It is not uncommon for students with disabilities to have inappropriate behaviors in school. This is true for students with learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders and ADHD among others. Often the behaviors are part of the student’s disability and need to be managed by the school. Students with disabilities, like all students, have a right to be safe in school.
Sometimes these challenging behaviors can lead to school personnel physically restraining a student or placing a student alone in a room and preventing the student from leaving. Restraint and seclusion are not educational tools nor should they be used as regular part of discipline.
Too often, school personnel use restraint or seclusion for non-compliance behaviors where there is no imminent danger of physical harm. In my practice as a special education attorney, I have had a number of cases involving the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion on students with disabilities.
Restraint and seclusion impacts students with disabilities much more often because students with disabilities are much more likely to be restrained and secluded than students without disabilities. According to the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights: “Students with disabilities (served by IDEA) represent 12% of the student population, but 58% of those placed in seclusion or involuntary confinement, and 75% of those physically restrained at school to immobilize them or reduce their ability to move freely.” (Civil Rights Data Collection: Data Snapshot (School Discipline), March 21, 2014) http://goo.gl/Q1vHnX
In 2009, Arizona formed a Task Force to address the use of restraint and seclusion on students with disabilities in schools. Many school districts adopted policies on restraint and seclusion following the Task Force recommendations. Unfortunately, the policies are not always followed.
Currently, there are no statutes in Arizona limiting the use of restraint and seclusion to incidents of imminent danger of serious physical harm. Hopefully, that is about to change.
A bill designed to limit the use of restraint and seclusion in schools has been introduced in the Arizona State Senate. The bill, SB 1459 is co-sponsored by Senators Kelli Ward and Catherine Miranda.
SB 1459 applies to all students and provides the following:
1. SB 1459 limits the use of restraint and seclusion to those situations in which there is an imminent danger of serious physical harm to the student or others. With this bill, schools are still permitted to use restraint and/or seclusion but only in the limited circumstances where it is truly needed and other less restrictive interventions are not successful.
2. SB 1459 also protects parents’ rights to be informed whenever physical restraints or seclusion are used on a student in school.
3. SB 1459 also forbids restraints that impede a student’s ability to breathe. These restraints such as prone restraints – where the student is face down – are much more likely to lead to injury or even death.
Here is a link to the bill if you would like to read the bill in its entirety.
Contact your legislators if you want to support SB 1459: The bill is currently in the Education Committee. There will be a hearing next Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 9:00am addressing SB 1459. Hopefully this bill will move toward a vote. If you can, please contact your State Senator and ask that they support SB 1459. You can contact your Senator and/or Representative by phone or email. I have provided a link below to locate your legislators.
An example of an email you can use is:
I am the parent of a student with a disability. Please support the seclusion and restraint bill (SB 1459) in order to keep kids safe at school and parents involved in their child’s education.
Below is a list of legislators’ contact information for those who will be involved in SB1459 along with a link for finding out who are your Senators and Representatives.
You can find the entire list by following this link:
Senate President Andy Biggs: email@example.com
Senator Kelli Ward (Bill Sponsor & Education Committee Chair): firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Kelli Yee (Education Committee Vice-Chair): email@example.com
Senator Nancy Barto (Chair Health Human Services): firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Steve Smith (Education Committee Member): email@example.com
Senator Jeff Dial (Education Committee Member): firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Sylvia Allen (Education Committee Member): email@example.com
Senator David Bradley (Education Committee Member): firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Carlyle Begay (Education Committee Member): email@example.com
Senator Steve Yarbrough (Majority Leader): firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Gail Griffen (Majority Whip): email@example.com