Michael George, director of the Centennial School of Lehigh’s College of Education, recently testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in Washington D.C., regarding legislation that limits seclusion and restraint of students.
George spoke discussed his experience with students at the Centennial School, describing the systemic change necessary to implement practices that limit seclusion and restraint. By employing positive behavioral teaching approaches and establishing a relationship with students that makes school environments fun and engaging, George said Centennial School has been able to do away with archaic forms of discipline.
Under the provisions of the Keeping All Students Safe Act, introduced in December 2011 by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), students can be secluded or restrained only if they act in a way that poses a clear and present danger to themselves or others in the school setting.
Harkin hopes to secure more support for the bill by highlighting the experiences of parents, as well as the extensive research by experts such as George, who said that testifying before Congress and sharing the Centennial School’s story were an honor.
“I hope my testimony heightens awareness of the issue of seclusion and restraint in this country and illustrates the benefits of positive behavioral approaches for working with children and youth who have problem behaviors,” says George, who has worked at Centennial School since 1998.
Centennial School draws from students who are referred from any of 40 local school districts in the area, and aims to serve students with educational disabilities. Its affiliation with Lehigh’s College of Education helps teachers make valuable connections between instructional theory and practical application, much of which was referenced in George’s testimony. He hopes to see the debate come to a conclusion that is sensitive to students’ needs.
“Ultimately, I hope to see legislation as proposed in Sen. Harkin’s Senate bill that bans the use of seclusion and regulates the use of restraint in both public and private school settings,” George says. “I think we owe this to the children we serve.”
To watch a video of George’s testimony or read the full transcript of his remarks, visit the Council for Exceptional Children website.
Photo by Ryan Hulvat