This article was published on Florida Politics by Ryan Nicol on January 4, 2021.
Rep. Bobby DuBose, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, is refiling legislation looking to reduce certain restrictive punishments for students with disabilities.
DuBose’s bill (HB 149) will serve as the companion measure to Senate legislation filed late last month by Sen. Lauren Book. The measures would ban school officials from secluding students with disabilities and also severely limit the use of restraints on those students.
The bills define “seclusion” as “the involuntary confinement of a student in a room or area alone and preventing the student from leaving the room or area.” Such tactics would be barred completely if the legislation is approved.
“Restraint techniques” can refer to the use of devices on a student, or can refer to physically restraining them in a way that involves “significant physical force applied by a teacher or other staff member to restrict the movement of all or part of a student’s body.” Those disciplinary measures can only be used “when all positive behavior interventions and supports have been exhausted.”
Those restraint measures “shall be discontinued as soon as the threat posed by the dangerous behavior has dissipated.”
The bill does not define “briefly holding a student in order to calm or comfort the student or physically escorting a student to a safe location” as a “restraint technique,” and thus does not limit such an action by school officials.
Book and DuBose have worked together on similar versions of the legislation in years past. This year, DuBose jointly leads the House Democratic Caucus alongside Rep. Evan Jenne of Hollywood.
Those previous efforts have not yet been successful. Last year, DuBose’s House version moved through the committee process and earned unanimous approval in the House. The bill died after being sent to the Senate, however.
The bills require more training for school staff regarding students with disabilities. Schools must also develop a “crisis intervention plan” for students who are restrained twice. That plan would promote “positive behavior interventions and supports to use in response to dangerous behaviors that create a threat of imminent risk of serious injury.” The plan must be provided to the student’s parent.
Additionally, the law sets up a three-year pilot program to install video cameras in classrooms where a majority of students are receiving special education. Parents would be able to request a camera be placed inside that classroom. Video and audio from that camera could then be used to review disciplinary action taken by school officials.