Senate. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has introduced a new bill, and he is scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue later this month.

TASH says if Congress doesn't act, more lawsuits will emerge, students will continue to be hurt, and teachers and other school staff will be in jeopardy of losing their jobs because they lack training about appropriate and safe use of restraint and seclusion.

But other groups, including the American Association of School Administrators, oppose any federal laws about these practices.

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