IN A chilling 2009 report prepared for Congress, the Government Accountability Office surveyed an array of instances in which schoolchildren around the country had allegedly been subjected to restraint and seclusion, often under unimaginably harsh and abusive circumstances. Among the examples cited by the report were the death of a 7-year-old who’d been held down by school staff, 5-year-olds tied to chairs by bungee cords and duct tape, and the reported suicide of a 13-year-old who hung himself after prolonged confinement in a so-called seclusion room at school.

That report was the impetus for the passage of House legislation in 2010 that provided a sensible framework of rules governing when disorderly schoolchildren could be restrained or isolated. Unfortunately, the bill stalled in the Senate.

To this day, no federal laws govern the use of restraints and seclusion in public and private schools. Hospitals and other medical facilities that use such techniques with unruly children must comply with restrictions established by federal law, but not schools.

That has left the question to states, more than 30 of which have forged a patchwork of rules, some with teeth, some limited to only certain classes of children, such as those with disabilities. Virginia has been among the states whose regulations apply only to private schools for students with autism and other developmental and learning disabilities.

Those regulations are sound, if somewhat narrow. They require that parents be informed of school policies on the use of restraints and seclusion and give their consent before the school uses such techniques on their children. They also mandate that such techniques follow explicit written policies, be used only when less severe methods have failed and then be executed exclusively by trained staff to protect the student or others from harm.

If those guidelines are grounded in common sense — and it seems to us they are — then why do they apply only to private schools? That’s the question implicit in legislation before the Virginia General Assembly now.

The bill introduced by state Sen. Barbara A. Favola (D-Arlington) simply directs the state Board of Education to develop rules restricting the use of restraint and seclusion, and notifying parents when those means are used.

At a recent hearing on the bill, lawmakers heard the moving testimony of 9-year-old Alex Campbell, who, at age 7, was locked in a “crisis room” a half-dozen times as a first-grader at a Powhatan County elementary school. His “offense” included conduct familiar to the parents of plenty of school-age kids — tearing up paper, running around and banging on doors. Disruptive, to be sure, but not dangerous.

By a unanimous vote, legislators moved the bill out of a subcommittee. That was encouraging, given the overheated opposition of school principals and administrators, who protested that they would be hamstrung by any regulations.

In fact, some other school systems in Virginia already abide by such rules, at their own initiative, and rely on teachers and administrators trained in de-escalation techniques without resorting to harsher means. When it is unavoidable that restraint and seclusion be used, strict protocols are needed to protect all involved.