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Hearing and GAO Report Focus on the Abusive and Deadly Use of Restraint and Seclusion in Schools

May 21, 2009

NAMI applauds the House Education and Labor Committee and its Chairman, George Miller (D-CA) for holding a hearing on May 19th that examined the abusive and deadly use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

Chairman Miller opened the hearing by stating that he asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate whether allegations of deadly and abusive seclusion and restraint in schools are founded and widespread.  In his opening remarks, he responded that the answer is “yes.”  He described what the GAO found as alarming, eye opening, and serious enough to send shockwaves into every corner of this country.  You can view the hearing and testimony of witnesses at the House Education and Labor Committee website.

The GAO released its report on May 19th titled Seclusion and Restraints ~ Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers The report highlights a series of disturbing cases of students with disabilities, many with mental illness, being restrained and secluded in school, resulting in serious harm and death.

There are no federal laws restricting the use of restraints and seclusion in schools and widely divergent state laws regulating its use in schools. This must change to avoid having more children seriously harmed, traumatized, and even killed through the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools.


Please contact your Congressional members today using NAMI's Legislative Action Center to ask for their support on the following:

  • Enact long overdue federal legislation to regulate the use of restraints and seclusion (R&S) in schools.  This legislation should prohibit the use of R&S except in cases of imminent threats of danger to the child or others; limit the use of R&S to trained licensed professionals; require schools to document and report on the use of R&S; prohibit certain R&S methods that have caused harm and death to children; prohibit the use of R&S for discipline, coercion, or staff convenience; and set national standards on other protections related to the safe and limited use of R&S; and
  • Support legislation that promotes the use of school-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBS) and other evidence-based approaches that improve student behavior, improve academic performance, teach students about self management of behaviors, reduce discipline referrals, and create a more positive school environment.  Support The Positive Behavior for Safe and Effective Schools, legislation that will be introduced by Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL), that promotes the implementation of PBS to help reduce the use of R&S in schools.