Democrats seek to lift secrecy surrounding school seclusion and restraint


Parents say it’s bad enough when they find out a teacher took steps to physically isolate or control a disruptive child who may pose a danger to others— but not getting the news immediately from the school is all the more unsettling.

As Democrats in Congress work to craft a bill that would create a federal standard on what's known as seclusion and restraint in K-12 schools, a key component is a parental notification requirement. Democrats want to bring the sometimes secretive practices of seclusion and restraint in schools out into the open — and say it's key to mandate that schools let parents know when such incidents have occurred.

The Education Department defines restraint as restricting a student’s ability to move their torso, arms, legs or head freely, and seclusion as confining a student alone in an area they may not leave, according to the Government Accountability Office, a congressional watchdog. Federal data shows that students with disabilities and black students are disproportionately affected, and some Democrats want seclusion outlawed entirely on the federal level.

Murphy worked with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), to file companion bills late in the last Congress that include notification requirements. The legislation would also outlaw the use of seclusion in any schools that receive taxpayer dollars and restrict the use of restraints to instances in which it’s deemed necessary for students and teachers' safety. The lawmakers are working to file similar legislation this congressional session and are hoping for bipartisan support.

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