The Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group defines restraint as any method of immobilizing or reducing the ability of an individual to move his or her arms, legs, body or head freely. Prone restraint, considered one of the most dangerous forms, is when an adult holds a child's face on the floor while pressing down on the child's back.
Seclusion, often implemented in the form of a time-out room or chair, is defined as the involuntary confinement of an individual alone in a room where they are prevented from leaving.
Toni Price, one of the mothers testifying at today's hearing, said that it was prone restraint that resulted in the death of her 14-year-old foster son Cedric in 2002 in his eighth-grade Texas classroom.
"I want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else's child," Price said. "It is awful the way Cedric died. He was a good kid. This should have never happened. The morning Cedric died, as he was boarding the bus he turned around and got a beaming smile on his face, and said to me, 'You know I love you, ma.'"
Cedric suffered from behavioral problems after being neglected and abused by his biological family for much of his young life, Price said.
Hours before his death, Price said that Cedric had acted out, stealing candy and refusing to sit still in his chair. His behavior did not warrant what came next, Price argues.
"After Cedric attempted to leave the classroom, he refused to sit back down in his chair so his teacher forced him into his chair and restrained him," Price said. "She is roughly six feet tall and weighs well over 200 pounds. Cedric was short. He was a little boy.
"Cedric struggled as he was being held in his chair, so the teacher put him in a face down, or in a prone restraint, and sat on him," she said. "He struggled and said repeatedly, 'I can't breathe.' 'If you can speak, you can breathe,' she snapped at him."
Soon after, the paramedics were called to the school and Cedric was pronounced dead.
Price said that she had never been told restraint techniques were being used on her son nor was she ever asked to address the behavior Cedric's teachers deemed worthy of restraint.
The teacher involved in Cedric's death never faced criminal charges, according to Price's testimony, and is now teaching special education in Virginia.
Reece Peterson, a special education professor at the University of Nebraska who testified at today's hearing, said he does not believe the law should ban the use of restraints but should focus instead on improving training for teachers.
"We don't want a situation where teachers can't touch the kids at all," Peterson said. "Schools feel responsible for the kids they serve and try to protect them as best they can."
Peterson called the decision on how to respond to a child's outburst a "delicate balance" and recounted two incidents in which parents sued because restraint was used on their children, as well as a case in which a school was sued for not restraining a child.
"Schools are in a bind," Peterson said.
Glenn Koocher, the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, is against a federal ban on restraint in schools that he says is necessary for administrators to preserve safety for everyone.
"This is not an appropriate area for lawmakers, this is something that administrators need to develop to protect students," Koocher said.