House approves bill to limit physical restraint of students

By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 3, 2010; 6:04 PM

The House approved a bill Wednesday to limit the physical restraint and seclusion of students in schools, a response to an investigation last year that found numerous reports of students abused or killed through such disciplinary measures.

The bill, approved 262 to 153 with support from Democrats and two dozen Republicans, would establish safety standards in schools and prohibit physical restraint and seclusion of students except to stop imminent danger of injury.

It would bar mechanical restraints such as strapping students to chairs and any restraint that restricts breathing. It also would require schools to notify parents after their child is restrained or secluded.

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who sponsored the bill with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), cited the case of a Texas student who died in 2002 after a teacher sat on him in a classroom. That case and others were detailed last year in a Government Accountability Office report.

"These victims included students with disabilities and students without disabilities," Miller said. "Many of these victims were children as young as 3 and 4. And in some cases, children died. Restraint and seclusion are complicated practices. They are emergency interventions that should be used only as a last resort, and only by trained professionals."

Opponents, mostly Republicans, said the bill, which would apply to public and private schools that receive federal education money, would push too far into state and local affairs. But supporters said state laws have proved ineffective.

The legislation awaits Senate action.

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