Sen. Martin, Lawmakers Pass Bill Limiting Seclusion & Restraint In Schools

May 27, 2015

Sen. Henri Martin (at podium) on May 27 joined with a bipartisan group of legislators in announcing support for legislation to limit seclusion and restraint in schools. From left to right: Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, Martin, Rep. Diana Urban, and Sen. Gayle Slossberg.

A bipartisan group of legislators on Wednesday, May 27 led the State Senate’s passage of a bill that significantly restricts the use of restraints and seclusion rooms to emergency situations in Connecticut schools.

“Restraints and seclusion rooms should never be used as a form of discipline,” said Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “Research has overwhelmingly concluded that restraint and seclusion can physically and emotionally harm children, and frequently worsens the behaviors that practitioners are aiming to reduce.”

“In the last three years more than 1,300 incidents occurred where Connecticut children were injured during a restraint or seclusion,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “If we pride ourselves on giving every child access to a high quality education, we cannot allow these traumatizing practices to persist. Today we’re taking bipartisan action to protect our children, ensuring that they’re able to reach their full potential free from physical and emotional harm.”

“Restraint and seclusion practices are over-utilized in our schools, particularly in light of the fact that there is no data showing these practices to be effective in reducing challenging behaviors in children”, said Senator Danté Bartolomeo (D-Meriden), Senate Chair of the Committee on Children. “The bill we pass today will place stringent restrictions on the use of restraint and seclusion, including protection from life-threatening restraint positions, increased monitoring and reporting, checks to ensure the necessity of extended use, and specific parental notification requirements. Additionally, the bill includes a plan developed in concert with the State Department of Education that will ensure that the appropriate school employees receive training on state regulations surround restraint and seclusion, de-escalation techniques, and safe restraint.”

“Our children deserve safe and welcoming learning environments that promote their academic success and overall wellbeing,” said Senator Gayle S. Slossberg (D-Milford), Senate Chair of the Education Committee. “The use of restraint and seclusion has serious harmful effects on our children. We know there are better ways to address behavioral issues in school and it is time for us to work together with our schools, parents and students to ensure that school environments are safe and productive.”

Senate Bill 927 prohibits the use of physical restraint of a student in grades K-12 as a disciplinary tool, out of convenience, or as a substitute for a less restrictive alternative. The bill also prohibits school employees from secluding a child in a small, windowless space for indefinite periods of time as is frequently done under current law. Additionally, Senate bill 927 prohibits the use of a psychopharmacologic agent on a student without that student’s consent, unless the agent is an established part of the student’s medical, behavioral, or educational plan.

These practices can only be used in an emergency situation to prevent imminent injury to the student or others. Parents must be notified within 24 hours if their child has been physically restrained and/or secluded.

“Supporting and enhancing the ability of school communities to work capably with special-needs children and their caregivers, is a public policy of high and urgent priority,” said Toni Boucher the ranking Senate member of the Education Committee. “Our teachers, administrators, and related providers must have access to the tools they need to assist children at the youngest ages, provide guidance to families, and coordinate care with other agencies and community providers. Studies have shown seclusion and restraints are not safe and should be a measure of last resort.”

“This proposal has received widespread support from children’s advocates,” said Sen. Henri Martin, ranking Senate member of the Committee on Children. “This bipartisan legislation will help to reduce the risk of injury that can result from the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion on Connecticut school children, and I am proud to vote in favor of it.” Sen. Martin represents Bristol, Harwinton, Plainville, Plymouth and Thomaston.

Every year there are more than 30,000 reported incidents of restraint and seclusion affecting more than 2,500 students in Connecticut schools. The Connecticut Board of Education has reported that children subjected to these disciplinary tactics may be as young as preschool, are often identified as being on the Autism Spectrum or having an emotional disturbance, and are disproportionately male and African-American or Hispanic.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives.