Proposed Restraint, Seclusion Bill for Transportation in Congress

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New federal legislation that would limit the use of restraint and seclusion in schools has been ruffling a few feathers, but, according to some industry insiders, it has little or no effect on transportation. At least on the surface.

The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act (H.R. 4247) was introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) on Dec. 9, and although it mentions the use of restraints while transporting students, it calls for an exemption from prohibiting the use of passenger vehicle safety restraints for students. But, if passed, the bill could result in the transportation industry re-examining at how it defines child safety restraint systems as well as how transportation services relate to a potential state requirement to report to the feds on the use of seclusion and restraints in schools and, via extension of the classroom, school buses.

Some groups are on the defensive concerning a specific aspect of the proposed legislation, section 5 (a) (4), which states that the “use of physical restraint or seclusion as a planned intervention shall not be written into a student’s education plan, individual safety plan, behavioral plan, or individualized education program.”

Bruce Hunter, an associate executive director at the American Association of School Administrators, said he believes that, for some students, it is “perfectly appropriate” to discuss the use of these techniques in an IEP. Hunter said he is also worried about another provision that would give protection and advocacy systems the authority to enforce protections provided for students under the act. These non-profit institutions exist in every state and are funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Education to provide lawyers for parents of children with disabilities who have been served improperly.

“I thought only a unit of government could enforce federal law on another unit of government,” said Hunter. “It is their charge to investigate or monitor, but [in this bill] they are given three responsibilities: investigate, monitor and enforce.”

The bill has been referred to the House Education and Labor Committee, which is chaired by bill sponsor Rep. Miller.