The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved legislation introduced by Chairman George Miller (D-CA) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) that will make classrooms safer for students and school staff. The House passed the Keeping All Students Safe in Schools Act (H.R. 4227) by a vote of 262 to 153.
"I am genuinely pleased by the House's bipartisan support for H.R. 4247, the Keeping All Students Safe in Schools Act," said Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers. "This critical piece of legislation confronts the unimaginable situation in schools across the country whereby some of our nation's most vulnerable children are treated in an inhumane and degrading manner."
"The thousands of incidents reported by the General Accounting Office and others together with the piecemeal approach taken by the states demonstrates the need for federal guidance. I've been proud to work with many organizations and this is a victory for them. I thank Chairman Miller for his leadership and my colleagues for their support. Together, we will work to ensure this bill is passed by the Senate."
The Keeping All Students Safe in Schools Act will, for the first time, put in place minimum safety standards to prevent abusive restraint and seclusion in schools across the country, similar to protections already in place in hospitals and residential facilities. States have two years to demonstrate their policies are consistent with the minimum standards. The standards would apply to schools that receive federal education support.
Specifically the legislation would:
Limit physical restraint and locked seclusion, allowing these interventions only when there is imminent danger of injury;
Require schools to notify parents after incidents when restraint or seclusion was used;
Encourage states to provide support and training to better protect students and prevent the need for emergency behavioral interventions; and
Increase transparency, oversight and enforcement tools to prevent future abuse.
Please see below for the Congresswoman's floor speech, as prepared for delivery.
I rise today in strong support for H.R. 4247, the Keeping All Students Safe Act, and I urge my colleagues to support it as well.
This is a bill that confronts an unimaginable situation in schools across the country where our nation's most vulnerable children are treated in an inhumane and degrading manner.
When is it appropriate to lock up or tie up a child? Common sense tells us that these extreme measures should almost never be used against children with Autism, or Downs, or other learning disabilities.
Yet, the truth is there have been thousands of incidents reported involving the inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint. Reports by the National Disability Rights Network, COPAA, GAO, and others reveal that our children are at risk for serious injury and even death in school settings.
The bill that we are considering today outlines minimum standards that must be included in guidelines issued by the Department of Education. States have the flexibility to determine how best to implement these regulations. For the 10 states that already have comprehensive policies - all they need to do is show what they've already done. For other states, the law will put in motion a review of current practices and a chance to put in place adequate rules.
When we send our son Cole to school, my husband Brian and I send him with the expectation that he is safe from danger. We entrust him to teachers, principals, and aides. And we know those school personnel have done an outstanding job to help him and keep him safe.
But, this has not been the case for other children. Students have been traumatized, injured, and have even died in our classrooms. Ignorance is not bliss for the children who have been harmed.
More than anything I want teachers and school administrators to have to support children who become anxious and unruly. If they better understand the situation, they'll know that there are more positive choices to teach children rather than using harmful techniques such as restraint and seclusion.
These guidelines already exist. This bill brings much needed parity to the protections already in place under the Children's Health Act for children in public and private hospitals, medical and residential facilities.
There are some who believe that this is an unprecedented expansion of federal authority. But, I disagree. The federal government took an important step when it opened the doors of education to every child in America, including those with disabilities.
When we enacted the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, we committed to ensuring that students with special needs have access to a free appropriate public education. This bill assures that those children as well as all students are safe.
I urge my colleagues to protect our children by supporting the Keeping All Students Safe Act.