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Child restraint, seclusion bills move out of House committee

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Legislation on child restraint in classrooms passed through a House committee Thursday. 

The legislation would prevent teachers from restraining or isolating a student except as a last resort in an emergency situation.

This was the third hearing by the committee to go over the bills surrounding student restraint and seclusion. The committee passed the bills with substitutes to the original legislation.

Advocates of the bills say they will protect children and keep schools safe.

Democratic Representative Frank Liberati is a member of the bipartisan group of legislators who worked on creating the original bills for over a year.

“It’s been a very, very long process,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that all the groups were involved. We had many meetings with many, many different stakeholders.”

However, not all members of the committee were satisfied with the substitutions and compromises to the bill. Republican Representative Daniela Garcia says she supports the reporting requirements included in the bill, but the package is too big.

“I, you know, do not support restraining students by any means but we need to make sure that we’re being a little bit more thoughtful about it and maybe simple about how we go about it,” she said.

The bills include training for teachers, reporting requirements and documentation for when restraint or isolation is used, and specify the types of rooms that can be used for seclusion, among other things.

The room requirement was of particular concern to Chris McEvoy with the Wayne County Regional Education Service Agency. The bills require seclusion rooms be a commonly used room like a dining space, learning space, or social activity space.

“How would you actually ensure that those environments would keep the child free and safe?” he said. “And that’s a serious question that we have.”

Overall, McEvoy said he was in support of legislation to put restrictions on restraint and seclusion.

In 2006, the State Board of Education adopted a policy that gave guidance on the use of restraint and seclusion. However, it lacks the force that a law on restraint and seclusion would have.

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