Throughout my six years leading our team at CPI, we’ve seen more and more states passing legislation intended to help both students and staff stay safe when a student’s behavior escalates. From Kansas to Delaware to Indiana, from Kentucky to Ohio to Maine and Virginia, states are making great strides toward reducing the use of physical restraint and seclusion in schools.
But because state policies on restraint and seclusion vary, and because not all states have specific policies, senators are aiming to pass a federal bill that would give all schools throughout the US a consistent policy on the use of restraint and seclusion.
The bill was originally sponsored in 2009 as the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act. Later renamed the Keeping All Students Safe Act, it and a companion Senate bill were re-introduced in 2011, 2013, and 2014 by Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman George Miller. And back in February of this year, KASSA was re-introduced again, this time by Congressman Don Beyer as House Bill 927.
Why all the reintroductions? To date, advocates have been unable to find the bipartisan support necessary to pass this bill at the federal level. One reason for this is that the issue of restraint and seclusion is highly sensitive and complex. Reports abound about physical and psychological injuries—and even deaths—caused by the improper use of restraint and seclusion. At the same time, many staff in schools, hospitals, and other human services organizations are used to using restraint when the behavior of a person in care gets out of control. At CPI, we understand these complexities, and our training and support address them in depth.
So what’s the bill all about? The Keeping All Students Safe Act calls for the US Department of Education to establish minimum standards for prohibiting chemical and mechanical restraint, prohibiting any restraint or escort that restricts breathing, and prohibiting any physical restraint or seclusion unless one is urgently necessary to eliminate an imminent danger of physical injury to the student or others. Even in emergency situations, particular precautions must be taken to reduce the risk of injury to the student and to the staff. The bill will also require that staff be certified in first aid and trained in a state-approved behavior management program and crisis intervention techniques.
The current draft of the bill (as of April 2015) also addresses another issue that affects all schools greatly: funding. To help with funding, HB 927 would authorize the Dept. of Ed to award grants to states and subgrants to local educational agencies so they can implement the bill’s standards, collect and analyze data, and implement schoolwide PBIS.
In a nutshell, the bill’s aim is to promote best practices, to reduce the risk of injury to staff and students, and to fund the tools necessary to make this all work.
I’m proud to say that CPI supports the Keeping All Students Safe Act because our mission is to enhance Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠ for everyone—even when, or especially when, situations get scary and difficult. As such, we actively participate with the House and Senate committees as they examine the sensitive factors that go along with figuring out how exactly schools can (and do) make restraint reduction work.
At CPI, we’ve long been committed to helping schools and organizations become restraint-free. That has been the foundation of our training for 35 years. And recently, to advance our efforts and those of other organizations, my team in the UK created the Restraint Reduction Network™, which brings professionals, organizations, and other supporters together to share best practices and improve outcomes for vulnerable people—such as kids with challenging or aggressive behavior—and those who work to support them.
If you’re a CPI Certified Instructor, you’ll hear much more about the Restraint Reduction Network™ at our Instructors’ Conference in New Orleans this July. Kendra Stea, our Director of Client Services from 2001 to 2015, is leading this year’s North American initiative. If you’d like to learn more about the network right now, I recommend listening to this podcast with Kendra, where she discusses how you and your school or org can be a part of keeping all students—and all people in all care environments—safe.
At the moment, the Keeping All Students Safe Act is with the House Committee on Education and the Workforce for review. We will continue to monitor its development and support its passage in every way we can.
In the meantime, because it’s difficult to guess when and if KASSA will pass, I encourage you to take steps now to ease your school’s compliance when legislation that affects you does pass. If you live in a state where there is legislation around this issue, you’re likely already taking steps, and I applaud you! It’s so good to see that across the country, the momentum is shifting toward prevention, and people are working hard to advance care and safety for everyone. 
We would love to hear your thoughts on restraint reduction too. Please share them in the comments, and if you have questions about how your school or org can lead the way, please don’t hesitate to call us and talk.