Today the Keeping All Students Act was re-introduced by Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA-03) and Representative Don Beyer (D-VA-08)—alongside Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chair of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Patty Murray (D-WA). The legislation aims to protect students from dangerous seclusion and restraint discipline practices in school.
It is not the first time the Keeping All Students Safe Act has been introduced to Congress. In fact, there have been efforts to pass federal legislation to reduce and eliminate the use of restraint and seclusion dating back to 2009. In 2009 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled “Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers.” Why, then, has Congress failed to act, failed to protect children with disabilities, Black children, and children with a trauma history?
Children are traumatized, injured, and killed by the use of restraint and seclusion. Today, there are far better things we can do to reduce and eliminate the use of restraint and seclusion. The one thing we should not do is ignore the problem. This is a civil rights issue, a human rights issue, and a disability rights issue. Our children’s fundamental civil rights should not vary at the state line. We need action before more lives are damaged and lost.
We can create safer schools for students, teachers, and staff while reducing and eliminating the use of restraint and seclusion. We can increase teacher satisfaction and reduce staff turnover while reducing and eliminating restraint and seclusion. Trauma-informed, neuroscience-aligned, relationship-driven, and collaborative approaches are the key to ending the outdated and traumatic practices that are leading to great harm. We can and must do better!
The reintroduction of the Keeping All Students Safe Act is a great start, but it is time to put pressure on Congress to get this legislation passed.
Why have we not been successful in getting federal legislation passed? There are a number of contributing factors to explain why this common-sense legislation has not been passed. The first roadblock is the idea that this should be a local control or state rights issue. Again I will remind you that this is a civil rights issue. Look at the data on the use of restraint and seclusion. According to data from the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, 80% of restraints and 77% of seclusions are done to children with disabilities-this is discrimination.
The other roadblock has been teacher unions. The national teacher unions, including the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), have not supported federal legislation to reduce and eliminate the use of restraint and seclusion. This includes not supporting the Keeping All Students Safe Act that would have provided funding to help schools move away from these aversive practices. In the past, the unions have suggested that restraint and seclusion are “necessary tools” to keep teachers and staff safe; this is simply not the case. There is more risk to a teacher that restrains a child or forces them into a seclusion room than to one that can skillfully de-escalate a situation. The Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint reached out to NEA and AFT for their current position statement on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Neither union replied to our request.
The Current Bill
We are excited to see the Keeping All Students Safe Act re-introduced. The bill 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 the safety of students and staff. The bill would provide training for school personnel 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.
Call to Action
It is not enough for an outstanding bill to be re-introduced; we need to get it passed! If you support the Keeping All Students Act, you need to take action.
Contact the teacher unions and encourage them to support the Keeping All Students Act.
National Education Association
American Federation of Teachers
Contact your Elected Officials