Our post about H.R. 4247, the Keeping All Students Safe Act–which bans excessive use of physical restraints, solitary confinement, and other abusive treatment in the nation’s schools–brought in a lot of comments, both on this site and on others sites that picked up the story.
Several readers asked what reasons those 153 members of Congress (145 Republicans and 8 Democrats) could possibly have given for voting against H.R. 4247. One suggested that our post lacked journalistic integrity because we didn’t give the bill’s opponents a chance to speak for themselves.
In response we are supplying this video, with clips compiled by Media Matters, of members of Congress speaking about the bill on the House floor. The first speaker is the bill’s Republican co-sponsor, Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The others are various Republican opponents.
Most of the objections to the H.R. 4247 refer in one way or another to states’ rights, and to the “dangerous” precedent the bill could set for a federal takeover of schools. “It’s one thing after another after another after another,” says Iowa’s Steve King, “and pretty soon its a national curriculum with federal mandates, and imposing cultural impositions [sic] at the school level in every accredited district in the country.” Texas’s Louie Gohmert says the bill sends a message that states and local school boards are “a bunch of morons” because they “can’t figure out that sitting on a precious little child and killing ‘em is inappropriate.”
Unfortunately, nearly half of the states in the union (23) have no laws against the use of restraints and seclusion on schoolchildren, and several others (7) have weak or spotty laws. A detailed breakdown is provided in a chart created by attorney Jessica Butler, accompanying her article on the subject on Wrightslaw.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-f0Anm7f9Q]
By the way, on the day after H.R. 4247 came to a vote, the House voted on a resolution supporting the federally funded National School Lunch Program, which provides free or subsidized lunches to more than 30 million schoolchildren. The resolution passed easily–but 13 Republicans voted against it.
Update, March 8: The Crime Report has a link to a survey just released by the U.S. Department of Education, which provides details on policies regarding restraint and seclusion in schools in all 50 states. In some states, students are well protected by law from these abusive practices; in others, they are not protected at all. This goes to show why federal legislation is needed to protect students’ basic civil and human rights.
A reader sent in a link to a press release from a group called American Principles in Action, which is already calling on the Senate “to reject federal meddling in private education” by opposing the Keeping All Students Safe Act.” Those senators might want to recall that in many states, it took federal “meddling” to end the legalized racial segregation of schools both public and private.