Which Congressman Is Blocking Bill That Would Protect Kids with Autism?


Objections to the measure have come in part from lawmakers like Kline who believe these matters are best left for states to decide.

"States and school districts have a shared responsibility to ensure students attend a safe learning environment," said Sollberger, Kline's spokeswoman.

Miller expressed dismay Wednesday about Kline's decision to stymie the bill.

"There is no excuse for inaction," Miller said. "In the past, this Committee has worked tirelessly on behalf of children's safety. Our investigations made clear that a federal law is necessary to protect all children across the country and ensure that children's safety does not depend on the state in which they live. I hope that we can put aside politics and ideologies, tackle these issues together, and do what we can legislatively to save children from abuse."

From outside Capitol Hill, the primary opposition to the bill has come from school administrators, who would like to see the school officials themselves retain control over discipline in their classrooms. Daniel A. Domenech, who heads the American Association of School Administrators, says the practice of restraining an out-of-control student is an unwelcome but essential part of keeping teachers and other students safe. And the vast majority of the time, he said, school officials are able to subdue a child without harm coming to anyone.

Domenech told ABC News his chief concern with the legislation was that it could put teachers in a bind – if a child poses a threat to others and they step in, would they have to risk violating a federal law to do so?

"What do they do when the child begins to hurt themselves or when they attack another child?" he asked. "Do they just stand there and watch? They don't. They intervene."

Domenech, who once oversaw the schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, said he agrees that more training is needed to prevent teachers from restraining children in ways that are dangerous. He winced when told of schools that stuffed children in sacks or used duct tape to restrain them.

"Restraint is something that we won't see or don't want to see put in place unless it is absolutely necessary," Domenech said. "But the problem is the training. The problem is the training."

Officials in Miller's office said they have attempted to address Domenech's concerns with language in the bill that makes it clear that teachers can intervene to protect other children from harm. But, they said, school administrators have continued to push against the measure, even as the Obama administration has begun to intervene.

This year, amidst mounting evidence that the improper use of restraint was leading to injuries and deaths, the U.S. Department of Education for the first time released its own guidelines for the use of restraint in American schools. The report concludes that there is "no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective."

"The principles make clear that restraint or seclusion should never be used except in situations where a child's behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others," wrote Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education. "And restraint and seclusion should be avoided to the greatest extent possible without endangering the safety of students and staff."

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