The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last week that seeks to prevent children with disabilities from being subjected to abusive disciplinary techniques.
Known as HR 4247, the bill bans untrained teachers from using restraint or other techniques that could cause physical harm to children.
The legislation follows a 2009 report from the General Accounting Office, which found thousands of instances of teachers allegedly injuring disabled children by using inappropriate restraining techniques or abusive seclusion.
GAO investigators found 14,354 instances of students subjected to restraint, seclusion or other undefined "emergency interventions" between Sept. 2007 and June 2008, in California alone.
Some of these instances involved teachers sitting on top of students – including the case of Paige Gaydos, when she was a 7-year-old student at a school in the Cupertino Union School District.
Gaydos, who is autistic, was wiggling a loose tooth during time-out. The teacher reportedly became enraged, grabbed Gaydos then pressed her face against the floor and sat on her.
The girl's family later learned that the teacher wasn't trained in the use of restraint and had a history of abuse allegations. They sued the district in 2003 and a federal jury ruled in their favor.
Although they subsequently received a settlement payment, Gaydos still suffers from the abuse, her mother, Ann, told Congress. She is now a teenager in Colorado and is being home-schooled.
While still very intelligent, Paige has lost the enthusiasm she used to have for learning. She has since never achieved academically at the stellar level she did before these experiences," Ann Gaydos said in the May 2009 Congressional hearing. "We love our daughter with all our heart, and believe she will achieve great things in her life, but we are saddened by the tremendous loss of innocence and potential that she suffered at the hands of that teacher and the entire school administration that ignored these events.
If passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama, the new law would require states to make publically available statistics listing which schools have used restraints and how often.
States that don't implement the new law will have their federal funds withheld and be required to submit a corrective plan. The U.S. Department of Education can award grant money to help states implement the new law, according to the bill.