Congress moves quickly to stop abuse at schools--NOT
Last spring, a U.S. government investigation found hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and deaths of children who were subjected to seclusion and restraints in public and private schools over the previous two decades.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office also revealed that there were no federal laws restricting the use of these disciplinary tactics, Such federal protections already exist for children in hospitals.
Some of the cases were egregious: A 7-year-old was believed to have died after being held face down for hours by school staff; 5-year-olds were allegedly tied to chairs with bungee cords and duct tape, suffering broken arms and bloody noses.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, state laws on restraint and seclusion vary widely. Nineteen states have no laws at all. Of the 31 states that do have laws in place, many are not comprehensive enough to protect all students, in every kind of school.
You’d think that would call for some immediate action. Well, Congress moved as quickly as it possibly could.
Yesterday, almost a year after the GAO report, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Keeping All Students Safe Act,” or, HR 4247 which would, for the first time, establish minimum federal standards for how students can be disciplined. The effort was led by Rep. George Miller (D-CA).
The House approved the bill by a 262 to 153 vote.
How on earth could anybody not want to set minimum standards against discplinary tactics that amount to abuse?
Republican opponents argued that federal standards stamped all over the rights of states to make their own rules. You know, the states that never passed any bills to prevent this behavior.
Minnesota Rep. John Kline, the ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, who voted against the bill in the committee, said in a statement yesterday:
“There is no doubt that the safety and security of our nation’s students must be priority number one for parents, teachers, and school administrators. However, this legislation offers a one-size-fits-all federal solution that may actually make it more difficult for teachers and school leaders to keep our classrooms safe. With this bill, Congress is taking steps to prematurely regulate, at the federal level, issues that have not been fully investigated or reviewed. This is not a prudent course of action.”
(Kline, for the record, used to support President George H.W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind bill which, for the first time, gave the federal government the right to tell teachers how to teach reading. However, now he wants to rewrite the law.)
The Keeping All Students Safe bill says that physical restraint or locked seclusion is acceptable only when there is “imminent danger of injury and only when imposed by trained staff.”
It contains a list of prohibitions, including the use of any mechanical restraint such as strapping kids to chairs, as well as chemical restraint (meaning using medications to control behavior). I was especially relieved to see that it prohibits “any restraint that restricts breathing” because that wouldn't be strikingly obvious to the ordinary person, would it?
Within two years of the establishment of federal standards, each state is supposed to have its own policies, procedures, monitoring and enforcement systems in place to meet the minimum standards.
The Senate has yet to vote on it.
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| March 4, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: Bullying | Tags: Congress, abuse in school
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