Washington DC (11/19/2020) – Today the Keeping All Students Safe Act (KASSA) was re-introduced by Congressman Don Beyer (VA-08), Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), and Congressman Donald McEachin (VA-04).
“The Keeping All Students Safe Act would make it illegal for any school receiving federal taxpayer money to seclude children and would ban dangerous restraint practices that restrict children’s breathing, such as prone or supine restraint. The bill would also prohibit schools from physically restraining children, except when necessary to protect students and staff. The bill would better equip school personnel with the training they need to address school-expected behavior with evidence-based proactive strategies, require states to monitor the law’s implementation, and increase transparency and oversight to prevent future abuse of students.”11/19/2020 Press Release from Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
The Keeping All Students Safe Act was originally introduced in the United States House of Representatives on April 6, 2011 as H.R. 1381 and in the Senate on December 16, 2011 as S.2020. The bill was intended to protect all school children against harmful and life-threatening seclusion and restraint practices. Over 200 national and state parent advocacy organizations have a history of support for this bill.
Since there has been no federal legislation to date, states have been left to monitor and regulate restraint and seclusion in schools — they haven’t done a good job according to a recent report released by the Office of Civil Rights.
In 2011-2012, restraint and seclusion were used on at least 110,000 children in public schools, according to the Civil Rights Data Collection, disproportionately affecting children with disabilities and children of color.
In 2018, the number remains unchanged, however with larger disproportionate effects on students with disabilities and students of color. Students with disabilities account for 13% of all students, but 80% of students restrained and 77% of students secluded. In today’s social climate it has become imperative to pay attention to the racial disparities in social justice, and yes, this includes education. With the reintroduction comes much needed attention to alternatives and solutions, and identifying school systems most in need for intervention, and creating funds for improvements.
The key provisions remain in KASSA from the last Congress: Seclusion is prohibited (time-outs sensory rooms, resource rooms can all be considered seclusion if the child is alone), restraints including chemical, mechanical as well as prone and supine holds are also prohibited. The prone restraint is the act that ended George Floyd’s life.
The bill requires parent notification/meeting when restraint occurs (which is only in the case of when a student’s behavior causes imminent threat of serious physical injury to self or others) and prohibits restraint as an intervention on a child’s IEP.
For school systems, KASSA requires state-led training of ALL school and program staff. For every state department of education, it is required by this proposed policy that plans including policies and procedures include how the state will implement training in its local school systems.
Another key provision included allows for legal action when unlawful restraint or seclusion occurs. Parents can retain an attorney and pursue as an infraction of the child’s legal rights.
Under this legislation’s first draft, schools are required to collect data on the incidence rates and related demographic information for students. For states that have begun to collect data on restraint and seclusion and reported for 2018, the Office of Civil Rights recently released a report compiling national data and the outcomes are alarmingly disproportionate with students of color and disabilities. Dedicated special education schools will now have to report this data as well. For school systems that violate this statute, the Secretary of Education can withhold education funds.
New to KASSA for this Congress are provisions that specify declaratory judgement, injunctive relief, compensatory relief, attorneys’ fees, or expert fees under private right of action. This offers true teeth and accountability for states with real legal consequences for failures to meet criteria.
Also a very important change is a limitation of liability for program personnel (e.g. teachers) (school systems will remain liable). Teachers will not be held liable, except under special circumstances and school systems will not have sovereign immunity.
With mandated data collection, federal grants to States whose data indicate greatest need for trauma informed and collaborative solutions, and states will be given authority to provide subgrants to districts in most need
Call to Action
The Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint is enthusiastically supporting this legislation and we ask that you do too. In the coming days it’s very important to contact your congressional members to tell them your stories and support for this important protection for our kids. We need folks in every state to make calls. Please message us here if you are interested in making a few calls.