This was a vote on a resolution setting the terms for debate on a bill to prohibit abusive restraint and seclusion as a means of disciplining students.
The bill would bar schools from using mechanical restraints, including duct-taping parts any parts of their bodies, and strapping them to chairs. Schools would also be prohibited from using "chemical restraints" on children -- such as medications intended to control behavior. (Such medications could only be administered in a manner consistent with a doctor's prescription.) The legislation prohibits schools from restricting students' breathing, or denying them food, water, clothing, or access to toilets in order to control their behavior.
Under the bill, students could be restrained or secluded only if there is an "imminent danger" of injury. If such disciplinary methods were used, the schools would be required to notify the parents of disciplined students following the incident.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) urged adoption of the rule and argued the bill: "…responds to a shocking and urgent need to protect our children in their schools. Last year, the Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing where they were told horrifying accounts of young, innocent children who were subjected to abusive uses of restraint and seclusion in their classrooms, and they were told of some who died as a result of this abuse. These were, unfortunately, not isolated incidents. The committee also heard from the Government Accountability Office's managing director of Forensic Audits and Special Investigations, who testified that the GAO found ``hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death related to the use of these methods on schoolchildren.'' In Texas and in California alone, the GAO found there were over 33,000 reported incidents of restraint or seclusion during the school year of 2007-2008. I shudder at the thought that, while innocent children are supposed to be learning about reading, writing and arithmetic, they may be subjected to unspeakable abuse while they are at the hands of their trusted educators. It is abuse which will affect their lives forever. Our Nation's youth already have to overcome many obstacles in their lives, and they should not be subjected to such scars which may never ever heal."
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) argued that while Republicans were concerned by cases of abuse in schools, the legislation amounted to an infringement on states' rights: "Our Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they assembled the U.S. Constitution and the protections it guarantees, specifically in the Tenth Amendment… Nowhere in the Constitution does it empower the Federal Government to override States' rights. When it comes to the education of our Nation's children, we can all agree again that students should be able to learn in a safe, productive, and positive environment….What the bill before us fails to recognize is that 31 States currently have laws and regulations in place which govern the use of seclusion and restraints in schools. An additional 11 States have policies and guidelines in place. In some cases, school districts may also have their own guidelines governing the use of such practices in the classroom."
The House agreed to the resolution by a vote of 228-184. 228 Democrats voted "yea." All 170 Republicans present and 14 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House proceeded to floor debate on a bill to prohibit abusive restraint and seclusion as a means of disciplining students.