Brown signs bill restricting restraint of SWD

Brown signs bill restricting restraint of SWD

(Calif.) Beginning next year, teachers and district personnel assigned to serve students with disabilities will be restricted in the use of physical or mechanical restraint and seclusion, under legislation signed by the governor earlier this week.

AB 2657 by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, limits the use of seclusion and restraint to only situations where student behavior presents an imminent danger of physical harm either to themselves or others.

The bill also requires local educational agencies to keep better records on how often the two confining strategies are employed.

“We are increasingly concerned about the use of restraints and seclusion to discipline and control students who have behavioral challenges.” Leslie Morrison, spokeswoman for Disability Rights California, said in a statement. “Studies have shown these techniques can traumatize students and may result in death.”

A 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Education noted that SWD represented just 12 percent of the national student population, but accounted for 58 percent of those subjected to physical restraint.

In California, the federal report found, SWD were found to receive 91 percent of the physical restraint meted out at schools.

The same report found that black students with disabilities were subjected to a disproportionate share of restraint procedures.

The GAO also found that a California student with autism was held face down 92 times over a period of 11 months.

Weber’s bill builds on existing regulation of adults in the school setting imposing physical restraints on students—requirements that were pioneered by California lawmakers and later became a part of federal law.

The issue, however, of when and how much control can be physically applied remains a topic of debate. As recently as 2012, the American Association of School Administrators released a survey of its members where a majority said that some forms of restrain are “necessary tools” for keeping classrooms safe.

Weber’s bill does not prohibit restraint. But it only allows seclusion or behavioral restraints when a student’s behavior presents an imminent danger of serious physical harm to themselves or others.

Her bill also requires administrators to schedule a meeting with the child’s parent or guardian, as well as any staff members involved in the incident, no later than two school days after a situation in which a student is restrained or secluded.

The need for the bill, she said, is because current law does not provide guidance on the types of restraint or on the use of seclusion.

AB 2657 specifically prohibits school managers from using locked seclusion, unless the setting is encompassed within a facility that is licensed by the state to perform that function. more