A bill introduced in the US Senate this week would ban schools from using controversial discipline tactics, including forcibly restraining children and using so-called “scream rooms”, which critics say are tantamount to abuse.
The Keeping All Students Safe Act, introduced by Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, targets all schools that receive federal funding. Each state must submit a written plan for handling situations requiring strict discipline.
The move comes after widespread criticism and pressure to end the practices, which Murphy called “barbaric.”
“It’s a hidden epidemic in this country,” Murphy said. “Children in schools that do the work are often sent to solitary confinement, some schools call ‘scream rooms’ as punishment, where they are told to correct bad behavior in an isolated room, sometimes with padded walls. Other children are being restrained. , being tied up after they act out. None of this helps these kids.”
This isn’t the first time Murphy has tried to end restraint and seclusion: He has introduced the All Students SAFE Act multiple times over the past decade, though each previous attempt has failed.
Murphy said he’s hopeful things will be different this time.
“My hope is that Republicans who want parents to have a bigger role in schools will look at this legislation and see it as something they will support,” Murphy said.
Murphy may have reason to be optimistic. Some districts have reviewed or even removed the use of restraint and seclusion It is prohibited in all but the most extreme circumstances In response to pressure from parents and staff.
Even if it passes, the bill would not address the mass arrests of elementary-age children that CBS News reported Last fall report. That report highlighted the arrests of hundreds of young children in US schools.
A CBS News analysis of data from the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights found that more than 700 children were arrested in US elementary schools in the 2017-2018 school year alone. Children with disabilities and black children were disproportionately affected.
Last year, Murphy co-sponsored the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act, which was designed to combat these arrests with more counselors in schools. That bill could not be passed either.
Asked if he plans to reintroduce that law, he said, “I haven’t decided on that yet.”
New data on school discipline from the Department of Education, which was delayed due to COVID-19 school closures, is expected to be released this summer. Murphy said he worries the numbers won’t be good.
“I’m concerned that the arrest data isn’t going to get any better because we have more police in our schools than ever before,” Murphy said. “Teachers are stressed right now, and often what happens is you’ve got a police officer in the school (and) it’s tempting to outsource discipline to the police officer. And when you do that, instead of the kid in the principal’s office, the kid’s in the back of a police cruiser. ends.”