Restraint, seclusion bill dies in current session

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Restraint, seclusion bill dies in current session

Published 4:52 p.m. PT April 17, 2017 | Updated 3:44 p.m. PT April 18, 2017

An attempt to ban the use of methods to physically restrain schoolchildren or confine them in seclusion rooms has failed in this year’s legislature. But legislators said they will work to bring a new bill back in next year’s session.

Mechanical, chemical, and prone restraint, along with the use of seclusion cells — freestanding seclusion rooms — are already illegal in Oregon schools. However, educators are still allowed to physically restrain a child and place them in seclusion rooms.

“Physical restraint” is the restriction of a student’s movement by one or more persons holding the student or applying physical pressure upon the student, according to the state of Oregon. “Seclusion” is the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room in which the student is physically prevented from leaving.

Multiple laws have been passed since 2011 that specify how the practices can and cannot be used, and how districts have to report the incidents.

Representative Janelle Bynum, D-Clackamas, said the intention of House Bill 3266 was to address the use of the practices by law enforcement when interacting with students at schools.

When testifying, Bynum said the bill was not meant to chastise or limit law enforcement, but about making schools safe.

There was an amendment proposed that would have allowed law enforcement officers, juvenile officers, and counselors to still use the practices in emergencies, and for mechanical restraints to be used when preventing self-injuring by students.

However, upon further research, Bynum and other proponents of the bill found the practices, when used in schools, are overwhelming used on elementary students and students with special needs.

Restraint and seclusion is a controversial topic among educators, many of whom say the practices are the only thing keeping them and the students safe when a child is in crisis. Educators have also said large class sizes and a lack of resources limit what options they have in addressing the issues.

More than 8,300 incidents of restraint or seclusion were reported to the Oregon Department of Education statewide in the 2015-2016 school year. In the same year, there was an average of 10 of these incidents a day happening in the Salem-Keizer School District.

Some parents advocate for the practices to be eliminated, arguing the uses are traumatic for their children and don’t address the students’ needs.

Post and Bynum agreed more work needs to be done before a bill of this nature should be presented again to the legislature.

“I think we can get there,” Post said.

Bynum, along with other proponents, plans to meet with parent groups, law enforcement officers, educators, unions, and disabilities rights groups over the next year to craft a more inclusive bill addressing the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

For more information, contact Representative Bynum’s office at 503-986-1451.

Contact Natalie Pate at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist

Definitions:

The Oregon Department of Education define the various types of restraint and seclusion as follows:

Physical restraint is the “restriction of a student’s movement by one or more persons holding the student or applying physical pressure upon the student.” 

Seclusion is the “involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room from which the student is physically prevented from leaving.” 

Chemical restraint, using drugs or medication to control behavior or restrict freedom of movement, and prone restraint, when a student is held face down on the floor, are not used by the Salem-Keizer School District.

Mechanical restraint, using a device to restrict the movement of a student or movement or normal function of a portion of the body of a student, is rarely used in the district, but has to be pre-approved for a specific reason for specific children. 

Prior to the legislative change in 2013, districts across the state used seclusion cells, “a freestanding, self-contained unit that is used to isolate the student from other students or physically prevent a student from leaving the unit or cause the student to believe the student is physically prevented from leaving the unit.”

Timeline

  • 2011: Legislature passes House Bill 2939, prohibiting the use of mechanical restraint, chemical restraint or prone restraint on any student in a public education program.
  • 2012: New administrative rules implemented.
  • 2013: Seclusion cells banned. The Oregon State Legislature passes House Bill 2585 (complaints and annual reporting required from districts), House Bill 2753, and House Bill 2756 (remove “Seclusion Cells”). 
  • 2017: HB 3266 faces the Oregon State Legislature, does not continue after hearing on Monday, April 17.
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