Could the way students are disciplined in schools soon change?

It will, if a law being backed by several attorney generals and lawmakers, passes down in Washington.

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New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced Wednesday that the Garden State has joined a coalition of 16 other states who are calling on Congress to pass a bill that would protect school children by banning the use of such tactics as physical restraint and seclusion when educators are disciplining students or seeking to assist those in crisis.

A letter has gone out to the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives which includes the signature of Attorney General Grewal and each of the AG's said the bill, the Keeping All Students Safe Act (KASSA), "is vital to protecting children at a time when the use of physical restraint and seclusion in the nation’s schools is “widespread and increasing.”

Under KASSA, there are some restraint techniques that could be used on a limited basis in situations "where a student’s behavior poses an immediate threat of serious physical harm to the student or others."

Outside those threatening situations, those practices would not be tolerated.

Attorney General Grewal said the coalition letter argues "there is no evidence that imposing physical restraint or seclusion on students is effective in modifying or reducing incidents of disruptive behavior."

The coalition feels that seclusion and restrain methods "can escalate negative behaviors by increasing children’s arousal, deepening negative behavior patterns, and undermining children’s trust and capacity for learning.”

They say that children have been put in isolation/seclusion for minor incidents such as “spilling milk, refusing to do classwork, swearing or throwing Legos and concerning stories have surfaced about children being restrained in ways that restrict their breathing or cause other forms of physical harm."

The goal of the bill is to make sure none of these methods are used again.

“This law contains important safeguards that will protect children from the use of inappropriate and often unsafe disciplinary and behavior-control measures,” Attorney General Grewal said in a statement. “Parents should never have to worry that their children might be physically held down, isolated in a locked, empty room for an extended period of time, or otherwise subjected to tactics that could endanger their physical or psychological well-being during the school day.”

The bill would make restraint and seclusion methods as safety measures of last resort.

"Both approaches are often used in the absence of imminent threat to “punish or discipline students, compel compliance or retaliate for non-compliance, or for convenience of staff.” Such “inherently dangerous” tactics have no therapeutic or educational value, can be emotionally traumatizing, and may even be life-threatening to students," Grewal said.

Right now, Grewal said that New Jersey law already imposes similar limits on the use of physical restraints and seclusion in schools for students with disabilities.

"KASSA’s broader restrictions on the use of these tactics for all students is consistent with New Jersey’s commitment to eliminating discrimination in education."

It authorizes three-year federal grant funding to assist states with the implementation and the bill says the federal government can withhold education funding from school systems that violate KASSA.

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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