ASAN Calls for Swift Passage of Keeping All Students Safe Act

Capitol Building


Crucial Legislation Will Limit the Use of Restraints in Schools

This past December, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) proposed S. 2020, the Keeping Students Safe Act, in response to widespread reporting of injuries and deaths of disabled students due to the use of restraints. This morning, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee convened a hearing on the issue of preventing restraint and seclusion.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, a leading national advocacy organization run by and for Autistic adults, praised S. 2020 in a statement after the hearing and urged Congress to work swiftly towards its passage. “The issue of restraint and seclusion has for too long gone unaddressed by federal policymakers,” said Ari Ne’eman, president of ASAN. “Students with and without disabilities deserve to know that they can go to school without risk of physical injury or even death. We applaud Senator Harkin and our other legislative champions for pushing forward this issue,” said Ne’eman.  “The time for action is now.”

Restraint and seclusion have a long history of abuse. In 2010, the Government Accountability Office found that many students with disabilities were subject to widespread restraint even when not violent, and often without parental consent. For instance, a seven-year-old autistic girl was physically restrained for wiggling her own loose tooth. In another case, a fifteen-year-old autistic boy from Michigan died after four school employees physically restrained him for an hour. Data from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) shows that students with disabilities and students from minority backgrounds are disproportionately subject to restraint.

Presently, 19 states have no policies, laws, or guidelines regarding the use of restraints in schools. The Keeping Students Safe Act would limit the use of restraints in federally funded state and local agencies (LEA). School personnel would be prevented from using:

  • Seclusion
  • Mechanical or chemical restraints
  • Aversive behavioral intervention that compromise student health and safety.
  • Physical restraint that is life threatening or contradictory based on the student’s health or disability status.

The bill would only allow the use of restraints in physically threatening situations. School personnel would be required to notify parents of any physical restraint on the day in which it occurred. If passed, the Keeping Students Safe Act would be the first federal law to limit the use of restraints on children with disabilities.

Media Contact:
Melody Latimer
Director of Community Engagement
Autistic Self Advocacy Network