A bill introduced in the US Senate this week would ban schools from using controversial discipline methods, including forcibly restraining children and the use of so-called “cry rooms”, which critics say are tantamount to abuse.
The Safeguarding All Students Act, introduced by Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, targets all schools that receive federal funding. Each state will be required to submit a written plan for managing situations requiring harsh discipline.
The move comes after widespread criticism and pressure to end the practice, which Murphy described as “barbaric”.
“It’s a hidden epidemic in this country,” Murphy said. “Kids in disruptive schools are often sent to solitary confinement, shoved into what some schools call ‘scream rooms’ as punishment, where they are told to sit in an isolated room, sometimes with padded walls, to correct their bad behavior. behavior. .. Other children are restrained, tied up after they play. None of this helps these kids.”
This isn’t the first time Murphy has tried to end reticence and inclusivity: He has introduced the All Students Safety Act several times over the past decade, though each previous attempt has failed.
Murphy said he hopes things will be different this time.
“I hope that Republicans who want parents to play a bigger role in schools will look at this bill and see something in it that they will support,” Murphy said.
Maybe Murphy has reason to be hopeful. Some districts moved to review the use of restraints and isolation measures or even ban it in all but the most extreme circumstances in response to pressure from parents and activists.
Even if passed, the bill would not address mass arrests of young children, which CBS News reported reported last fall. This report covered hundreds of arrests of young children in US schools.
A CBS News analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights found that more than 700 children were arrested in U.S. elementary schools in the 2017-2018 school year alone. Children with disabilities and black children are disproportionately affected.
Last year, Murphy co-authored the Counseling, Not Criminalization in Schools Act, designed to eliminate those arrests with more school counselors. This bill was also not passed.
Asked whether he plans to reintroduce the legislation, he said: “I haven’t made that decision yet.”
New Department of Education data on school discipline, which has been delayed by school closures due to COVID-19, is expected to be released this summer. Murphy said he feared the numbers would not be good.
“I worry that the arrest data is not going to be better because we have more police in schools than ever before,” Murphy said. “Teachers are under stress now, and it often happens that there is a policeman in the school [and] there is a temptation to shift the discipline to the police officer. And when you do that, instead of the child ending up in the principal’s office, the child ends up in the back of a police cruiser.”