The Connecticut Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bill restricting the use of restraint and seclusion for schoolchildren, along with calling for a training program to assist educators in methods to avoid the practice.
The Hartford Courant’s Kathleen Megan reports that Sen. Dante Bartolomeo (D-Meriden) and co-chairwoman of the committee on children, said:
“We will make sure that no student is secluded or restrained unless it is an emergency intervention to prevent immediate or imminent injury of the student or to others, and that it is not used as a discipline, convenience or substitute for a less-restrictive environment.”
During the bill’s presentation, Bartolomeo shared that 30,000 cases of restraint and seclusion are reported each year, more than half of which take place in elementary school and 400 in preschool. Over the past three years, more than 1,300 incidents resulted in students being injured.
Sen. Diana Urban (D-Stonington), the other co-chairwoman of the Committee on Children, stated that during the 2013-2014 school year over 1,740 cases of restraint and seclusion lasting more than 40 minutes were reported, 716 lasting more than an hour, and 144 children restrained or secluded more than 50 times during that school year. All these statistics refer to special education or “at risk” students, said Bartolomeo.
“Research has overwhelmingly concluded that restraints and seclusion can physically and emotionally be very harmful to children,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven), “and frequently worsen the behavior that practitioners are aiming to reduce.”
Bartolomeo said she knew this type of discipline was used with regular students as well, so the bill applies to the entire student body.
Also, any room used for seclusion must have a clear line of vision to the outside and adults monitoring must have direct sight of the child through a window or on video. The new law will also ban prone, face-down restraints, which have been proven to be life-threatening.
If a child has been restrained on four occasions or more within 20 school days, a meeting will be required to address the issue. In one district in Connecticut, 155 restraining incidents occurred in a school year, and 150 of those involved one student. This is an example, said Bartolomeo, of a time when a meeting is in order.
The bill calls for ending the restraint or the seclusion once the emergency has passed. Any restraint or seclusion would be ended at 15 minutes unless additional authorizations were obtained for each 30 minute increment beyond that.
The bill requires that school professionals, paraprofessionals, and administrators receive training on how to avoid the need for restraints and seclusion and for how they should be used if they become necessary. The measure will go to the House of Representative.
The bill also calls for the prohibition of school employees restraining students or putting them in isolation unless there is the threat of injury to the student or others, reports Elizabeth Regan of The New Haven Register. It also would continue existing special education data reporting requirements to regular education students. The bill includes language that will fine tune requirements pertaining to parental notification.
Elizabeth Regan, writing for CT News Junkie, quoted advocate Sarah Eagen on the importance of the bill:
Child Advocate Sarah Eagan stated, “And ultimately, what we know from all the expertise around the country is that the use of restraint and seclusion worsens the behaviors it’s attempting to address and causes trauma and injury for children and staff.”