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Wisconsin Proposes Law Limiting Use of Restraints, Seclusion

Wisconsin's legislature will consider a law restricting how students are restrained or secluded, a second attempt at such a law after a bill proposed in 2011 failed to pass.

Reforming how restraint and seclusion are used, or banning them altogether, has been the focus of new laws and regulations around the country, and Congress has proposed legislation to address the issue as well.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office study in 2009 about the use of the measures found some horrific scenarios, many involving students with disabilities. In one case a 7-year-old died after being held face down for hours by school staff. Some 5-year-olds were tied to chairs with bungee cords and duct tape by their teachers, their arms broken and their noses bloodied. A 13-year-old reportedly hung himself in a seclusion room after being confined for hours.

In 2011, a report called "The Cost of Waiting" chronicled additional cases of death and injury because of restraints or seclusion and was intended to nudge the U.S. Senate into action.

The Wisconsin law mirrors some of the provisions in other states' laws and regulations. For example, in cases where a student must be isolated, the law would require a school employee to supervise the student constantly, and the student would have to have access to a bathroom, water, medication, and meals. Some types of restraints, including those that cause chest compression or put pressure on a student's head or neck, or involve giving students drugs, would be banned out right.

The bill, sponsored by the state senate's education committee chair, has the support of state Superintendent Tony Evers. As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported, the state education agency worked to get support for the bill from groups that had previously been hesitant, including educators who believe it is occasionally necessary to restrain a child.

The bill also would drop a requirement that the state collect data on incidents of restraint and seclusion, a departure from the federal proposal.

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