National Autism Association Applauds Harkin Bill to Protect Students from Restraint and Seclusion

Dec 19, 2011, 15:39 ET from National Autism Association

BOSTON, Dec. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A federal bill introduced Friday to protect school children from dangerous, and sometimes deadly, restraint and seclusion practices has the support of the National Autism Association (NAA). The Keeping All Students Safe Act, introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), provides long-overdue protections to students across the country by prohibiting restraint and seclusion techniques that compromise health and safety.


It's estimated that over the last five years, more than 200 students, many with disabilities, have died due to seclusion and restraints being used in schools. A 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation reported that thousands of students have been physically injured and emotionally traumatized as the result of restraint and seclusion in public schools, and noted specific cases where students died from "mechanical compression to the chest," or "smothering." The study outlined a sampling of other cases, including one schoolchild who died from hanging himself in a seclusion room, a four-year-old girl who was tied to a chair and abused, five children who were duct-taped to their desks, and a ten-year-old boy who was put in a seclusion room "75 times over a 6-month period for hours at a time for offenses such as whistling, slouching and hand-waving."

"Students with autism and other disabilities are at significant risk for regression, emotional trauma, injury and death as a result of these harmful practices," states NAA President Wendy Fournier. "Aversive interventions, restraint, and seclusion carry no therapeutic value, and basic protections are a must. We applaud Senator Harkin for introducing this critical piece of legislation."

Specifically, the Keeping All Students Safe Act would:

  • Prohibit aversive behavioral interventions that compromise health and safety
  • Prohibit physical restraint that is life threatening, including physical restraint that restricts breathing
  • Prohibit physical restraint if contraindicated based on the student's disability, health care needs, or medical or psychiatric condition
  • Prohibit the use of seclusions and/or restraints in a student's Individual Education Plan or any other behavioral plan
  • Prohibit seclusion in locked and unattended rooms or enclosures
  • Call for states to collect data on the occurrence of seclusions and restraints
  • Call for schools to conduct a debriefing with parents and staff after a restraint is used and plan for positive behavioral interventions that will prevent the use of restraints with the student in the future.
  • Establish a state grant program to enhance the States' ability to promote, within its LEAs, preventative programming and training for school personnel

To read the 2009 GAO report, visit To learn more about restraint and seclusion prevention, visit'shouldn't-school-be-safe'/  or

About National Autism Association (NAA):

NAA is the leading voice on issues related to autism safety and crisis prevention. The organization's mission is to respond to the most urgent needs of the autism community, providing real help and hope so that all affected can reach their full potential. For more information, visit

CONTACTS: Lori McIlwain (Cary, NC), +1-919-741-1646, Wendy Fournier (Portsmouth, RI), +1-401-835-5828

SOURCE National Autism Association