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Keeping All Students Safe Act

Early this year, parents at a Connecticut elementary school were outraged to discover that kids with special needs deemed disruptive in the classroom were sometimes confined in concrete-walled “scream rooms.” Janitors told of having to swab blood and urine from the walls and floors. Because of cases of alleged abuse such as this, several groups that advocate for children with special needs have declared their support for the Keeping All Students Safe Act, which would ban unnecessary physical restraints and seclusion for children. Introduced last December by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the bill comes in the wake of numerous incidents nationwide in which children were injured and even killed while in restraints or seclusion at school. Maureen Fitzgerald, who works in the Washington, D.C., public policy office of The Arc, says physical restraints are often used by untrained school staff “to punish rather than control emergency situations.” U.S. Department of Education data shows that restraints aren’t administered equally either. “Kids of color are overly targeted, as well as kids with disabilities, so we are very concerned,” Fitzgerald says. The Keeping All Students Safe Act would allow physical restraints only when “the student’s behavior poses an immediate danger of serious bodily injury to self or others.” Harkin is looking for a Republican co-sponsor for the bill, which is in the Senate Health Committee.