Lawmaker hopes to ban the practice of secluding FL students and limit other restrictions

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This article was published on the Florida Phoenix by Danielle J.Brown on March 3, 2021.

State Rep. Bobby DuBose is pushing lawmakers to outright ban the traumatic practice of secluding students and limit other restrictions facing children, particularly those with disabilities in Florida.

DuBose, a Democrat who represents part of Broward County, has filed legislation to ban or limit the practices.

“I’ve been working on this bill for years. Unfortunately, it predates me,” he said at an education subcommittee meeting Wednesday.

HB 149, along with a similar Senate bill, would define the terms “restraint” and “seclusion” when it comes to public schoolchildren, and place limits on when those techniques can be used.

“It’s had bipartisan support, and it’s made its way through the (state) House,” DuBose said.

But it hasn’t gained much traction after that. DuBose hopes this legislative session will change that.

“Restraint and seclusion techniques are too heavily depended on in the classroom, specifically when issues arise with students who have disabilities,” DuBose said.

Right now, Florida schools need to report when a restraint or seclusion practice is used on a student, including information such as duration of the restraint or seclusion tactic, student behavior leading up to the restraint or seclusion, and any injuries that occurred during restraint or seclusion.

According to legislative analysis, in the years between academic year 2010-11 through 2019-20, there have been 86,969 restraint incidents reported in Florida schools. In that same timeframe, there have been 21,489 instances of a student being secluded.

The legislation would prohibit school districts from allowing school personnel to place a student in seclusion, which the bill defines as “involuntary confinement of a student in a room or area alone and preventing the student from leaving the room or area.”

As for restraints, defined as “the use of a mechanical or physical restraint,” the school personnel would only use restraints on a student if they pose a serious risk to themselves or others. The restraint would be removed as soon as the dangerous behavior has dissipated and could not be used as discipline.

It also says that the use of restraints such as straightjackets, zip ties, and handcuffs cannot be used to obstruct breathing or blood flow of the student.

“These techniques are traumatizing in nature, and need to be addressed in Florida, especially when we talk about students with disability,” DuBose said.

Instead, the bill calls on districts to develop crisis intervention plans for students who are restrained more than once a semester. The crisis intervention plan would be developed by a team that includes the student’s parent or guardian, school personnel, and physical and behavioral health professionals.

The bill also requires the Florida Commissioner of Education to develop continued education and recommendations for teachers to help better educate and work with students with disabilities.