Students with disabilities disproportionately experience restraint and seclusion, practices that are not evidence-based and cause lasting trauma.
Washington, DC, May 18, 2023 – Restraint and seclusion are traumatic, outdated, and ineffective discipline practices that are commonplace in schools throughout the country. Even though they have caused thousands of injuries and deaths, there are no federal laws to protect children from the abusive use of these tactics. Today, Senator Chris Murphy and Representative Don Beyer reintroduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act (KASSA) for the 14th Congress in a row. KASSA would eliminate the use of seclusion and prohibit the practice of restraint in most cases and give parents a private right of action against school districts that misuse these practices. Restraint and seclusion are disproportionately used against students with disabilities, particularly Black students, and have long-lasting consequences on their achievement and health. We urge Congress to once and for all pass minimum federal safety standards for these practices.
“Protecting students with disabilities from physical harm and abuse shouldn’t be a debate, but it’s something we’ve been fighting for over a decade,” shared Robyn Linscott, Director of Education and Family Policy at The Arc of the United States. “Instead of evidence-based de-escalation practices, untrained school personnel are subjecting students with disabilities to terrifying violations of their human rights and their lives. Thousands of times a day, students are being locked in closets and bathrooms, pinned to the ground, restrained with mechanical devices for hours, and worse. These practices are life-threatening and they’re denying students with disabilities a full and safe inclusion in our education system. Now is the time for elected officials to show their constituents that their safety in school matters.”
Restraint is intended to be used as a last resort in emergencies when there is a threat of imminent physical harm. Too often, it is used for minor behavioral issues, not complying with instructions, or even to punish manifestations of a child’s disability. Over 101,990 students, the majority of which are students with disabilities, are subjected to restraint and seclusion every year, a number that experts agree is drastically underreported. Students with disabilities represent 13% of the student population, but account for roughly 80% of those subjected to restraint and 77% subjected to seclusion. Some students are repeatedly restrained and secluded despite the fact that there is no evidence these tactics are effective in reducing the occurrence of the behaviors being punished. A patchwork of state policies and a lack of federal oversight and accountability allow these practices to continue freely.
To make matters worse, many parents are not notified at all or in a timely manner after their child is subjected to restraint or seclusion. In some cases, parents have gone weeks or years without knowing these disciplinary tactics were used against their child. This is particularly challenging for parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, many of whom are not able to communicate what happened to them. KASSA would ensure parents are notified of an incident of restraint within 24 hours.
Since 2009, the Keeping All Students Safe Act (KASSA) has been introduced every Congress, but it has not garnered the support it needs to pass. Restraint and seclusion are serious civil rights issues affecting students with disabilities proportionately. KASSA would create federal standards around the use of these practices, empower families when their rights are violated, and offer a variety of supports and contingency plans to help teachers and school personnel effectively respond to medical and behavioral needs.
About The Arc of the United States: The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy, and other diagnoses. Founded in 1950 by parents who believed their children with IDD deserved more, The Arc is now a network of nearly 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with IDD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes. Through the decades, The Arc has been at the forefront of advances in disability rights and supports. Visit thearc.org or follow us @TheArcUS to learn more. Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.
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