A U.S. Senate report is calling for legislation that would end the use of padded "scream rooms" to discipline children in schools, saying educators across the country are continuing to use potentially unsafe and abusive forms of restraint in the classroom.
"Use of either seclusion or restraints in non-emergency situations poses significant physical and psychological danger to students," the report by the staff of the key education committee in the Senate concluded.
The Senate findings mirror those in a 2012 ABC News investigation which found that thousands of autistic and disabled schoolchildren had been injured and dozens died after being restrained by poorly trained teachers and school aides who tried to subdue them using at times unduly harsh techniques.
The ABC News investigation found that with no agreed upon national standards for how teachers can restrain an unruly child, school officials around the country had been employing a wide array of methods that range from sitting on children, to handcuffing them, even jolting them with an electric shock at one specialized school. Some had locked children in padded rooms for hours at a time. One Kentucky teacher's aide was alleged to have stuffed 9-year-old Christopher Baker, who is autistic and was swinging a chair around him, into a draw-string duffle bag.
The staff of the senate committee led by Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, highlighted cases characterized as disturbing. They included:
A 14-year-old Georgia boy who committed suicide after being repeatedly left alone for hours in a room comparable to a prison cell.
A Minnesota school that reportedly used secluding 44 times in one school year to discipline an 8-year-old girl with attention and hyperactivity disorders, despite objections from the mother and an independent behavior consultant.
A Florida teen who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and placed in a psychiatric facility after a school employed dangerous restraints and repeated seclusions.
The Senate investigation also found that, under current law, "a family whose child has been injured, experienced trauma, or, in the worst case, has died as a result of the use of seclusion or restraints practices in a school has little or no recourse through school procedures or the courts."
"In fact, the investigation found that only eighteen states currently require parents be notified about the use of seclusion or restraints," the report said.
Efforts to pass legislation that would create a national standard for the use of restraint has been opposed by a number of groups representing teachers and school officials.
Daniel A. Domenech, who heads the American Association of School Administrators, could not be reached Monday to discuss the senate investigation. In an ABC News interview in 2012, Domenech said 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.
"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."