WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chair of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), alongside U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), on Thursday reintroduced the Keeping All Students Safe Actlegislation to protect students from dangerous seclusion and restraint discipline practices in school. 

The Keeping All Students Safe Act would make it illegal for any school receiving federal taxpayer money to seclude children and would ban dangerous restraint practices that restrict children’s breathing, such as prone or supine restraint. The bill would also prohibit schools from physically restraining children, except when necessary to protect the safety of students and staff. The bill would provide training for school personnel to address school-expected behavior with evidence-based, proactive strategies, require states to monitor the law’s implementation, and increase transparency and oversight to prevent future abuse of students. 

According to a yearlong investigation by Hearst Media, federal data show incidents of restraint and seclusion happen on average at least 2,300 times per school day, and impact upwards of 102,000 students each academic year. There were at least 417,693 instances of restraint and seclusion in the 2017-18 school year, as many students are repeatedly subjected to those interventions. However, thousands of schools decline to report their numbers and thousands report zero cases, which is unlikely to be true.

“It's hard to believe, but there are thousands of kids who are being put in solitary confinement or having their hands bound as punishment for misbehavior at school. These practices are downright dangerous and completely ineffective ways to address behavioral issues in the classroom. Instead, they leave students – predominately students with disabilities – traumatized, injured, or even worse. No school should be allowed to lock kids alone in rooms, pin them to the ground, or strap them to a chair. Our legislation would set a strong federal standard to keep students safe, while also giving educators the tools to better address disruptive behavior with evidence-based, trauma-informed strategies,” said Murphy.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that children across this country, disproportionately students of color and students with disabilities, face dangerous seclusion and restraint practices. It is our moral responsibility to ban these practices once and for all,” said Sanders.

“No student should be locked alone in a room away from their classmates or forcibly restrained in a dangerous way. It’s time we finally ban these dangerous discipline practices in our schools—and that’s exactly what our commonsense bill does,” said Murray. “I’m proud to reintroduce the Keeping All Students Safe Act to protect students across our country from these unacceptable practices. We know that students with disabilities, students of color, and boys are disproportionately hurt by these practices, and I am going to keep pushing to get our bill signed into law to help ensure every kid can learn in a safe, nurturing environment.”

"Every child deserves a safe environment in which to learn and grow, but far too often students – particularly Black students and those with disabilities – are subjected to abusive disciplinary actions. Many states have recognized the harm of seclusion and inappropriate restraint in the classroom and banned these practices, but this remains a national civil rights issue that needs a federal solution,” said Beyer. “Our bill would enact nationwide protections for students by creating minimum safety standards for schools and by providing training and support to school personnel. By enacting this legislation, Congress can ensure that children have a safer learning environment in every American school.”

“Every child should be safe and protected while in school. Sadly, that is not always the case. Despite evidence that seclusion and restraint practices make schools less safe, thousands of students are still subjected to these dangerous discipline methods. Students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by these harmful practices,” said Scott. “A quality education cannot be achieved without a safe learning environment. The Keeping All Students Safe Act would establish nationwide requirements and provide states and teachers the support they need to improve their schools’ culture by using evidence-based interventions.”

Joining Murphy, the Keeping All Students Safe Act is co-sponsored in the Senate by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.),  Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

“We are pleased to see the reintroduction of the Keeping All Students Safe Act, transformative legislation from Senators Chris Murphy, Bernie Sanders, and Patty Murray and Representatives Don Beyer and Bobby Scott that would protect students from dangerous seclusion and restraint discipline practices in schools,” said Denise Forte, President and CEO of The Education Trust. “The evidence is clear that seclusion and restraint practices are not only ineffective and dangerous, but they are also disproportionately used against students of color and students with disabilities. Every child deserves to learn in a safe and healthy school environment, and to be protected from violent policies that threaten their physical and mental well-being.”

"COPAA appreciates the leadership and commitment of Sen. Murphy, Chairman Sanders, Sen. Murray, Rep. Beyer and Ranking Member Scott to ensure that every child is safe, protected, and prepared to learn in school. Restraint and seclusion are dangerous, traumatizing, and can cause death. Currently, our children are stuck in a crisis with no management plan. We are a modern nation that has developed evidence-based practices that can help. School leaders and teachers must receive the resources and training they need to make schools conducive to learning; and, where all can build trusting relationships. The Keeping All Students Safe Act makes this possible,” said Denise Marshall, CEO, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA).

This legislation is supported by the Access Speech, Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint, Allies for Independence, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Association of People with Disabilities, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Psychological Association,Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Autism Society of America, Autistic People of Color Fund, Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN), Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, BoysTown, Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy & Practice, Caring Across Generations, Center for Disability Rights, Center for Learner Equity, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, CommunicationFIRST, Consortium for Constituents with Disabilities, Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), Council for Learning Disabilities, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, Crisis Prevention Institute, Dignity in Schools Campaign, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Epilepsy Foundation, Exceptional Needs Today, Family Voices, Futures Without Violence, Heart-Strong International, Higher Education Consortium for Special Education, Learning Disabilities Association of America, Lives in the Balance, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), National Autism Association, National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment (National PLACE), National Center on Learning Disabilities (NCLD), National Council on Independent Living, National Disability Rights Network, National Down Syndrome Congress, National Down Syndrome Society, National Juvenile Justice Network, National PTA, Neurodivergent Liberation Coalition, Respect ABILITY Law Center, SPAN Parent Advocacy Network, TASH, Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, The Advocacy Institute, The Arc, The Daniel Initiative, The Education Trust, The Federal School Discipline and Climate Coalition (FedSDC), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, The MEHRIT Centre, Ukeru Systems, Unsilenced; State Organizations: Broadreach Training and Resources, Ltd., Maine Parent Federation, New Jersey Family Voices, The Arc of Northern Virginia; Individuals: Kimberly Knackstedt, Ph.D., Director of the Disability Economic Justice Team and Disability Economic Justice Collaborative, and Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation, Oregon State Senator Sara Gelser Blouin

Full text of the bill available HERE.

A one-pager of the bill available HERE.