the advocacy monitor

Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Action Alert: Ask Congress to Support Legislation to Prevent Dangerous Restraint & Seclusion This Week!

NCIL encourages advocates to participate in efforts to expand the number of cosponsors for the Keeping All Students Safe Act.

On June 12 and 13, 2014, please call your Representative and both your Senators and ask them to cosponsor the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2036 and H.R. 1893).

First, find your Senators and Representatives. You can reach them through the Capitol Switchboard by dialing 202-224-3121 and asking for them by name. Once you are connected, ask for their education aide or disability aide. Leave a voicemail if you do not reach them. Calls are more effective, but you can also email them by using the links above. Please personalize your message, even with a single sentence.

You can also call next week, if necessary. The most important thing is for Congress to hear from many parents, people with disabilities, students, advocates, professionals, friends, families, and neighbors.

Be sure to say you are a constituent and include your City and State. Personalize this if you can. For example, describe your connection to disability. If you have a story about restraint or seclusion or worry that it could happen to your child or friends, please say so. Explain how you, your family members, friends, and the people with disabilities for whom you advocate have the right to be protected.

Please spread this message far and wide, so that our message reaches those with the power to end restraint and seclusion! Ask your colleagues, supporters, friends, and family to do the same. The more we reach out to Congress directly, the more successful we will be! Every call or email sent to Congress is very valuable and very important.

The Message: Sample Talking Points

[Be sure to say you are a constituent and include your City and State]

Please cosponsor the Keeping All Students Safe Act, S. 2036 and H.R. 1893, and protect all American students nationwide from restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools. Over 110,000 students were subjected to restraint and seclusion from 2011 to 2012. These procedures have killed, injured, and traumatized students, according to Congressional reports. They include a child suffocated in restraint after he tried to get lunch; a 7 year old who died in restraint after blowing bubbles in her milk, and a young teen who hanged himself while his teacher sat outside the seclusion room. These dangerous procedures are often used when no one is at risk of harm. Parents often are not notified or find out much later; prompt notification is necessary to detect concussions and seek medical help. The Keeping All Students Safe Act, S. 2036 and H.R. 1893, will forbid the use of restraint except in emergencies threatening physical safety. Both will prevent non-emergency seclusion. Both require schools to notify parents on the same day. The bills will promote a necessary shift towards positive behavioral interventions that evidence shows will keep students safe. 

More Detailed Information and Background

Some people like more detailed information when they call a Senate office.

  • A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that 20 students had died in seclusion; countless others have been injured and traumatized, according to numerous reports. One teen hanged himself in a seclusion room while staff sat outside the locked door; a seven year old died (PDF) face down in physical restraint after blowing bubbles in her milk; and a young teen was suffocated face down in restraint by a teacher twice his size when he tried to get lunch. Recent stories include an 8 year old with Down Syndrome whose shoes were duct-taped so tightly that she could not walk; a 10 year old with autism who was pinned face down after a tantrum over a puzzle; and a child with Cerebral Palsy who severed her finger when confined in seclusion. Parents often do not learn that restraint / seclusion occurred or learn long after the events. Prompt notification is important to seek medical care and to work with schools to prevent future episodes.
  • The most recent data (PDF) has shown that in 2011-12, over 110,000 students were subjected to restraint and seclusion. These included at least 70,000 students who were subjected to physical restraint; 37,000 who were subjected to isolated seclusion; and nearly 4,000 who were subjected to mechanical restraint. The actual total is likely much higher. Restraint and Seclusion are used disproportionately upon students with disabilities and minority students.
  • Both Congressional bills, S. 2036 and H.R. 1893, will forbid the use of restraint except in emergencies threatening physical safety. Both seek to prevent non-emergency seclusion: the House bill, by limiting it to threats of physical harm; the Senate, by banning it. Both bills require schools to notify parents on the same day. Prompt notification enables parents to seek medical care for concussions or other injuries and to work with schools to prevent recurrences. Both bills will ban restraints that impede breathing, and dangerous mechanical and chemical restraints. They will ensure that teachers have the tools and resources they need to prevent challenging behaviors. The bills will enhance public oversight by requiring data reporting and collection.
  • The Keeping All Students Safe Act will shift schools towards preventing problematic behavior through evidence-based positive behavioral interventions and supports, and keep students and staff safe. In many cases, the use of positive supports and interventions greatly diminishes and even eliminates the need to use restraint and seclusion. For example, the Centennial School in Pennsylvania cut restraint and seclusion use from over 1,000 occurrences per year to less than ten through the use of positive intervention plans. Montgomery County, Virginia uses “easily accessible, evidence-based practices” that have reduced crisis-level behaviors by 78% and targeted problem behaviors by 81%, according to Senate testimony. Restraint and seclusion are rarely used.
  • Many states don’t adequately protect all students from restraint and seclusion (PDF). Many allow their use when no one’s safety is in danger. Only 14 states restrict restraint to dangers threatening safety emergencies for all children; only 18, for children with disabilities. Only 1 state bans seclusion of all children; 4 ban seclusion of children with disabilities, and another 10 limit seclusion to physical safety emergencies. Only 20 states require parents of all children be informed of restraint and seclusion use. Roughly half of all states allow restraints that impede breathing.

More Information