For those of you new to the world of disability (or possibly k-12 education) the use of physical and chemical restraints, and the placing of students in "time out rooms", or seclusion, has been a big and ongoing issue.
The National Disability Rights Network released a report early in 2009, "School is Not Supposed to Hurt" (available for download at http://www.ndrn.org/). This prompted a government report released May 19th, 2009. The blog Disability Scoop summarized the report:
Thousands of children are secluded or restrained in America’s public and private schools each year, including hundreds of cases where the techniques are allegedly abusive or cause death, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
(The complete report can be downloaded by clicking this link: Download D09719t.)
On December 9, 2009, Rep. George Miller introduced H.R.4247. As introduced, the bill applied to all schools, public, private, and homeschools.
On February 17, 2010, the Council on American Private Education (CAPE) sent a letter to the House, essentially requesting that private, religious and secular schools, be exempted from the provisions of the bill. The letter lists several concerns, but to me the central one is this:
Another serious concern we have is that this legislation would impose an unprecedented degree of federal mandates on religious and independent schools.
(Click here to .Download 100217_CAPE_letter)
On February 23, 2010, a revised version of the bill was submitted. Section 11, Limitations, reads:
(1) PRIVATE SCHOOLS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to affect any private school that does not receive, or does not serve students who receive, support in any form from any program supported, in whole or in part, with funds appropriated to the Department of Education.
(2) HOME SCHOOLS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to--
(A) affect a home school, whether or not a home school is treated as a private school or home school under State law; or
(B) consider parents who are schooling a child at home as school personnel.
On March 1, 2010, The Alliance to Prevent Restraints, Aversive Interventions, and Seclusion (APRAIS) http://aprais.tash.org/ responded to the CAPE letter with a letter of their own, addressing each of CAPE's expressed concerns.
Private schools have always been covered by, and not exempted from, a wide variety of health and safety regulations, including fire safety rules; building codes; health department regulations on food safety, handling, and cleanliness; and protocols for dealing with outbreaks of infectious disease. The requirements for a minimal level of staff training in crisis prevention and the safe use of potentially dangerous emergency measures as set forth H.R. 4247/S. 2860 are simply another positive contribution to a school’s overall safety and preparedness.
(Click here to Download CAPE_letter_response_2-22-10)
The bill passed March 3, 2010. (Text of bill not yet available in PDF. In the meantime, here's the annotated version from CAPE: Download HR4247_Miller_CAPE_annotations).
I have to say I'm deeply conflicted. On the one hand, I've heard far too many stories of abusive behavior by school personnel toward children with disabilities, and I'm all in favor of national legislation of this nature. On the other hand, I agree with CAPE's worry about federal intrusion into private schools. As the CAPE press release reads:
The bill represents an unprecedented degree of federal control of private schools that threatens their autonomy and puts them between a rock and a hard place: accept the federal intrusion in policies and practices or give up participation in federal programs that benefit students and their teachers. By using even limited involvement in federal programs as the pathway for regulating schools, the bill establishes a dangerous precedent for federal control of private education in the future.
The blog Disability Scoop has great coverage of the issue of restraint and seclusion: http://www.disabilityscoop.com/restraint-seclusion/. Special education attorney Jim Gerl has a blog post on the issue of including private schools in H.R. H.R.4247 . February 3, 2010 press release from the House Labor and Education Committee. A "myths and facts" press release, also from the House L&E Committee.