Congress expected to vote on "Harmful Restraint & Seclusion in Schools Act" tomorrow

By Curt Autry - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) – The "Harmful Restraint & Seclusion in Schools Act," could come up for a vote in Congress as early as Wednesday. Restraining devices in schools have become an issue across the country, and in recent years - here in this area, as well.

"Restraining any child in a device, I think that's wrong - especially without notifying the parents."

That was Hanover mother, Cammie Dowdy back in 2003, when she claimed teachers had wrapped her child, who suffered from attention deficit hyperactive disorder, in what's known as a "calming blanket" - a weighted blanket, that is recognized as having a therapeutic affect on children with behavioral issues. At the time - she told us, she didn't believe there was a place for any kind of physical restraint in school.

And now many in Congress agree. As early as Wednesday, the House could vote on the "Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools" act. In earlier hearings, Congress has heard horror stories of children being restrained or isolated. Child advocate, pediatrician, Dr. Harry Gwanter says it's time for a change.

"There are better ways to handle disruptive behavior than physical, mechanical, chemical or other restraints," said Dr. Gwanter.

A weighted blanket - or calming blanket, has proven to be especially helpful for children with autism. And Hanover County tells us, they still use them. Their statement reads: "Weighted blankets or vests may be used in our schools as part of a student's sensory diet program and only under the supervision of an occupational therapist. They are not used for students who are acting out physically."

And Dr. Gwanter acknowledges that blankets like these can have a therapeutic benefit, but believes there should be clear, uniform guidelines, for what's acceptable in school.

"We do it in prisons, we got them in the military, we've got them in all other aspects of our society, don't we have them in schools?" said Dr. Gwanter.

Fewer than half the states in this country have laws regulating restraints or seclusion policies in public schools.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.