KHI News Service

House votes to ban punitive restraint, seclusion of students

By Dave Ranney | February 22, 2012

The House on Tuesday endorsed a bill that would prohibit schools from using restraints or seclusion to discipline students with disabilities.

“This bill moves us in a positive direction on how our educational system deals with these issues,” said Rep. Melody McCray-Miller, a Wichita Democrat.

McCray-Miller, who carried the bill, has a grandson who is autistic.

Children's advocates have long complained that disciplinary practices that include tying students to chairs or confining them in time-out rooms are unsafe and unnecessary.

“We get calls about this all the time,” said Rocky Nichols, executive director at the Disability Rights Center of Kansas.

Darla Nelson-Metzger, a parent information specialist with Families Together, said her organization last year fielded calls from at least 50 parents whose children had been restrained or secluded by their teachers.

“Parents have nowhere to go,” Nelson-Metzger said, addressing an early afternoon rally at the Statehouse. “The buck sort of stops at Families Together because there’s no supervisory body that can come in and say, ‘School districts, you are applying these policies in an incorrect or unsafe manner.’”

House Bill 2444 directs the Kansas Department of Education to gather data on the use of restraints and seclusion and develop best-practice standards to be applied to school districts throughout the state.

The bill allows restraint and seclusion when a student with a disability is thought to be in imminent risk of harm.

“The purpose of this bill is not to punish teachers or anyone else,” said Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican. “It’s to make things better across the state, to come up with uniform rules that everyone can understand.”

The bill passed 68-44. It now goes to the Senate.

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